A Pendleton Adventure with the Grey Wolves of Yellowstone

Editor’s note: For National Park Week, we are reposting some of our favorite national park posts! We hope you get out there and enjoy your parks this week, but if you can’t, we will take you to the wilderness as best as we can.

 

wolf-2106894_1920The gray wolves of Yellowstone are heard more often than seen. Their eerie howls can echo up to fifty miles, summoning the pack before or after a hunt. Yellowstone’s wolves are efficient predators, able to take down animals many times their weight by hunting in packs. Through strategic harrowing, you can watch them bring down a buffalo here. They are strategic, efficient and effective predators. They are also protected within the park, but this was not always the case.

When Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, the goal to “conserve and protect” didn’t extend to the park’s wildlife. Visitors were free to hunt and kill any game in Yellowstone. The gray wolf was especially vulnerable, even after the Secretary of the Interior regulated hunting in 1873. As an “undesirable predator,” the gray wolf was subject to a massive kill-off by the US Army in 1907 (1,800 wolves and 23,000 coyotes). The 1916 legislation that created the National Park Service included language that authorized the “…destruction of such animals and of such plant life as may be detrimental to the use of said parks, monument and reservations.” This is known as “extirpation,” and the consequences are devastating.

By 1926, the gray wolf of Yellowstone was eradicated. This allowed the elk population to grow, contributing to the overgrazing of Yellowstone’s deciduous trees, which affected the small animals and birds that rely on the aspen and cottonwood groves for their habitat, and the fish in the streams churned by more hooves. Without competition from the grey wolf, the coyote population rose dramatically, and those able predators over-thinned the pronghorn antelope population. Park managers, biologists, conservationists and environmentalists were in agreement; the wolf was a necessary part of Yellowstone’s ecosystem.

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The campaign to re-introduce the grey wolf to Yellowstone National Park began in the 1940s. By the 1960s, there was an explosion of awareness concerning ecosystems. Scientist, conservationist and hunter all agreed that there was a need to restore Nature’s balance. When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1966, it paved the way for identification and preservation of fragile species. The gray wolf was one of the first animals to be declared endangered.

The program to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone began with 14 wolves trapped in Canada, near Jasper National Park. Seventeen more Canadian grey wolves were captured the next year, and added to the program. The wolves were initially placed in “acclimation pens.” They were released fully into the wild in April of 1996. By the late 1990s, the wolves were making their comeback.

This sighting comes from Pendleton’s own Katie Roberts, who shared a Pendleton employee park memory with us.

I took a Science class in high school where we got to take trips to both Yellowstone and Glacier. We were allowed access to the parks in the offseason, so we were basically the only ones there. On the Yellowstone trip, we were tracking wolves for our class. They’re pretty elusive creatures, so we didn’t see any until the very end of the day, right before sunset. Not only did we see the biggest Wolf Pack in Yellowstone (at the time), we saw it chase down an elk and kill it! It was pretty crazy, the “Nature Channel” in front of our eyes. I spent a lot of times in both parks growing up, but that was probably the wildest thing I’ve ever witnessed!

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Here’s Katie at the time (left). She doesn’t look too traumatized by her National Park adventure with wolves…

Wolves are magnificent and eerie, and absolutely vital to Yellowstone’s ecosystem.Today, there are around 100 living in 10 packs in Yellowstone. The effect on the park’s ecosystem has been extensive, thanks to the “trophic cascade” that falls from an apex predator at the top of the food chain to all the animals, birds, insects and plants that make up the food chain of its prey. Wolves actually help to transform their physical environment. Here’s a fascinating video that talks about how the wolves of Yellowstone have changed the rivers of Yellowstone. It is well-worth watching, and explains trophic cascade. Enjoy.

And you can support the National Park Foundation with Pendleton’s Yellowstone collection here: SHOP

Images courtesy Pixabay

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“The Spirit of America”: A New Blanket for Yellowstone Park

It is one of the most popular parks in America, and one of the very first of our national Treasures. And it is celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service with a new blanket, “The Spirit of America.” Welcome to Yellowstone!

We enlisted the help of three Pendleton brand ambassadors for the unveiling of the new Yellowstone National Park blanket, made by Pendleton and exclusively for sale through Yellowstone General Stores. The blanket features Yellowstone’s icons: Old Faithful and grazing bison.

Brandon Burk:

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Cassy Berry:

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Grace Adams:

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We were blown away by the unique way each photographer showcased the color, pattern, borders, details and reverse of this outstanding blanket.

If your park plans don’t include Yellowstone this year, don’t worry; you can order the blanket online here: Yellowstone General Stores.

Delaware North hosted a fantastic event for the Yellowstone Park Foundation to unveil the new custom Pendleton blanket. The highlight of the evening was a generous donation Delaware North presented to the NPS—$20,000 to support the “Expedition Yellowstone” youth scholarship program. We share the following photos with their permission.

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Also on hand was the Pendleton Airstream. Hundreds of people toured this deluxe custom collaboration, and the verdict was unanimous: “I want one!” Only 100 of these beauties were produced and they are going fast, so please contact your Airstream dealer for details.

This is the year to celebrate the centennial of our National Park Service through travel and exploration. Pendleton is honored to be part of the celebration. Your purchase from the Pendleton National Park Collection helps support the good work of the National Park Foundation, an organization that manages, protects and preserves America’s National Treasures for future generations.

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Greg Hatten in Yellowstone

Our friend Greg Hatten, the WoodenBoat adventurer, is floating some of our country’s National Parks as part of the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. To celebrate Yellowstone national park’s 144th birthday, we are looking back at Greg’s trip on the Yellowstone River. Enjoy!

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Greg Hatten is an accomplished guide and fisherman who splits his time between Missouri and Oregon. He is happiest on the river in his wooden drift boat, the Portola.  Greg’s Portola was built to the exact specs of the original Portola piloted by conservationist Martin Litton down the Colorado River in 1964 as part of a historic journey that helped save the Grand Canyon. As difficult as it is to believe, there were plans at the time to dam the Colorado River, flood the Grand Canyon and turn it into a gigantic reservoir.  Wooden drift boaters took to the river, along with a documentary crew, to make a film that brought national attention to the proposed reservoir project. This river journey helped save the Grand Canyon for future generations. Greg’s 2014 recreation of this journey is part of his larger commitment to our National Parks.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Greg is running rivers through some of our most beloved Parks. Pendleton will be following his journeys on our blog, starting with his trip to Yellowstone Lake.

lakeAs Greg says in his blog post:

On this WoodenBoat adventure… it was late May and the lakes in Yellowstone National Park were free of ice earlier this year than anyone could remember. Usually on Memorial Day weekend, this park is just waking up from its winter hibernation – the snow is patchy in places, the campgrounds are just starting to open, and the staff and crew coming from around the country to work for the summer are learning the answers to hundreds of questions they will be asked by the visiting tourists from around the world. The park was green, the wildlife was stirring and except for the sparse number of tourists, it seemed like it was midseason.

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Greg sets up camp Pendleton-style, in a canvas tent with our Yellowstone National Park blanket AND one of our newest products. Greg has only good things to say about our new roll-ups, which are virgin wool camp blankets attached to a new waxed cotton fabric that we are just a little bit proud of.

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As you can see, so far we are offering this blanket in Badlands, Glacier and Grand Canyon. Greg says it sleeps like a dream in the wild, and we trust his opinion. So go read all about his trip on his WoodenBoat blog, especially the meal. Everyone here in the office wants to try Greg’s campsite cuisine!