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A Man Among Wolves: Photographing Yellowstone’s Iconic Predators | National Geographic ctm magazine



What would you do to be a National Geographic photographer? Would you trudge across a snowy volcano with a hundred pounds of gear thrown over your shoulder? Would you trek by yourself across a giant river oft visited by grizzly bears? Would you stake out in the dark wilderness with the howls of wolves getting closer and closer? Conservation photographer Ronan Donovan did all that and more for a year and a half to photograph Yellowstone National Park and the wolves that call it home.
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Just like public visitors, Donovan was restricted from close encounters with wildlife in the park, but he was allowed to photograph in areas that are off-limits to tourists. Yellowstone National Park granted and governed National Geographic and Donovan’s access to these restricted areas as part of a larger effort to highlight research being conducted in the park.

“One iffy experience I had outside of Yellowstone National Park,” Donovan recalls, “was when a pack of 14 wolves had been howling but I didn’t know exactly where they were. Sunset ends up coming so I’m about to hike out when I see a little saw-whet owl, this tiny little teacup owl that’s super cute and hard to find and hilarious. There’s a pair of them tooting back and forth so I start photographing them for an hour and I lose track of time. All of a sudden it’s pitch dark, so I decide it’s time to go.

“I hear these wolves up on the hillside maybe 300 feet away playing with each other, yipping and snarling, and I think, oh that’s pretty cool, I’m listening to wolves in the darkness. And then I start to hear legs brushing through grass and I realize the wolves are really close.

“I turn the headlight on and there’s three black wolves in the beam of light, frozen staring right at me. They look at me and then they erupt and run away because they’re super scared of people. I was never scared for myself necessarily, but you never want to startle an animal. And then as I’m hiking out, the wolves are all howling to each other because it’s a social bonding thing. When they get scared or nervous, they come together and howl and it makes them feel better.”

As one of six photographers in Yellowstone for National Geographic magazine’s special issue on America’s oldest park, Donovan said his goal was to “shed light on the way wolves interact in their natural landscape. A lot of times wolves get persecuted and this was an opportunity for me to just show wolves for what they were, for being large, beautiful, megafauna carnivores.” For Donovan, the photograph he made of three wolves feasting on a bison carcass (00:25) captured the essence of Yellowstone’s wolves.

“This photo is of three wolves on a carcass in the wintertime along the Yellowstone River. It’s a family group—alpha females on the right and her two yearlings in the middle—and one of the wolves is looking straight at the camera. That wolf pack, Mollie’s wolf pack, it’s the oldest pack in Yellowstone and they are big, beautiful, wild wolves in the sense that they live in the back country and they don’t see people very often. They’re as close to a true gray wolf as you can get in the lower 48 states, and that picture to me was one of my favorite images from the whole project.”

Donovan continues, “There’s this total hidden side to Yellowstone that is essentially as close as we can get to a pre-colonial North America. Since Yellowstone’s creation a hundred-plus years ago, the megafauna—the bison, the elk, the wolves, the grizzlies—they are at their highest numbers. Yellowstone’s the world’s first national park, and it’s doing better than it was when it was created, which is fantastic.”

Learn more about Donovan’s experience in Yellowstone.
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/05/yellowstone-photographer-donovan/
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/05/

Ronan Donovan is a grantee of National Geographic’s Expeditions Council.
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/grants-programs/expeditions-council/

To learn more about the science and exploration supported by the nonprofit National Geographic Society, visit http://natgeo.org/grants.

PRODUCER/EDITOR: Nora Rappaport
SERIES PRODUCER: Chris Mattle
FOOTAGE/IMAGES: Ronan Donovan

A Man Among Wolves: Photographing Yellowstone’s Iconic Predators | National Geographic

National Geographic
https://www.youtube.com/natgeo

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22 Comments

  • rabbit5000 on January 4, 2017

    beautiful

  • Extended Pachiderm on January 4, 2017

    Pretty sure I ran into this guy in Jackson Lake Lodge this past June.

  • juandeldiablo696 on January 4, 2017

    Wolves 🐺 are mystical

  • Brilliant on January 4, 2017

    The last few videos have been really good nat geo, do more like them

  • Marcio Conrado Cunha on January 4, 2017

    Awesome

  • Drax Quirnon on January 4, 2017

    Ronan is hot!!!

  • PROflo420 on January 4, 2017

    I'm sure he has a gun with him

  • Mirk Jerken on January 4, 2017

    I could watch an hour of this!

  • jason4275 on January 4, 2017

    Finally someone on YouTube actually doing something that's beneficial to all life, not just theirs.

  • MisterSereno on January 4, 2017

    how can I see the full one

  • fhgdc uwu on January 4, 2017

    i love the black wolves with brown patches! gorgeous!

  • Oliver Butler on January 5, 2017

    Dominate pregnant pool snow graduate notion.

  • Ronnie Duhamel on January 5, 2017

    So sick

  • Ellaina Case on January 8, 2017

    I would love to live near wolves and wildlife for a year

  • Anikesh Keshwal on January 8, 2017

    truly amazing video. keep it up.

  • Thatguy on January 9, 2017

    do more like these please and i will love you long time.

  • Minoli on February 27, 2017

    Makes me realize how badly I need to visit Yellowstone

  • Thomas Drowry on March 2, 2017

    The USA is so vast.

  • Marshall Gibson on April 1, 2017

    came for the wolves, stayed for Uranus right there at the end.

  • wabba 21 on May 7, 2017

    one of the best jobs in the world from what i see

  • Larry Fisher on March 7, 2019

    I'm so so glad to see the wolf's are doing so well .My wife and I were up there the year wolf's were reintroduced to Yellowstone

  • Andy Werner on October 4, 2020

    Awesome

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