Tag Archives: National Parks

A Walk in the Woods

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach”

– W.E.B. Dubois

A walk in the woods is therapeutic, doing so with a child adds inspiration. I have been fortunate that my wife and I have enjoyed a lot of time in the woods with our daughter – long before she could walk. Her earliest naps were in the fresh air and included long slumbers in a hiking backpack chair. Whether it is looking for butterflies, snakes, raptors or insects, a simple stroll off the concrete immediately turns into an adventure with real and make-believe characters. 

Being outside with a child has taught me to be more mindful – to focus on the journey not the destination. A one mile out-and-back hike might take more than the short time I had budgeted but leaves us with many hours of opportunity to discuss what we saw and how it behaved. As our daughter has grown, we have become more intentional about exposing her to new environments beyond the local hiking trails. During a recent trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee side), our three year old taught us to look beyond what we saw and ask “why aren’t we seeing more?” 

Photo taken by the author near Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Our trip began on a crisp weekday morning a week before Thanksgiving celebrations here in the U.S. We exited our rented cabin and traveled to the closest Visitor Center.  We hoped to meet a park ranger – who our daughter reveres. Due to COVID, we had to wait a short while to enter the Visitor Center but we were able to gather some hiking maps and checked trail conditions. We were ready to begin our day exploring the park. We did not have anything big planned beyond some short hikes, nature viewing and a picnic lunch.

On our way back to our car we were greeted by a park volunteer and our daughter immediately engaged in conversation.  She explained that we were on the lookout for the park’s wildlife – bears, elk, snakes, birds and wolves. Wolves? Yes, our daughter equates the presence of elk with wolves due to having spent a year living in the Northern Rockies. The volunteer politely explained that wolves no longer lived in the park but that there were plenty of other animals to see, if we were lucky.

I noted an immediate change in our child. She went from exuberant to pensive – even sad. Why were there no wolves in the park? Where did they go? Were they coming back? She did not hesitate to ask these questions to the volunteer who responded that “all of the wolves had been hunted” and there were no longer any wolves inside the park. The question “why?” from a toddler is both an expression of incredulity and an invitation to join in a never ending conversation.  In this case, our daughter could not understand why humans had extirpated wolves from a place that seemed perfect for them to live. 

Hoping to put that sadness behind us we went on a hike. We did not see a bear or a raptor but we did continue our conversation about the wolves. Our daughter asked me again why people had hunted all of the wolves? Why would we make them go away? I tried to explain that man has not always coexisted with nature in a peaceful manner. We often do not understand the balance that nature requires. As we walked and talked the conversation grew, our daughter’s frustration heightened and the question “why?” kept arising. As we turned around to walk back to the trailhead we saw a pickup truck driving on the trail – it was a park ranger. 

…our three year old taught us to look beyond what we saw and ask “why aren’t we seeing more?” 

The ranger stopped and asked how we were doing. My daughter responded, “why are you driving a truck on this trail?” The ranger smiled and answered, “ because I work here.” Seeing an opportunity to learn more about the disappearance of wolves our daughter did not hesitate to ask “ok, then why did you let all of the wolves get hunted?”  The ranger was wide-eyed. Frankly, I would have been too. What was intended to be a genuinely kind interaction with the public turned into an interrogation by a three year old. The ranger politely answered that wolves left many decades ago then gave us another smile and went on her way. My daughter was not satisfied but she understood. She looked at me and said “Papa, I am going to save the wolves, I am going to bring them back.” I asked how she planned to do that. She replied, “I’ll go back to Wyoming and pick up a few and bring them here.” Some may say this is a three year old’s uninformed reintroduction plan though I am sure many said the same when it was suggested that we reintroduce Canadian wolves to the U.S. Northern Rockies.

Our trip to Great Smoky Mountain National Park was amazing and to this day our daughter mentions the wolves and the need to save them. She taught me that I cannot simply accept the reality that wolves once lived in a place, but that I need to be an active force to make sure that the wolf is protected, able to thrive, and coexist with us. In essence, my young daughter reminded me that I need to be an ally for the wolf, for in doing so I will be an ally for our environment.  She believes, and I agree, that our world is better with wolves on the landscape.

Children are wise beyond their years and not anchored with the pessimism or cynicism of adults. Through my work with and for the Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, I hope to grow into an empathetic voice for wolves. I also hope to engage in meaningful conversations with those that disagree with me or share a different worldview. Most of all, I hope that my daughter sees her father working to protect what we both love. If I want my daughter to be a caretaker of this world, I need to be one now for she will learn more from what I am than what I teach her. 

Sources Consulted: 

National Park Service. “Animals.” Accessed January 08, 2022. https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/animals.htm

National Park Service. “Mammals.” Accessed January 08, 2022. https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/mammals.htm

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Gray Wolf.” Accessed January 08, 2022. https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/species/4488

Wheeler, Timothy B. “Effort to Return Red Wolves to Great Smoky Mountains Ends in Failure.” Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1998. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1998-dec-13-mn-53449-story.html?_amp=true

 

 

 

A Wildlife Photographer Raises Concerns on Balancing Tourism & Conservation in a Canadian National Park

Ep. 09: Balancing Tourism with Conservation in Banff National

More information at Exposed with John E Marriott

More about John

Get exposed to the world of one of Canada’s premier professional wildlife and nature photographers. EXPOSED with John E. Marriott is the culmination of his life’s work — a documentary-style, no-holds-barred web series in which John profiles his favourite locations and subjects, shares tips and how-tos for aspiring photographers, and tackles the important and controversial issues in wildlife conservation.

Snaring is wildlife’s silent killer which quietly kills thousands of animals in and around Africa’s National Parks

…Advocates work to Save Zambia’s Wildlife. Rachel McRobb formed Conservation South Luangwa (Africa) the area’s largest non-profit anti-poaching and community conservation organisation ten years ago.

“I am one of those lucky people in life who finds fulfilment just being in wild places surrounded by wildlife,” says Rachel McRobb. “The possibility of losing this in Zambia is enough for me to fight the daily battles involved in running a wildlife conservation programme in Africa and managing an anti-poaching unit.”

Rachel McRobb was born in Zambia’s Copperbelt region and quickly fostered a love for Zambia’s wildlife and wild places. Spurred on by witnessing the horrors of poaching and habitat loss and with virtually no experience, training or support, Rachel has worked tirelessly to build a strong Zambian team and make CSL a key conservation organization.

To find out more visit www.tusk.org

About the trailer: Production – Spectrecom Films

Director – Chris Karageorgiou

DOP – Kieran Hodges

Snaring is wildlife’s silent killer which quietly kills thousands of animals in the Luangwa Valley annually. CSL tries to combat this by deploying regular anti-snaring patrols to remove snares from the bush and by immobilizing and rescuing snared animals. We work closely with partners including the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DPNW) and the Zambian Carnivore Program (ZCP) to achieve this.

CSL supports 65 community based scouts to help the Department of National Parks and Wildlife protect the flora and fauna of the Luangwa Valley. We do this by paying salaries, providing technical support, patrol equipment, rations, training and transport. We assist with aerial surveillance and monitoring to help detect any illegal activities including carcasses, poacher’s camps, illegal fires and drying racks.

Human Wildlife Conflict Mitigation

Communities surrounding the national park face severe crop and property damages from elephants that are unable to resist the sweet taste of maize, vegetables and fruits such as mangos. In order to mitigate this, we have a large scale human wildlife conflict mitigation program centered around the use of chilli as a mitigation measure.

Detection dogs are increasingly being used to reduce wildlife trafficking by detecting wildlife contraband. Set up in 2014 in partnership with DPNW, the CSL Detection Dog Unit was Zambia’s first sniffer dog unit that works to detect illegal wildlife products and firearms being used and smuggled within and out of Zambia.

The fight to save the planet’s wild and endangered species comes down to local communities such as; Conservation South Luangwa (Africa) the area’s largest non-profit anti-poaching and community conservation organization.

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In the U.S. there’s a war on wolves being waged around the borders of Yellowstone National Park…

Yellowstone’s wolves face trophy hunters ready to kill them as soon as they step across park boundaries. Meet the wolf advocates fighting for the legacy of Yellowstone’s wolves…

In this clip wolf advocates share their stories. Ilona Popper is a writer and advocate for wolves. Dr. Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston Wildlife biologists and business owners of The Wild Side Tours & Treks in Yellowstone National Park. Song credits: “Don’t Know Why, But They Do” Words & Music by Joe De Benedetti & Noah Hill. B roll credits thanks to National Park Service.

A film that presents the viewer with a complete picture of what it means to advocate for an imperiled species protected within Yellowstone National Park; contrasted against an uncertain future because of wolf hunting taking place just beyond the park’s borders.

“Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy- The Yellowstone Story” tells the stories of people working to preserve the legacy of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Film. Produced by Rachel Tilseth and Maaike Middleton and Directed by Rachel Tilseth.

Ways to support this important film project.

Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy-The Yellowstone Story Documentary Film has a 501 3c fiscal sponsor Plan B Foundation for tax exempt contributions. You can make a donation to support the work of this vital documentary film.