Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wolf Man on 20/20

This coming Friday, October 24, 2008, 20/20 is going to feature the true story of a man who has made a pack of wolves his family. Also, we will be able to see the introduction of his girlfriend to the wolves.

See the preview here: http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=5969585

Shaun Ellis is the "wolf man" I mention here. He is a British wolf behavior expert. He is based at Combe Martin Wildlife Park in North Devon, England, where he manages a resident wolf pack and observes them. This is where Shaun Ellis was able to realize his lifelong dream of raising wild wolf cubs. Three wolf cubs who were abandoned at birth became his charges. Over the course of 18 months, he lived with and interacted with them. After that time, he introduced them to the resident wolf pack of Combe Martin Wildlife Park. Until the introduction, he had served as alpha male. As alpha male, he had to teach them how to be wolves, how to howl, etc. The research of the "wolf man" includes living in a trailer on the outskirts of the wolf pack's home and becoming a member of their pack. He is of the belief that living as closely as possible to wolves is the best way to understand them. While living among the wolves, he takes on all of their behavior to include growling, howling, licking and even snarling. He eats with them.

The "wolf man" has always had an interest in all wild things. Born and raised in Norfolk, England, he lived on an isolated farm enveloped by the woods. Shaun Ellis trained as a gamekeeper but then left that position once it was discovered by Ellis' supervisor that Ellis intended to release animals who had been gathered into the countryside. There would be many jobs to follow; however, Shaun Ellis never gave up his lifelong dream to study wolves and in particular, to study the Yellowstone National Park wolves. After some service in the Army, Ellis was able to save up enough money to cover the costs associated with making the trip to pursue his dream. Once there, Ellis spent the next seven years on an Idaho Indian reservation with the Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce Indians taught Shaun Ellis how to properly observe wolves in the wild. Each night, Shaun Ellis would record wild wolf howls coming from the woods and then study them the next day. After recording and playing back wolf howls repeatedly, Ellis began to able to distinguish individual pack members. Shaun Ellis began to understand that wolves are highly intelligent and highly instinctive animals who give trust and balance abundantly within the pack's social order. It is these characteristics that many humans fail to acknowledge, do not know, or simply misunderstand about the wolf.

Shaun Ellis filmed a series for Animal Planet that gives us a look into his world of wolf observation. The series is entitled "Living with the Wolf Man" and lets us see how he introduced and eventually integrated Helen Jeffs (girlfriend) into the pack. Together, they are promoting awareness of wolf behavior and conservation.

The National Geographic Channel has also featured a Shaun Ellis documentary entitled "A Man Among Wolves".

Given that 20/20 will be featuring this amazing couple this Friday, I am relieved to know that everyone watching will finally to get to hear something from someone who is not only pro-wolf but someone who is pro-wolf because he has studied wolves up close and personally. Shaun Ellis' firsthand, ground-breaking experience with wolves makes him a valuable source of information and much-needed advocate for our wolves. This very important work that Ellis and Jeffs are doing is so necessary - even timely - given the plight of the wolf and all of the voices of fear and hatred aimed at wolves out there. So much of the anti-wolf campaign is being driven by people who lack education, knowledge, and experience. We need more voices like Ellis and Jeffs, and I want to thank Shaun Ellis and Helen Jeffs for all that they have done and are doing to Save The Wolves Now!

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