So a few weeks ago, my wife and I flew to Florida to visit her family. Part of that trip included a day of fly fishing for redfish. Conditions were dreadful which made the fishing even worse (more about that another time). In fact, the most memorable thing I brought back to Montana from that fishing trip was a bad knee. My guide’s flats boat had an elevated casting platform, pretty standard. But the constant twisting to jump down from the platform and into the boat without falling overboard caused a lot of strain on my left knee, aggravating an old basketball injury. And now I keep twisting that knee every time I fish, making it swell into a bloated painful mess that is probably common in most retirement homes. Too bad I’m only 43. So this week I took a break from fishing, and my wife and I went for a drive into the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park.
It was a beautiful day in the Park. We saw coyotes, lots of elk and bison, and a moose. But the coolest thing we saw was a wolf, prowling along the frozen Lamar River where I’d been fishing only a few months ago. According to this link from the National Park Service, there are only 400 to 450 wolves in the greater Yellowstone area which includes the Park and areas outside but adjacent to it such as Paradise Valley. That sounds like a lot of wolves, but the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a vast expanse of land. And with all the time I’ve spent fishing the Park, and living in Paradise Valley, this is the only confirmed wolf that I have seen, though I have heard them howling on several occasions.
Last summer, Dan and I were fishing Slough Creek in the Park. The fishing was slow, and I decided to take an afternoon nap along a grassy bank. When I awoke, I could see bison in the meadow across the creek. But there were also smaller, grey-colored animals near them that I believed to be wolves. Dan saw them as well, but we really weren’t sure what we were seeing. So that makes my wolf sighting this week pretty special. By the way, I apologize for the quality of the wolf photos. I left my good camera at home (of course I did) and only brought a lesser point and shoot to the Park. But at least I got a few grainy shots to record this amazing animal.
The wolves face a great deal of hardships from competition with each other and other predators, extreme weather, and potentially being hunted if they wander outside the park. Perhaps the saddest threat to the Park’s wolves is mange. Mange is caused by mites that irritate the skin, causing wolves and coyotes (among other animals) to scratch off their protective fur, leading to winter hypothermia, skin infections, and other unpleasant and potentially deadly complications. The worst part of Yellowstone’s mange epidemic is that it’s our fault. Agents working on behalf of the government intentionally introduced mange into the Park to help kill the remaining wolves and coyotes in the early 1900’s. I know it was a different time, but you really have to wonder what these people thought would happen to the planet as they destroyed entire species of animals and fish, cut down the forests, and polluted so many streams and rivers while mining for gold, silver and coal.
The wolf in these photos is suffering from mange. Sad to see. But it seemed to be searching for food along the creek and with winter slowly winding down, maybe it has a chance.
Speaking of animals, canines in particular, we here at Sweetwater Fly Shop have some big news. It looks like we have a new shop dog to join Dan and Diane’s dog, Spumoni, (not to mention Dotty, Emmit, Lilly, Shep, and another puppy, Teddy that belong to Sweetwater Travel).
I’d like to introduce you to Olive. Please excuse the dinner still on her face. She didn’t expect a photo shoot.
Olive (named after tiny Blue Winged Olives) is a 6 and 1/2 week old English Mastiff puppy that my wife Ruthann and I will be taking home in two more weeks. It’ll be a couple more weeks after that before she begins her official duty as part-time shop greeter, but we’re very excited to have her on our staff and to get to watch her grow. Her mother weighs 200 pounds, and her dad was 250! So if you stop by the shop this summer, you won’t miss her is she’s working.
As you can see, she’s clearly a go-getter. Perfect for the shop.
After seeing her only in photos since her birth, we got the chance to finally meet Olive in person in Bozeman yesterday when her breeder from Idaho (Mountain Time Mastiffs) brought her to the vet for an eye exam. She’s already a handful, and she’s just a baby.
Welcome to Sweetwater Fly Shop Olive!