“You can start with biology, or politics, or you can start with family, with loyalty, and even with the mystic-tinged edges of fate, which is where I choose to begin. It’s all going to come together anyway. It has to. We’re following the wolf.” – Rick Bass from The Ninemile Wolves
When I moved to southern Idaho for the summer to live with Joe’s family, his father and sister were in the final stages of building a straw bale house. The day we arrived, his parents moved into the half-finished structure, and Joe and I settled into the tipi his parents had spent the past year in. Even though it was just a flap of canvas around some sticks, the tipi came equipped with cable internet, a refrigerator, and satellite TV.
I had heard about Sun Valley: I had a high school friend from Manhattan who had a condo there. I knew Ernest Hemingway spent time hunting and fishing and writing there. When I told my East coast friends and family I had just moved to Idaho, they always said with certainty, “Sun Valley?”
Joe had grown up in Sun Valley, but the land where we would spend the summer was outside of Carey, Idaho, fifty minutes south of Sun Valley. The land in Carey was exactly what I thought the West should be: never-ending fields of waving grass bisected by barb wire fences and the silhouette of far-away mountains.
I had accompanied Joe down to “the family compound,” as he called it, a few months before, for University of Idaho’s Spring Break. I had been taken aback by the beauty of the place — purple mountain silhouettes capped in white snow, the ink-dark sky sprinkled with stars – but I was anxious about the thought of living with his family for the whole summer.
The first night of Spring Break, Joe’s Dad, whom everyone, including Joe and his older sister Sarah, called Dan, wore a tie-dye shirt, smoked a marijuana-filled pipe, and danced around the tipi to Santana. Joe’s mother Nancy had a Masters degree in Philosophy, and although she had been a straight mom for most of Joe’s years of growing up, she had recently joined the rest of the family in their excessive marijuana smoking. It was just an accepted fact, and Sarah and Joe hinted that she finally relented, giving up the struggle to be normal with such an abnormal family. I remember her saying to me during the week of Spring Break that “sometimes you get so stoned a little reality seeps in.”
The stoners I’d previously known were preppies. I had some friends I’d gone to Grateful Dead shows with, but they were mostly reacting against their affluent suburban upbringing. They had embraced an activity, not a way of life. I thought I could deal with the smoking though. In fact, it might be fun sometimes I rationalized because Spring Break at the compound also contained moments I hoped the rest of my life would be filled with: skiing cross country on the prairie, learning about passive solar techniques in their half-built sunroom, and eating authentic Mexican food at the nearby cantina. Most of Nancy and Dan’s friends were artistic: potters, photographers, and small business owners. Dan used to be a sculptor before he started building the house. His metal and wire constructions littered the field around the house, and hawks often found them a good place to perch. I left that week aching to know more about rural life in the West. I wanted to live on the prairie in a tipi with Joe, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready for his family.
His family was the opposite of the one I’d grown up in. Mine was four satellites orbiting far away from one another, while his was a tribe. Sarah worked with Dan on construction projects in the valley when they weren’t working on the house. Nancy was the breadwinner. Sarah was the cook and the gardener. Joe was the baby, chided for being a yuppie because he owned a BMW that didn’t run. Dan was — well, just Dan. Even though he was the dad, he wasn’t in charge. Sarah and Joe ignored Dan’s attempt at instruction or discipline. Joe and Sarah both knew they were more adult than he would ever be.
The family constantly smoked marijuana together, and although Joe said I didn’t have to take part if I didn’t want to, I already was an outsider, and if I was sober, it was like we were speaking different languages. This family went to Pink Floyd concerts together; my parents went to the symphony. They lived in one-room house they’d built themselves, and my parents lived in a split-level in suburbia. For dinner, this family ate brown rice and textured vegetable protein. My parents ate steak and drank Merlot. Nancy, Joe’s mom, said it wasn’t that they were vegetarians, but that Sarah was and she was the cook. Of course, in the beginning, the differences between Joe’s family and the one in which I was raised were refreshing. I didn’t go West to experience more of what I’d known as a child. I wanted something different, and everything about that summer was.
I would discover, over the summer, that I would not be experiencing the Sun Valley my friends from Manhattan and Philadelphia knew. Joe’s family made fun of those people. We would hang out in Hailey, the town where the locals lived and half of which either Bruce Willis or Demi Moore owned, not Ketchum, the town adjacent to Sun Valley. Occasionally, Joe and I would go to Ketchum, where I would become filled with both familiarity and disdain. There would be all the trappings of a wealthy resort ski town: the gourmet restaurants, the fur, jewelry, and designer clothing shops. My family used to take me skiing. That was how I’d discovered the West. I’d moved West to escape people who asked what school I’d attended or what my Philadelphia address was, but those were the people who came skiing in Sun Valley. The newest bar in Ketchum was owned by alumni from my graduating class and college.
Still, in a town like Ketchum, at least I knew what to expect. During the summer, it was filled with a few locals and people from affluent backgrounds looking for amusement and a low-wage job in an interesting place. When I applied for a library card in Ketchum, the woman at the circulation desk was about my age, and when she saw my Pennsylvania license, she confessed that she had attended the high school down the street from mine. How had I traveled so far only to meet people from my hometown? In Carey, I was light years away from home or anyone who might recognize or care about the name of my high school or college. Then, I wanted to drop out of that closed circle of privilege that seemed to follow me wherever I went. In Carey, I was able to leave the circle, but as soon as I did, I longed to go back.
Our plan for the summer was that we would find jobs. Joe had already secured his previous position doing administrative work at a law firm in Sun Valley, but he still accompanied me to town to buy the paper every Tuesday morning and scan through the classifieds.
Before we left Moscow, Idaho, the University town where we’d been living, Joe asked me if I had any ideas about what I wanted to do for the summer. I told him I did. I wanted to be a cowgirl.
He laughed heartily. “But you’re a vegetarian,” he said. “Do you have any idea what that involves? Helping cows give birth, sticking your hands up their insides. You don’t even really know how to ride a horse. All you’ve done are trail rides at summer camp.”
I was offended he’d laughed at my plans. I had a fantasy from reading Gretel Erlich, a filmmaker-turned-writer who left Santa Barbara to make a documentary about illiterate shepherds in Wyoming. I’d read her book The Solace of Open Spaces for a nonfiction class in college, and I hadn’t been able to get it out of my mind. For the past few years, I had been guided by that book: looking for solace, open spaces, and a life that was different from the one I had known.
In reality, I hadn’t thought at all about what being a cowgirl involved. I didn’t know what a cowgirl did besides look cute in a plaid shirt and work hard out of doors, and in all truth, I had never been a fan of manual labor.
“Trust me,” he said, “that’s not what you want to do with your summer.”
I shrugged. Should I believe him? He did know more about the West than I did. He’d grown up in Idaho and aspired to be a public lands lawyer, an issue he thought would have growing importance in the West. Later that summer, when we passed the miles of stockyards outside Twin Falls on the way to see a movie, I finally understood the reality of my cowgirl fantasy: the stockyards, acres of dirt and shit stretching on for miles on the outskirts of town, smelled and looked foul. Where had I created the image I had about being a cowgirl? Movies and Marlboro ads. I was embarrassed and began to understand just how much my ideas of being a Westerner were fantasy.
One Tuesday morning at the coffee shop, Nancy pointed to an advertisement that said “Wanted: People Who Love Wolves.” The job paid twelve dollars an hour, and although the job description was hazy, I called the number. I liked Nancy, and I wanted to take her suggestion. The woman who answered said something about how she was currently in the process of moving her office from Ketchum to Stanley, and she would get back to me when she was more organized.
She gave me an address where I should mail my resume. When I got off the phone, I reflected that she sounded flaky, and I wish now that I had listened to that thought. Instead, I thought about how I had always cared for the environment, that I had been a member of the Sierra Club since I was sixteen, and what better place or time to work with wolves? All the same, I wasn’t really sure what “working with wolves” meant. What exactly would I be doing for my twelve dollars an hour? If only I had known enough to ask. Instead, I turned down an interview from Sun Valley Commission on the Arts, and when the spacey lady called me back and said she could use me for my writing skills, I said “Sign me up.”
Fortunately for my sanity, I also secured a very part-time job at the Wood River Journal, the weekly newspaper in Hailey. There, I wrote up the “Yesteryear” column of the paper – what had happened on that day a twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five, and a hundred years before, and wrote some of the articles for the neighborhood news section. It turned out, Hailey, Idaho hadn’t changed all that much. There was the boy who accidentally shot himself on the squirrel hunting expedition, the increase in non-agricultural jobs that lead residents to think they would all get rich, rodeos, ranchers combining forces against the crickets, and good old-fashioned birthday parties.
Sarah and Dan’s marijuana smoking had affected the construction of the house. They had accidentally plastered over the phone box and had no intention of trying to find it. When I wanted to e-mail the wolf lady out at the compound instead of going into town, I could, but only from the tipi, where it was often over ninety degrees during the daytime. Also, Sarah and Dan had built the sleeping loft too high so it was only a few feet from the ceiling – another stoner slip-up. Fortunately, it was Dan and Nancy who had to deal with that problem, and Nancy was used to dealing with Dan’s mistakes.
In their house, I could hear and see everything. Dan and Nancy’s clothes were located in a bookshelf in the living room since the loft was so cramped. There were windows in both the bathroom doors, the one in the new house and the one in the separate bathhouse they’d built when they first moved onto the land. More than once, I walked up to the bath house and looked in to see someone on the toilet. All the same, the view from the bathhouse toilet was a panorama of the Prairie: a mosaic of Indian paintbrush, prairie smoke, and shooting stars, a ring of mountains in the distance. In the house I’d grown up in, we kept our privacy, and members of my family often retreated to distant corners of the house, something that was more or less impossible on the compound even though it occupied ten acres in the middle of undeveloped Idaho.
The chicken coop lay twenty feet from the house. After every meal, we fed the chickens. Whenever I approached the penned-in area with a bucket of melon rinds, greens, and leftover table scraps, the chickens ran towards me squawking, so I threw the food as far away as I could and dashed back to the house. It was a constant battle to keep the neighbor’s dogs, coyotes, and foxes from eating the chickens. The mornings when a trail of feathers and the remains of one or more dead chickens were found were solemn ones. When I stayed at the compound for days at a time, not having a reason to go to town or a desire to waste gas just to get out of the house, the chickens followed me when I went outside, always approaching too close for my comfort. I had theoretically supported free-range chickens, but when they were in my yard, their threatening beaks and high-pitched, needy noises preventing me from having a meditative walk, I wasn’t as enthusiastic.
When I told a friend from the East Coast about what my summer outside Sun Valley was like, she said “Why do they have chickens? Can’t you buy chicken and eggs at the store out there?”
Sarah was an excellent cook. She was controlling about the menu, but at the same time griped about having to do so many chores, including cooking. Nancy put it simply: “I would be happy with cottage cheese and a piece of toast for dinner, but Sarah likes to have a real, homemade, hot meal, so I let her do it.” When they weren’t sanding, cutting, or pouring concrete, often Dan was helping Sarah with the garden.
When we prepared to go on a rafting trip later that summer, Sarah complained that she would most likely be taking care of all the food, so we divided the cooking duties amongst the rafters, but when it came time for the actual trip, she whined about the quality of the meals when anyone else cooked. Perhaps the food was a distraction for her since she worked herself into an anxiety fit before every rapid. Was it because her father was at the oars? Tears ran down her cheeks, and she would say, ”I don’t want to die.” By the end of the trip, Nancy told her she was going to have to deal with the anxiety or not come on the trips.
When Dan and Nancy had first moved to Idaho from Southern California, they’d lived on the same Prairie. Both Dan and Nancy were young, and Sarah was a four-year-old red head. Dan and Nancy had a goat that would chase Sarah around the yard, butting her with its horns. Eventually, they had to give the goat away because it wouldn’t leave Sarah alone. By the end of the summer, I wished I had horns so I could butt Sarah.
Along with the chickens, there were cats everywhere – three to five living on the property at a time, and occasionally a stray tom. Joe’s mother noticed that I had become attached to Patch, the fat calico who let me pet her stomach. “It can be like summer camp,” Nancy said. “Instead of a macramé bracelet, you get to take home a cat.” For a while, I considered it, but towards the end of the summer, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to take home anything. By then, I knew I would be taking home enough memories, like the sight of Dan in his tie-dye, a bandana wound around his forehead, pounding on his African jimbe drum to the mountain sunset.
Joe’s parents never lectured him about money or what he was going to do with his life, and I vacillated throughout the summer wanting and not wanting parents like Nancy and Dan instead of my own. In the beginning of the summer, they had seemed exotic and accepting. One time, when Joe threatened to stop brushing his hair and grow dreadlocks, his mom said disinterestedly, “Whatever your friends can handle.” When I came home with a new piercing a few years before, my dad had said, “Is that a fish hook in your nose?” He had to have known it was a nose ring. All the same, as the summer wore on, and I was ostracized for my drug-free ways, I came to appreciate my parents and their predictably parental attitudes.
Working for Tess, the wolf lady, meant I mostly read about wolves and the wolf controversy in the West and kept track of my hours. When I became bored and asked her what else I could do, she said, “Why don’t you and your boyfriend go out hiking and find the wolves?” Joe worked from eight to five Monday through Friday, and although I liked to hike, I didn’t know my way around the mountains outside Carey, and even then, it was unlikely–given I was in the right geographic area–that I would actually see a wolf. Wolves are shy and tend to avoid people. I knew that much from my reading. Even so, what good would it do me or our cause to “find the wolves?”
Tess began calling meetings for “the wolf pack” as she called us. We met in a small community near Redfish Lake, on the other side of the Sawtooth Mountains from Sun Valley. Sarah, mostly out of curiosity, accompanied me. “The pack” consisted of the independently wealthy runner, Don, Tina, a youngish, newly married woman who wore shortalls, Lila, who had long, dark hair down her back, and even though she might have been in her late forties, was muscled and still windsurfed on the Hood River with her much younger husband. The last additions were me and sometimes Sarah.
We ate pizza at Don’s house and talked about a “plan of action” and different strategies for the upcoming months. Lila expressed interest in adopting a baby wolf from a friend of hers who raised abandoned pet wolves. This seemed antithetical to our mission, which I thought was spreading accurate information to obtain support for better wolf management, particularly in our area, but Tess loved the idea.
After pizza, Sarah and I camped out nearby. As we fell asleep, we could hear the chorus of howls of the Boulder-Cloud pack, first wild and chaotic, and then in one instant, attaining harmony. A chorus. Bonding. Family.
Don was a hunter and lived closer to the Boulder Cloud Mountains, the territory of the pack about which we were most concerned. Don spent one night in the field near his house protecting a flock of sheep from a wolf attack so the wolves would not be killed by Idaho Fish and Game as they sometimes were after such predation. He was on page four of the paper the next day.
As much as I loved learning about the wolves and as much as I agreed with fully supporting their reintroduction, it became clear to me that this was a larger issue. It was about the future of the West and to whom it belonged: the ranchers or the environmentalists? Could they coexist? I also wasn’t sure that I, as a new Westerner, had a right to be involved in this age-old debate. Of course I had opinions, but I was the liberal from the East, intent on saving what the two ranchers would say I didn’t understand. I was in many ways still the high school girl in my pink, Laura Ashley bedroom poring over Sierra and National Wildlife. From my suburban bedroom, I had an implacable need for the wolves to be wild and free. Now, I think it didn’t have much to do with the actual wolves. Sure, I believe in humane treatment for wildlife, and if we are going to reintroduce a species, we ought to let it have the room it needs, but it really had to do with my seeing the wolves as a symbol. Then, when so much around me was tamed, I needed to know something else was free and wild. Perhaps at that point I hadn’t consciously realized that I wanted to be free and wild as well.
When Tess found out I was working for a newspaper, she urged me to submit an article to them about the Carey pack, the one she wanted Joe and I to track down in our free time. I did, but it was not emotionally appealing. Like newspaper articles should, I stated the facts. I called and interviewed the rancher whose calf had been killed. He was reluctant to talk to me, but he did confirm the details in a low, gruff voice. Tess wanted a treatise on why the wolves were lovely, rare and beautiful. The only way the newspaper would have printed that was in a letter to the editor, which she did later write.
Because of Sarah’s cooking, which never skimped on whole fat products, I started gaining weight. In an effort to counteract my new belly and to get out of the house, I began attending new age dance classes at the Sacred Cow Yoga Studio in Ketchum. Each class cost twelve dollars, and took place in a mirrored, bright dance studio that looked over the ski mountain. Although these classes were like the ones I had taken nearly a decade earlier in Aspen, this time, I found comfort in their familiarity.
The people who attended these classes were not from Carey. There were no chickens, cats, or stoned people there, so I attended religiously. At the studio, I was ready to let everything go. I was ready to cry on the floor when the music stopped. I needed to. I had looked forward to living with the family that was the polar opposite of my own. I had looked forward to the romance of living on an isolated, windblown prairie, but now I knew the realities of both too well. Instead of leaving the valley, I went to the dance classes regularly and arrived home long after everyone else was asleep.
There were several more wolf meetings: a panel discussion in Ketchum that advertised to the local liberals that the wolf was not the same one as in Little Red Riding Hood. They showed, as proof of the ranchers’ evil ways, a poster that had been taken from a café in Salmon, Idaho, a rural town along the Salmon River. The red flyer had a circle with a line through it over a picture of a wolf and the text read “Kill the wolves and the people who brought them here.”
Not only was the West changing in that there were more people than there used to be, thereby forcing out the wolves, but now there were different kinds of people with competing values. The “shoot, shovel, and shut up” mentality of the ranchers wasn’t going to be tolerated by the environmentalists, and the “live and let live” philosophy of the environmentalists and liberals was threatening the ranchers’ way of life. I felt guilt when anyone talked about “people from New York and California trying to tell us what to do.” I was one of those people. Those people didn’t have to live with the wolves, the ranchers claimed. I loved the wolves in an abstract way, but I’d never seen one. Could I love and want to protect something I’d never seen?
Tess called another meeting in her new hometown of Stanley. It was an overnight meeting, and we were instructed to tell locals, if anyone asked, that we were in town to see the wildflowers. Sarah had taken an interest in the wolf controversy, and she now accompanied me to all of the wolf meetings. At that meeting, Tess served wine as she was preparing dinner. Quickly, she became too drunk to cook, stuffing her mouth with crackers straight out of the box, and stumbling on the outdoor steps of her own home. Lila and Tina took over the cooking. By the time dinner was ready, Tess had sobered up a little, and she pretended nothing had happened.
Our small, black adopted wolf had joined us for the meeting. Lila kept him in a pet carrier and on a leash. Everyone except me cooed at and petted him. Now all the members of the pack were saying they would take the wolf to schools for presentations to spread awareness, but I wondered about that. Wasn’t it a contradiction to bring a tamed, 100% wolf to talk to second graders about how the wolves should be wild and free? The wolf was adorable, but wasn’t our point that wolves are wild animals and we should treat them as such? We should respect their wild natures, not keep them in pet carriers.
In our tent that night, Sarah criticized the spaghetti, salad, and bread we’d had for dinner, especially when the sauce came out of a jar. “Tess said we were going to have a nice dinner,” she said. “That wasn’t a nice dinner.” I wanted to tell her that where I came from, people ate that way all the time. In fact, a lot of times they didn’t even cook it themselves. They bought it fresh prepared at Super- Genuardis.
The following day, we took a driving tour along the Salmon River, and Tess pointed out some of the sites where there had been predation. Most of the land in this area was owned by ranchers, and much of it backed onto the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the Sawtooth National Forest, or the Salmon Challis National Forest. I was awed at the enormous land parcels and the idea that these ranchers had been practicing their vocation for centuries. No wonder they were averse to wolf reintroduction when it infringed on their lifestyle. The only people out there besides ranchers were Carole King and one or two other rich liberals who had bought ranches where the wildlife could roam free. It was one of these liberals, I deduced from hints in the conversation, who had given Tess a lump sum of money to do what she could for the wolves. Perhaps I was too compassionate about the ranchers’ side of the wolf controversy–Tess would have thought so. Still, these ranchers’ behavior seemed all too human to me, even if I didn’t agree with it.
Tess must have been as unimpressed with my behavior as I was with hers because over the summer, she began edging me out of the pack. Although Tess had told me I would be responsible for writing the press releases, at the copy shop in Ketchum, I ran into Tina, who said she was xeroxing the press release she’d written. Finally, I ended up making press kits for newspapers around the country so the reporters would come to the Sawtooths and write a story about the wolves. However, Tess did not want anyone to write a news story. What she wanted was propaganda. She wanted me, and anyone else, to write about how magnificent the wolves are and how tragic it was that we were reintroducing them and then shooting them for doing only what is natural and instinctual to them: killing and eating easy prey. I believed she was right, but I also thought she was oversimplifying the issue.
Joe and I were in a friend’s basement after a party, and I had had a few cocktails. For reasons unknown to me now, I started barking at him like a wolf, and then I bit him in the arm.
“Ow. What’d you do that for?” He said he thought I’d left a mark. The wolves, the chickens, and his family were all pushing me towards the edge. He couldn’t see it. He knew the wolf lady was crazy, but his family? They were just his family.
I looked forward to coming into the newspaper office a few times a week and typing in the cool silence or pasting in the hot basement under the fluorescent lights. At least there, I knew what I was supposed to be doing.
Occasionally, Dan’s brother, a painter, would come down from Ketchum to Carey to visit. Once, he and his girlfriend had been driving back from Boise when they noticed a strange smell. They had pulled the Volkswagon Bus over to the side of the road and got out where the bus promptly caught on fire. He’d turned the burned hulk of metal in at the scrap yard for twenty dollars and ten cents. Stories like this were common at the compound, and I was beginning to see that no matter how much Joe and I loved one another, we were from colliding worlds that our relationship wasn’t strong enough to bridge. Still, there were things about the summer I wasn’t ready to give up: the milky way, stretched gleaming over my head whenever I visited the bath house during the night.
Some time after the rafting trip that took place at the end of July, Sarah woke up in a foul mood. Her short, black hair, sometimes tinged with pink or blue, seemed to stand on end, and if anyone looked at her the wrong way, she flared at them. I had stopped joining in the pot smoking sessions long ago. After I repeatedly told Joe that it was difficult for us to connect when we were in two different states of consciousness, especially when the only time he was sober was when he was at work and we weren’t together, he had cut down as well. Sarah noticed this, and that was only one reason she was mad at me. At one point, I tried to go out the door of the house at the same time as her, and she said, “Stop stealing my brother away from me.” Without waiting for a response, she turned and walked off to her house.
Nancy said, “Sarah’s a Gemini. This is her evil twin coming out. It does that every once in a while, and the best thing to do is just stay out of her way.” When Sarah’s less evil twin finally returned a few days later, she pretended she had never said those things, and she expected us to forget as well. We were sitting in the house, about to have dinner. When I got up to dish out my plate, Sarah said she would do it. I didn’t want to accept any favors from her now. I insisted I would get it, but she persisted. She would get it for me. Finally, Joe raised an eyebrow and patted my forearm, encouraging me to sit.
I looked at him questioningly.
“She’s apologizing to you,” he said in a whisper. I imagine Nancy and Dan might have nodded in consent. They all knew the strange rules of their family code, but I, even though I had been there all summer, continued to not acknowledge or abide by them.
Towards the end of the summer, my mother called me to tell me the golden retriever I’d grown up with had died. I remember crying on the phone as I sat in the curved couch in the tipi, but was it over the dog, or was it because it was becoming clear to me that I was enmeshed in something I did not want to be a part of anymore? It was obvious that Joe couldn’t really function without his family. He was part of a pack, and he didn’t know how or have a desire to leave and start his own. He relied on the rest of them for food, social cohesion, and play. He was even planning on living with his sister the following year when she finally left the compound to attend nursing school. Nancy used to say their family put the “fun” back in dysfunctional, but I had stopped having fun. Amazingly enough, Joe and I stayed together five more months, but I never returned to Carey.
At some point before I left to visit my parents in the East, I walked out to the end of the driveway to get the paper and had to look twice at the front page. Tess had succeeded in getting what she wanted. There was half of the wolf pack, including Tess. They were holding large, posterboard signs that said things like “Move the sheep, Not the Wolves” and “Keep the Wolves here.” They stood at the end of the forest road where Fish and Game had come to shoot the rest of the Boulder Cloud Pack after the last predation. The $500 per dead sheep or cow that Defenders of Wildlife was offering wasn’t enough, according to these ranchers. It was too much paperwork. They had to prove it had been a wolf and not a coyote. And how could they make sure it wouldn’t happen again? The three women in the picture looked meager and cold in their shorts and t-shirts. I had been edged out of that pack long ago. All the same, I was not surprised to see that this is what the wolf pack had come to.
I was sad. I’d never actually seen any of the wolves in the Boulder Cloud Pack, but I knew each of them. They had already survived relocation of some of their members and had managed to repopulate. Fish and game was planning to move or “control” (shoot) all but the pups, which they would radio collar. All the same, the four-month-old pups could most likely not hunt for themselves. I wondered what would happen to them.
Tess could not change the fact that wolves had huge roaming territories, and even Idaho, which is mostly roadless in its interior, is more populated than it used to be. These wolves had no chance to live the unadulterated life free of human contact that she insisted they deserved. I didn’t contradict her idealism. I understood it. I had come down to southern Idaho to learn, finally, what it was to be wild, but neither the wolves nor I had much of a chance.
Appeared in High Desert Journal 2008