Yukon - Charley Rivers National Preserve

Park Service keeps an eye on wolves in the Yukon Charley Rivers Preserve

March 17, 2011, 9:30 am

The “blip” was barely audible through the static coming through our headsets but it was loud and clear to Seth McMillan.

“Got ’em,” McMillan said, sounding as if he had just hooked a fish.

I knew what that meant. There were wolves out there somewhere. My pulse picked up in anticipation as I scanned the vast snow-covered landscape below.

We were flying over an old mining camp in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve east of Fairbanks, trying to locate a pack of wolves.

The “blip” we heard had come across a walkie-talkie-size radio receiver McMillan was holding. It signaled that at least one of the three wolves in the pack wearing a VHF radiocollar around its neck was somewhere in the vicinity.

As a ranger for the National Park Service on this cold, sunny day in early March, it was McMillan’s job to find it.

“Turn to the right and straighten out,” McMillan instructed pilot Curtis Cebulski. “OK. Left turn.”

Using antennaes mounted on each wing of the orange Cessna 185, McMillan could listen to the left or right antennae to determine which side of the plane the collar was. The signal was getting stronger.

“They’re definitely on your side, Curtis,” McMillan said to Cebulski. “I think we’ve got a circle here we’re going to be working and looking for wolves.”

They could be in the brush. They could be on the side of the creek. They could be on the hillside.”

This is it, I thought to myself, I’m finally going to get to see some wolves. I stared intently out the window at the ground 500 feet below.

All I saw was snow and spruce trees.

“There they are”

In the 25 years I’ve lived in Alaska, I have seen only one live wolf. That was on a moose hunting trip 12 years ago.

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