Persecuted for centuries, the wolf has been eradicated from much of its original territory. Only recently, with greater tolerance from landowners and a more enlightened conservation policy, have these wonderful animals begun to reclaim their old haunts. Nothing embodies a wild place with more vivacity and spirit than a pack of free-roaming wolves; ancient forests echoing with their haunting cries and every other animal alert to their presence.
Despite being created in 1872 (as the United States’ first national park) Yellowstone continued to lose its grey wolves until 1926 when the last one was shot. A reintroduction programme began in 1995 and the park now supports around 100 wolves in 14 packs. Guided wolf-tracking tours, available from The Wild Side, feature spring-time treks in the Lamar Valley where wolf hotspots include Hellroaring Creek. During winter, the trips are based at Buffalo Ranch, with snowshoe forays to Rose Creek – the original release site for Yellowstone’s wolves.
Winter and spring are generally the best times for tracking wolves as you’re more likely to find their tracks in the snow. In Scandinavia, Wild Sweden offers three-day winter wolf tracking trips in partnership with the Grimso Wildlife Research Station, near Lindesberg. Wildlife & Wilderness operate trips to find wolves, bears, European bison and lynx in Poland’s Bialoweiza Forest National Park, while Biosphere Expeditions runs a wolf-tracking eco-volunteer project in the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia.
Perhaps the most remarkable story of wolf revival in Europe in recent years is the species’ reclamation of the French Alps (spreading west from a relic population in Italy). The first official sightings of wolves in the Alpes Maritimes were in the early 1990s and it is now thought that there are at least two packs – surviving, no doubt, on the region’s healthy numbers of chamois, mouflon, wild boar and deer. Undiscovered Alps provides a chance to track these canny predators in the company of a local mountain guide, sleeping in remote winter refuges deep in wolf territory.