Snow Wolves

Original Airdate: 
August 1996

It is one of the most mysterious creatures on earth. Linked to folklore and fairy tales, revered by Native Americans, and simultaneously feared by Western settlers through the ages, the wolf has endured the tests of mankind and now is rebuilding its natural niche in the wild.

Now, as gray wolves are successfully being reintroduced and acclimated to Yellowstone National Park, PBS takes viewers on an exploration of the animal itself in THE SNOW WOLVES. More a natural history documentary than a report on the controversy of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, the film is an intimate portrait of wolf behavior, communication, and habitat. "I hope people will look at the film as an educational experience," says THE SNOW WOLVES senior producer John Howe. "If you want to learn something about wolves, this film is where you will find out about them."

Created by Emmy Award-winning Howe and associate producer Jeff Elstad, THE SNOW WOLVES is narrated by Joseph Campanella.

From Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to Denali National Park in Alaska, Howe and Elstad traveled throughout North America to capture wolves on film. THE SNOW WOLVES features the near-extinct red wolves in North Carolina and Mexican wolves in New Mexico, as well as the canines and hybrids in captive sanctuaries across the Intermountain West.

On a rare expedition, the crew went to the Canadian sub-arctic to document a pack of white arctic wolves and their pups near Great Slave Lake. The exclusive film footage was shot as Howe and Elstad traveled in a small pontoon plane, hopping from lake to lake in the tundra region. THE SNOW WOLVES also gives viewers a close-up look at Caribou, Musk Oxen, Grizzly Bears, and other creatures sharing the wolf's ecosystem.

Though it addresses the wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone, the program is not meant to be controversial. "It's done in a point-counterpoint style. Viewers hear the ranchers' arguments, along with the environmental issues." The film tells the story of Yellowstone Black Wolf #3, which left the park and killed sheep near Emigrant, Montana. While it was relocated miles away in the park, the wolf returned days later to the same ranch and killed sheep. Though it was a rare case, the wolf had to be shot.

"The story of Black Wolf #3 is pretty rare. Most packs are thriving and doing quite well," says Howe. Viewers also see the first documented wolf pups born in Yellowstone. If the success of the wolves continues, full recovery of the park's wolf population is projected by the year 2002.

In one of its most poignant segments, the film features the Candy Kitchen Rescue Ranch in New Mexico, where wolves are rescued from abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Helpless in the wild, these wolves have been adopted as pets by people who realize they are not dogs and can never be domesticated. The film captures pups born in the Wolf Rescue that can howl when they are three weeks old.

THE SNOW WOLVES is made possible by the Pacific Mountain Network through a grant from the CPB and the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Foundation.

56 minutes