Through the Lens with Leon Lorenz

Taking a walk on the wild side

Leon Lorenz
Leon Lorenz photo
Leon Lorenz photo
Copyright © 2017

I always have a high level of anticipation in approaching wolf dens for the first time each year, wondering if the den will be active and if, just maybe, I’d have a chance to film the secret life of a gray wolf family.

Windows of opportunity to film rarely seen wildlife behaviors or even sightings are often quite short, with the timing of each encounter usually unknown. Call it what you will, luck, chance, blessings, planned timing, the most important thing is to spend lots of time in the wild, and the filming opportunities will eventually come.

This particular day in early June my hopes were high as I silently walked through a beautiful forest to check out one of the numerous den sites I located the previous year. The forest canopy was bursting with bird songs; it felt good to be alive and out in nature.

Now within 150 yards of the den I slowed my walk, carefully placing my feet so I wouldn't break any dry sticks. Suddenly I hear a great commotion 50 yards ahead, then seconds later I witness what is quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime event - a very large black wolf chasing a black bear.

How the bear kept its focus and was able to select a large tree to climb with the wolf hot on its tail I'll never know. The bear reached the tree a second or two ahead of the wolf and climbed at great speed until it reached a large branch. The wolf, which was more than likely a male, turned and trotted away in the direction of the den. My first thought, of course, was to capture what I could and never mind what has been missed. I wanted to film a few moments of the bear in the tree; however, my angle and distance wasn't ideal so I advanced forward. Alas, the bear detected my presence and started descending the tree very rapidly. With no chance to even level my camera on the tripod the bear jumps the last eight feet or so to the ground and disappears into the brush. What excitement!

I now turn my attention to the wolf den. It has to be active, I reason to myself, with the wolf chasing away a potential threat to the pups. I now inch forward the last few yards, scanning here and there and going by memory from the previous spring trying to locate the den in the thick greenery. Suddenly here and there I see little pointed ears of several wolf pups for a few fleeting moments above the brush before they vanish into the safety of their den. With my heart pounding with excitement I know there is potential for some filming action of the pups. Quickly setting up my camera equipment I patiently wait. A few minutes into my ambush a movement to my right catches my eye barely 15 feet away, the mother wolf, gray in colour, emerges out from the thick, leafy thimble-berry brush and spots me a couple of seconds after I see her. With one quick leap she puts brush between her and me and is gone. My heart sinks a bit; now that I have been detected at the den site, the parent wolves will more than likely now move their pups to another location.

About one hour later, a black pup slowly emerges and looks around, and spots an object in the forest it has never seen before - my camouflage blind cover that I had thrown over myself. The pups, now being about seven or eight weeks of age, are old enough to be cautious, and it retreats. However, 30 minutes later and bursting with curiosity I'm sure, the pups - all five of them - slowly emerge and soon realize I am not a threat to them.

I was able to film a number of wonderful moments till evening; however I decided not to return the following day so the parent wolves could calm down and hopefully realize that I am not a threat to their family. I returned in two days and found that the pups had been moved to a new location as I feared they would be. I searched high and low for a couple of days and was unable to find them again.

I find adult wolves very intelligent and take no chances. Plain and simple, wild wolves distrust humans, and for good reason. Wolves that live in the safety of National Parks and have constant contact with humans do not feel nearly as threatened as they do where they are hunted.