Yellowstone Park, Brett Mcbride, Yellowstone discussed on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes
|

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Town and began lowering him back into the water. And what you guys have done to this does not harm or hurt the shark at all. Now because we're monitoring the stress of the animal throughout. After a couple of minutes he perked up, especially when he noticed the O search photographer in the water around the corner. Finally, with fish master Brett McBride helping steer him by the tail off went Sydney. Good luck, oh boy. Sidney. Yeah. It's safe to say that wolves have an image problem. Since ancient times, they've been portrayed in fables and legends and the Bible as fearsome voracious predators. The story of the big bad wolf may be the most memorable and frightening of all the fairytales told by the brothers Grimm. That grim reputation actually produced a very real result in America in the early 20th century. Wolves were wiped off the landscape trapped poisoned and hunted until there was not a single one left in the American West. The National Park Service brought wolves back to Yellowstone park almost exactly 25 years ago following a bitter debate between wildlife groups who wanted them restored and ranchers who most definitely didn't. Even today the wolves of Yellowstone stirs strong emotions. But as we first reported in 2018, they've also had an impact that almost no one saw coming. In the dead of winter, Yellowstone park is a beautiful but forbidding place. Howling wind sub zero temperatures, 6 feet of snow. Just finding enough food to survive is a profound struggle for every animal. Waterfowl, bison. Elk, foxes. They all have to work for every morsel. Yellowstone was the world's first national park founded in 1872, and it remains one of the most visited, millions of people come here every summer, but they used to pretty much leave it to the wildlife in the winter, until the wolves came back. Oh, they're behind the tree. Now, reports of a wolf sighting can produce a traffic jam along the one 50 mile stretch of road, the park service keeps open in the winter. Visitors with spotting scopes gather in absolutely frigid weather for a momentary, long distance view. These folks came from Germany to see wolves. Doug Smith runs the Yellowstone wolf research program for the park service. And no one predicted this would happen. Actually the appeal of coming in to see the wolves? Yes. And it truly has been amazing and hundreds of thousands of people a year. We estimate. Come here justice seawolves. Wolf tourism pumps $35 million a year into the local economy. Much of it spent in the winter, which is prime wolf watching time. We've seen most all three days that we've been out. Glenn Mai is a retired FBI agent from Arlington, Virginia. Kathy Lombard is a retired cop from New Hampshire. They both paid an outfitter thousands of dollars to take them wolf watching. So what is it about wolves that bring you all the way out here from New Hampshire to sit out here and just hope for the chance to see them? They've been able to bring wolves back into Yellowstone and they've thrived. So that's just an awesome thing to see. It was January 12th, 1995 when the first gray wolves captured in Canada were carried into Yellowstone park. It drew both national attention and fierce opposition. So much that armed guards were posted to protect those wolves. So the first walls released into Yellowstone park were released right back here in this thicket. Yes. So a total of 41 over three years. How many are in the park now? We've got 96 in ten packs and it's been roughly a hundred wolves the last ten years. Very stable. Those ten packs of about ten wolves each are without a doubt the most closely observed and studied wolves on earth. Our goal is to keep touch with each pack. That's our goal. They do that by trying to attach radio collars to at least two wolves in each of the park's packs. So you fly on the airplane, find wolves in the open. That airplane, radios, a waiting helicopter on the ground. The helicopter flies out with a gunner in the back seat. That gunner is almost always Smith himself. And you fly up alongside that wolf. And you shoot a tranquilizing dart into it. 5 minutes, it goes down. We process the walls. We take blood. We measure them. We look at their health and we attach a radio collar. And then we follow them for their life, hopefully. That life, by the way, typically lasts about 5 years. Yellowstone wolves are fierce and territorial. The leading cause of death is a tax from other wolves. And their look is uncontrollable that looks as I ain't going to conform to your rules. And I'll die before I do. And that's powerful. That is a location of a wolf. Data from the radio callers has helped smith's team to learn volumes about wolf behavior. Have you seen where the boulder is by itself? Yeah. It also helps all those wolf watchers find them. Park service volunteer Rick macintyre is out every day, listening for signals. So that is from a black male wolf 1107. And then spreading the word. Would you like to see a gray wall of two? Okay, there you go. So it's a little bit right of center. Oh yeah. Oh, look, here comes the whole pack. Wow. So see if you can count the mall, there would be two gray 6 blacks for 5 6 black ones and the white one that went by. And there should be a second gray. How about that? We had spotted the junction Butte pack along a ridge line about two miles away. Like most packs, it's led by an alpha male and an alpha female, the only two wolves in a pack.

Coming up next