I leaned against the van with my eyes closed, soaking up the winter afternoon sun to warm up after leading a group skiing. My group of 10 students, all old enough to be my parents, eagerly crowded around a few scopes set looking on the top of a bench across the Lamar River. They watched six wolves wake up from a nap and begin to work their way through the deep snow. As a guide and instructor it is a relief to find the ever-sought, often-elusive Canis lupus. Despite the excitement of the sighting, not a word was spoken. In fact, everyone held their feet still in the crunchy snow to listen. The wolves turned their noses to the sky and filled the air with their howls creating the magical harmony of singing wolves--no two on the same pitch. I closed my eyes and relished the moment, not as a guide, but as one listening to a symphony. I know that wolves howl for many reasons: pack unity, excitement and hunting, to locate each other when spread out, happiness, loneliness, birth of pups, etc. But for me, hearing a wolf is also a powerful cry of wildness.
When I was eleven years old I came to the Lamar Valley with several other 6th graders to spend a week learning ecology from Rangers Chet and Jane. It was just a few years prior to the 1995 reintroduction of wolves. I returned to visit the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the summer 2009. I arrived in the dark and rolled out my sleeping bag in one of the small cabins there. I opened the door to view the stars before going to sleep. Out of the darkness rose the unmistakable call of a wolf: it was a sound missing when I had come as a kid. I stood in my doorway, alone in the darkness, with the hairs on the back of my neck tingling. A wolf's song is an unforgettable reminder of untamed places and animals that exist beyond human settlements.
The sun moved toward the horizon. The chill of night comes early in the winter months. The wolves moved through the snow and into the trees, lost from view. We quietly put away the scopes and drove away--the call of the wild still ringing in my ears.