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Orca Rescue—Watch fabulous video!

Dear Readers,

As many of you who attended my Keynote at the Orca/Salmon event this month in Seattle know, I'm at work on a chidlren's book about orcas for my Leopard and Silkie editor, the wonderful Christy Ottaviano. The illustrator is the master artist Wendell Minor, whose painting graced my very first book cover for the novel River of Light in 1978. Wendell and I are having a wonderful time interweaving his illustrations and my text—bringing this book to life. I'll be posting some of my favorite videos of orcas as we progress deeper into the new kid's book. And perhaps a few of the dummy sketches! For now, enjoy this very moving and extraordinary You Tube video of an orca rescue by veteran orca researcher, Dr. Ingrid Visser.

 And here's the lovely art postcard for the Orca/Salmon keynote.




Sea Wolves

Dear Readers,


Sea Wolves roam the Far Northwest, able shoreline hunters. Check out this photo gallery on National Georaphic website and a video of a white wolf on the shore from New York Wolf/Wolf Conservatioh Center


photos by Ian McAllister, author of Sea Wolves






Dear readers,

Groundbreaking new research must dramatically change the lethal management of wildlife managers by disproving the old adage that the more wolf hunts, the better local people will tolerate the wolves living alongside them. The opposite is true:

“If poachers see the government killing a protected species,” the study found, “they may say to themselves, ‘Well, I can do that, too.’” Culling wolves is not the answer, says the study. “You do not reduce looting by allowing shop-lifting, but instead by having zero tolerance,” says Dr. Chapron. The authors of this new study expect a backlash from the wildlife manager establishment because it disproves their long-held lethal management practices. But the scientists hold true to their need to serve the public: “The traditions in wildlife management are finally being subjected to scientific scrutiny,” they argue, “and we are learning new things that will probably improve co-existence.” The study concludes with the truism: “Wolves are quite adaptable to humans. The question is whether humans are adaptable to wolves.” (BBC and ISHTHMUS News) "Is Hunting Really a Conservation Tool?"


WATCH this excellent brief VIDEO that explains it all:


National Geographic features our new WOLF HAVEN book!

Dear Readers,

Here's a National Geographic preview of our new photo-essay WOLF HAVEN book you can already order. It's a Number 1 New Release on Amazon. Every wolf has a story. Full photo gallery here.

Annie and I will be on book tour together and a portion of the book's sales are supporting the vital work of this wolf sanctuary. BE SURE TO CLICK ON EACH PHOTO TO SEE THE FULL PICTURE AND CAPTIONS. Enjoy!

Heed the Call of the Wild at This Ethereal Wolf Sanctuary

Becky Harlan
Becky Harlan

Tucked into a lush swath of woods in Washington’s South Puget Sound—where light filters through mossy trees and ravens circle overhead—sits Wolf Haven International. The 82-acre sanctuary is home to 56 residents, including gray wolves, coyotes, wolf dogs, endangered Mexican gray wolves, and critically endangered red wolves. 

Lonnie, a gray wolf, was found roaming a cemetery in Los Angeles before he was taken in at Wolf Haven.   Lonnie, a gray wolf, was found roaming a cemetery in Los Angeles before he was taken in at Wolf Haven International.  

Photographer Annie Marie Musselman, who built her artistic career telling the story of an animal rehabilitation center, first learned of Wolf Haven in 2010. She had received a grant from Getty Images to collaborate with an ad agency on a project for a nonprofit. Her original plan to document rescued chimps and orangutans in Indonesia was called off when she became pregnant and doctors encouraged her to find a story closer to home. She scoured the Internet and discovered the important conservation work Wolf Haven was doing in her very own state through their breeding program. “If it weren’t for these captive breeding and recovery programs,” she says, “Mexican gray and red wolves would not exist today.” The haven became her new focus.

Picture of a Mexican gray wolf looking up at the camera through leavesMoss, a highly endangered Mexican gray wolf, is the father to one of the litters of Mexican gray wolf pups born in 2015 at Wolf Haven.  

As soon as she laid eyes on the wolves in the sanctuary, she was enchanted. “Wolves have a way of disarming you,” she says. “They are quiet and contemplative, yet fierce and powerful. You can feel that they are in this very moment—they don’t miss anything.” 

Picture of the feet of a wolf at Wolf Haven International in Washington stateLadyhawk, a female gray wolf at Wolf Haven International  

Despite the fact that all of her interactions with the canids were buffered by a chain link fence, when she first began photographing them, she was intimidated. “I felt as if they could see through me,” she says. “I could feel them saying, ‘We don’t want to be photographed—leave us alone!’”

Picture of two wolves walking past a chain link fence in beautiful evening lightKlondike, a wolf dog, spent the first seven years of his life on an eight-foot drag chain attached to a post at an Alaskan roadside attraction. Here, he basks in the evening light in the large enclosure he shares with a female gray wolf named Shali.   Picture of a gray wolf napping in the midday sun at Wolf Haven International, a wolf sanctuary in Washington stateKiawatha, a gray wolf, naps in the midday sun.  

She didn’t let that deter her. Instead she spent long summer days in her father’s old fold-up artist chair, giving the wolves a chance to accept her presence. “I shoot with short lenses, so I would wait for the wolves to come close. I pretended not to be interested at first. As soon as I walked away, I would turn around and there they were at the fence, smelling me, staring at me. When I [came back], they would disappear again. All the wolves did this for weeks, until finally they began to trust me.” She’s been photographing them for six years now. 

Detail of the fur of a Mexican gray wolf Lorenzo, a Mexican gray wolf or ”el lobo,” was born at the Detroit Zoological Institute. As part of the Mexican gray wolf Species Survival Program, he and his brother Diablo became permanent residents of Wolf Haven in 2004.  Picture of a male gray wolf slinking around in the woods, looking for foodRiley, a gray wolf (now deceased), moves through his enclosure in search of food. 

Her images of the haven embody the meditative patience she used to photograph it. They’re ethereal and lightweight, less like static pictures and more like breath—a glimpse of a being that you know is there but that you can’t predict or control. “I want to show how they glow, that they embody something precious, something very knowing,” she says. “I try to show what it might feel like to be close to them, to be accepted by them.” 

Picture of two alert wolvesShadow (front) lived in four different homes in the first few months of his life before coming to Wolf Haven. Behind is Juno, a wolf dog and Shadow’s partner. 

Portrayed perpetually in the golden hour, the haven looks like a wolf’s paradise. Through it we get a sense of the wolves’ rugged and independent spirit—what the world might be like if they roamed free. But there’s always a tension. The diamond pattern crisscrossing every few frames reminds us that for wolves, freedom is restricted. To help save them (even if it is from our own destruction), we have to contain them … at least for now. 

Picture of two wolves playing together in the grass, one laying down, one standing upJesse, a female gray wolf and her partner, Shilo, a wolf dog (both now deceased), play together like childhood friends.  Two wolves show their teeth at a chain link fence at Wolf Haven, a sanctuary in Washington stateCaedus, a wolf dog and his partner, Ladyhawk, a gray wolf, participate in innocuous posturing. Wolves often use facial expressions and body language to communicate emotions. 

Musselman also plays with the tension inherent in the complex nature of wolves—at once playful and fierce, untamed and communal. It’s that interplay that makes them such controversial creatures—creatures that were once targets of federal extermination programs, creatures that some people still want to hunt, that others would prefer to let fade away, and still others fight heartily to save.

Picture of a male gray wolf walking into the woods in beautiful evening lightBart, a male gray wolf 

But even within the enclosure, Mussleman manages to reveal a world unto itself, leaving us with a visceral sense of reverence for an animal that feels so familiar and so unknown. “To be in their presence,” she says ,“is to be with true wildness—it is breathtaking.” 

Wolf Haven the book, with photographs by Annie Marie Musselman and text by Brenda Peterson, will be released this September

See more of Annie Marie Musselman’s work on her website




The Big, Good Wolf: Real Lives of Alpha Males

photo credit: Annie Marie Musselman

This Father's Day, I'm reminded of how I grew up strong on my father's wild game, by a current New York Times editorial, arguing that the "alpha male stereotype comes from a misunderstanding of the real thing. In fact, the male wolf is an exemplary male role model." 

Wolves and men as good role models are also echoed by Diane Gallegos, Executive Director of Wolf Haven International, a nationally recognized sanctuary for captive-born and displaced wolves in Washington State. Even among these sanctuary wolves, she says, it's all about family--and alpha males are loyal providers. They really are Big, Good Wolves.

photo credit: Annie Marie Musselman

Gallegos explains that in May, the Mexican Gray Wolf pair gave birth to a litter of three pups as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) captive-breeding program. The Mexican Gray Wolf, also known as "the lobo," is one of the rarest mammals in the world. Every pup born now is crucial to the survival of this most highly endangered subspecies of gray wolf. The wolves cared for at Wolf Haven--mother (Nieta) and father (Coal)--are fond, attentive parents as documented in this video of Nieta (F962) and Coal (M752) nuzzling. As in the wild, Coal then regurgitates to feed his mate and pups.

Like many human hunters, alpha male wolves hunt food for their family packs year-round. Men and wolves should be respectful allies, not enemies. We need more positive stories of wolves and men. Here's one of my favorite:

My friend, Mike, a strapping hunter who is deaf and loves gardening and boat design, tells the story of hunting with his Alaskan buddies. "I was alone up on the ridge with a grizzly nearby and a pack of wolves just below me," he says. Not the best position as night and cold descended. "I tell you, I was afraid of those wolves and one of them was acting kinda crazy, spinning around and howling. Maybe he was playing."

Finally Mike had to risk hiking down to camp. Most of the pack had moved behind him. "But I had to scoot right past that lone wolf . . ." he pauses with a smile and the punch line: "And when I got back to camp, it was my buddies who duct-taped me in my sleeping bag--and then, they threw me in the river." 

Like Mike, there are many hunters who understand the beneficial top-predator role that wolves offer. Since wolf reintroduction, scientists have discovered that when wolves return to their natural habitats, they actually help restore the ecosystem: Overgrazed trees regenerate and there's a dramatic increase in biodiversity.

Here in Washington we're still in the very early stages of wolf recovery. Wolves are on the state's endangered species list; to recover they need 15 breeding pairs. Currently, there are only five such pairs, out of 16 packs--68 wolves total. Can Washington now manage its wolf reintroduction more sustainably than other states, like Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana who focus on "lethal control"?

"Washington has the best wolf management plan in the West," says Conservation Northwest's Mitchell Friedman. 

"We have an historic chance to be a model for wolf management," adds Diane Gallegos. 

She credits the collaborative work of the Wolf Advisory Group to listen to sportsmen, ranchers, and wolf advocates as they focus on science, education, and enlightened solutions. Ranchers are learning non-lethal and practical tools to protect their livestock, employing range riders (off-vehicle herders) and not grazing sheep near known wolf ranges. If ranchers sign a cooperative agreement with state wildlife officials to practice "conflict avoidance" they can receive radio collar alerts when wolves are near livestock.

Pacific Wolf Coalition reports that 100,000 West Coast residents joined one million citizens from across the country urging the government to maintain federal protectionfor gray wolves--even as a new bill threatens to reverse recent wolf protection and revive brutal wolf hunts in the West. 

Cutting-edge research requires new ways of living with wolves. A Washington State University study reveals that traditional wolf control tactics just don't work--killing wolves actually increases livestock predation. It's counter-intuitive, but researchers discovered that killing wolves disrupts their social structure. So wolf hunting may actually hurt ranchers. 

Jim Dutcher of Living with Wolves explains, "When you decimate a pack--especially the experienced alphas--you end up with a younger, dysfunctional, and smaller pack. The young wolves don't know how to take care of themselves or hunt down larger prey. So they go after slower, easier livestock." 

Alpha males teach the young to maintain and assure the survival of the family pack. It's not about dominance--in fact the alpha female is a true peer with her mate. Alpha males, comments wolf biologist, Rick Intyre, demonstrate a "quiet confidence and self-assurance . . . You know what's best for your pack. You lead by example . . . You have a calming effect."

photo credit: Annie Marie Musselman

We can find a calmer, more sustainable and balanced way to live with wolves, based on science, not politics. Or prejudice. The key is dialogue, education, and social tolerance. As rancher, Sam Kayser, who pastures his cows on public land near Teanaway, explains, "I want to co-exist with wolves . . . there is room for all of us out there."

And this Father's Day there is room for many more stories of Big Good Alpha Males, both human and wolf. 

Brenda Peterson is a National Geographic author of 18 books, who has covered wolf issues for national medias since the Yellowstone reintroduction in 1995. Short sections of this article originally appeared in "Living with Wolves" Ampersandmagazine. For more:

Sign a petition to help stop wolf hunting in Alaska.


Watch Mexican wolf pups play with their relaxed and patient father at Wolf Haven. These precious pups are part of the Species Survival Plan for captive-bred wolves to be returned to the wild. 

Listen to wolves howling at Wolf Haven International as acclaimed photographer, Annie Marie Musselman and I work together on the wolves in sancturary at this wonderful refuge. Photo credit: Annie Marie Musselman.


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