Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Wolf Story!

In Native American lore, wolf is often referred to as Teacher, or Pathfinder, “the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine.  If you were to keep company with wolves, you would find an enormous sense of family within the pack..” Jamie Sams & David Carson
I was saddened this week to read of the death of Wolf #527, one of Yellowstone’s most beloved wolves, who was one of the first to be killed in Montana’s first wolf hunt in modern times.  So this Blog is dedicated to Wolf #527.

Humans have long had a fearful relationship with wolves; we read our children Little Red Riding Hood, associate wolves with horror movies and all things dark and dangerous.  But here in North America wolf attacks are rare and I have not heard of anyone being killed by a healthy, wild wolf.
As with all wild creatures, wolves must be respected; they are wild and should remain so.  There is a story that I love to tell before I sing the Wolf Song, that’s called The Boy and the Rattlesnake – It illustrates the point well.

The gray, or timber wolf is the best-known and most widespread species; they live in open and wooded areas.  Once common throughout North America and Eurasia, these wolf populations are now limited to parts of Asia and North America.  Their numbers continue to diminish in many of these regions however there have been some successful re-introduction programs such as the one in Yellowstone.

Wolves are intelligent, social animals that usually live in packs numbering up to two-dozen animals.  Their diet can include mice, rabbits and birds but their main prey are larger animals such as deer, moose, caribou and elk which they catch by stalking and chasing.

Interconnections! Wolves are a Keystone species meaning that they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of an eco-system.  By controlling the populations of large herbivores in a given habitat it has been observed that they directly impact the overall health of the forests and watershed in which they live.

Forest researchers in Yellowstone National Park noticed that the quaking aspen tree had begun to grow back after the wolves had been re-introduced to the park.  The quaking aspen is one of the most ecologically important riverside trees in the Yellowstone ecosystem.   Biologists determined a direct link between the wolves and the tree because elk forage differently when predators are present.  Without the wolves, the elk decimated the quaking aspen resulting in shoreline erosion and a multitude of consequences that touched everything from fish to beavers.  You can read the whole story Here; it is worth the read as it is quite amazing!

Lesson Plans: 
1.     Tell the story, the Boy and the Rattlesnake, invite students to write about an experience they have had with a wild animal. 
2.      Play the Wolf Song (I have uploaded it to my MySpace page).  In the song, the protagonist tries to help the wolf.  While this is a romantic possibility, in real life it should be played out differently.  What do the children think should have happened? What do they think happened to the wolf?
3.     What is another Keystone species?

I used to live in the country, north of Montreal, and sometimes in the cold winter months I would hear the wolves calling.  It was a mysterious, primal sound; one that I think is deeply ingrained in our cellular memory!  Wolves are mysterious, just as is life; to me that is the wonder of the wild and as long as there are wild places we will have the opportunity to be inspired.

Have a wonderful experience!
In gratitude to the earth for life!

By the way - the songs are available as a Free download on MySpace for a week or so after they are first posted.  Otherwise all my songs can be bought on iTunes, Amazon and other internet sites.

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