On The Wolftrail

Your Wolftrail isn’t just a place on a map—it’s a state of mind. To get there, simply put one foot in front of the other. Whether you venture across the world or out your front door, this trail welcomes, challenges, and inspires you. When you’ve found a place you want to protect, share, and where you feel most at home, you know you’re on your Wolftrail.

For biologists Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston, their Wolftrail could not be more literal. Each day, they set out to find and observe wolves in Yellowstone National Park. This husband-and-wife duo are the founders of Yellowstone Wolf Tracker, a guide service dedicated to wolf and wildlife watching and educating their clients about Yellowstone’s rich ecosystem.

Nathan and Linda met in 1996 while working on the Yellowstone Wolf Restoration Project, a plan to reintroduce gray wolves back into the greater Yellowstone ecosystem after the population had severely declined due to human activity. The project is touted as one of America’s best conservation success stories, with an estimated 500+ wild wolves residing in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem today.

With the reintroduction of the wolves, Yellowstone’s ecosystem has struck a natural balance and wolves, elk, deer, moose, and bison all thrive. This has been made possible by leveraging the immensity of Yellowstone National Park and by protecting the once endangered gray wolf.

Wolves are magnificent animals who exhibit ferocity and lovable characteristics. From their pack loyalty to their eerie howl, they have captivated mankind for millenia. They are animals of lore and reverence embodying a sense of freedom. Ecologically, gray wolves are a keystone species, meaning their existence is crucial for the balance of their native ecosystem.

Wolves are also adept hunters and don’t discern a difference between their natural prey and domestic cattle and sheep. With the reintroduction of these gray wolves back to the Yellowstone ecosystem comes the challenge of finding solutions for ranchers and wolves to coexist.

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll talk with Nathan and Linda about the successes and shortcomings of the Yellowstone reintroduction, why it’s so polarizing, and how humans can learn to exist harmoniously with gray wolves.