For three winters, my wife Mary and I volunteered and lived at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the remote northeastern corner of Yellowstone. The Lamar Valley is known as America's Little Serengeti and is one of the best places in the world to watch wolves in the wild.

The ranch is the teaching site of the Yellowstone Forever. Students come from all over to attend field seminars taught by world-class experts in subjects such as ecology, geology, and photography. We supported the instructors, helped students spot wildlife, drove 14-passenger buses over snow-covered roads, and cleaned and maintained the ranch.

During our first winter, we were lucky enough to observe 06, the famous Lamar Canyon pack alpha female and the rest of her pack. I began that first winter as a fascinated observer. But slowly, I realized that I could not just observe. The wolves' place in the West and elsewhere is too tenuous. 

On December 6, 2012, 06 was shot outside the park in the shoot-a-wolf-anytime-anywhere-for-any-reason rampage that Wyoming officials had the nerve to call a wolf hunt. With 06 gone, her alpha male, 755M, left the Lamar Valley in search of a new mate. After several unsuccessful pairings he found one, sired the Wapiti pack, and became the first Yellowstone alpha male since reintroduction to form two packs. With no alphas remaining, the rest of 06’s pack scattered, some in the park, some out. One of her daughters eventually found a mate, had pups, and reinvigorated the Lamar Canyon pack. But life has been hard for the Lamars: mange, dying pups, and death by other wolves. 

Observing first hand the destructive impact of hunting on animals I had come to know and respect started me down the trail of advocating for wolves. 

Eventually, the draw of Yellowstone was too strong. After thirty-six years living in Oregon, Mary and I moved to Montana. Now that we have lived next to Yellowstone’s grandeur for more than a year, we know that making the move to Gardiner was right. But we have also been surprised to learn that Gardiner sits smack in the middle of a number of controversies: the hunting of Yellowstone wolves outside the park; whether wolves help or harm the ecosystem; overuse of and development around the park; the possible removal of grizzlies from the endangered species list; and the slaughter of park bison. 

While living at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch—a wildlife-filled bubble where animals roamed without the fear of human intervention—we had stayed blissfully unaware of most of these controversies. There is no way we can avoid them in Gardiner; nor do we want to. 

In the Temple of Wolves describes living and working in Yellowstone as well as the ecology of the Lamar Valley. The book has been a bestseller in its Amazon category for three years.

I am working on my next book about Yellowstone. Please check back for details. 

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What others say about In the Temple of Wolves:

 "... we are transported to the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park, living among the wolves, the coyotes, the bison, the trees, the mountains, the largest and smallest of wild things.... As a naturalist, Rick knows his biology and weaves into the narrative important emerging science; the wolf figures large in this wild world, exemplifying top-down ecological cascades.

He describes the stark beauty and treacherous cruelty of nature, with an honest voice that leaves no detail unsaid, be it exquisite or morbid. It’s not only the outer struggles in nature that are revealed in Rick’s writing, but also inner battles with his own human nature. It is a marvelous read."  William J. Ripple, Ph.D., professor, author


"Rick Lamplugh provides a refreshing natural history perspective of the ecological inner workings of the Lamar ecosystem. A perspective with a literary bent reminiscent of great naturalist writers such as Ann Zwinger—a touch of science and a touch of sentiment. From his line drawn in the snow to help visitors understand the battle of life and death played out between wolf and elk in the wintry viewscape, Rick teaches all who will read In The Temple of Wolves an understanding and appreciation of nature."  Jim Halfpenny, PhD, A Naturalist's World

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Rick,
    I just got back from my first trip to Yellowstone in the winter and spent a day in the Lamar Valley. I visited the Mammoth Visitors' Center and piled several books on the counter. I noticed yours, hesitated, then added it to the pile. Boy am I glad I did. I absolutely love your writing style--vivid descriptions, based on sound observations sprinkled with humility. I've spent 25 years keeping field notebooks on trips from Yellowstone to the Yukon, and I admire your ability to craft stories from your observations. I wish I could have stayed longer on this trip, but your book has helped extend my visit and will find a place in my bookcase of fine natural history writing. I look forward to receiving your blog posts.


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