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Ancient Wisdom

Winter is the most incredible time here in the valley.  There are just a few permanent residents.  Most of the human activity involves the students monitoring elk and wolves.   Sometimes there are helicopter captures and darting.  Yesterday I observed elk being darted for blood samples, fat content, and other indicators.  We’re on the ground calling up to the helicopter the elk locations by radio, while there’s a low flying plane above with the GPS coordinates.  The helicopter deftly flies in, keeping the elk from running either into the trees or into Wilderness areas.  The elk are running like crazy, trying to figure out which way to go.  When they go in one direction, the helicopter swoopes over them and they need to turn around.  They look like a flock of starlings turning in synchronicity.   This kind of work is only done twice a year.  Its tremendously expensive and requires a lot of coordination between many agencies.  The planes are government.  The helicopter is a private company with expert Kiwis, the best in the world.

Elk in my Valley

Not only is the quantity of wildlife here during the winter amazing.  But the wildlife interactions are vivid, pronounced.  They are the visible drama of what’s happening on a daily basis.   Today I saw three people, but thousands of elk.  I followed  moose tracks till they went across the ice on the river.  Koda and I backtracked a coyote to its bedsite and he found two fairly fresh elk kills along the back road we were following.  I told the guys about the kills and later met up with them at the sites.  They were sawing off bone and teeth for samples for the lab while Koda gnawed on the elk’s leg.  G____had a job training Kirilian Bear dogs with the Wind River Bear Institute.  He said if I wanted to train Koda to find kills, then the best reward was letting him chew on the kills after finding them.

This morning I ran into R__.  He’s a Cody resident who likes to watch for wolves, here and in the park.  In fact, he was the one who first located Spud in Wyoming.  I told him about Australia and how they were creating a new model for Park management–partnerships with Aboriginals and biologists.  We talked about cultural wisdom and knowledge,  knowledge that comes from doing and living and is passed on generationally.  He had an interesting observation.  He said it reminded him of wolves and how they organize themselves.  They too pass on knowledge, accumulated by the Alpha of the pack.  He told me that last spring an Alpha female in the valley was shot by Wildlife Services.  They were trying to reduce the size of the pack.  When they shot that female, she was the one with all the knowledge and guidance for the pack of where and what to hunt.  They left the pups, and without her guidance they killed some calves.   I liked the analogy.  We need to manage wholistically.  We need a partnership of new and ancient wisdom.


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