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“Yellowstone is the mecca to see wolves” says National Wolfwatcher Coalition Executive Director

They do it for love.

They’re the all-volunteer leaders of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, a nonprofit wildlife advocacy group that, surprisingly, doesn’t sell memberships in its organization.

The leader of the organization is Nancy Warren, a retired Social Security Administration manager who lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She’s been a wolf advocate in her home state for many years, but about three years ago became the executive director, while also retaining her previous title of the Great Lake Regional Director. The organization was founded in 2010.

The NWC is unique, Warren says, in that it doesn’t charge a fee for memberships, or send out a newsletter, or do mailers asking for donations.

“And we don’t send you things you didn’t ask for, like labels, to try to get you to send us money,” Warren said firmly in a recent phone interview.

Aside from paying an accountant to manage the books and a webmaster to maintain the website, no one else in the organization is paid.

NWC makes what money it needs from donations, links to partners like Amazon.com, and the sale of its own logoed merchandise like T-shirts, baseball caps, tote bags, magnets and stickers.

Warren said that while they don’t maintain a membership list per se, there are about 4,000 people who receive the group’s emailed newsletter. There’s also a website, www.wolfwatcher.org, that has had almost 13 million hits since its inception. And its Facebook page, Wolfwatcher, has nearly 900,000 “likes,” Warren said.

And while the group has regional leaders all around the country — wherever wolves are found, including the Southwest and Southeast — nowhere provides the wolfwatching opportunities like Yellowstone National Park.

“Yellowstone is the mecca to see wolves,” Warren said.

Warren said people are always interested in wolves, but that wolves are also targeted as dangerous predators that lots of people would rather see completely eradicated.

“So many other animals have advocates,” she said. “Wolves are so misunderstood.”

The NWC’s mission, posted large on its website is “educate, advocate, participate” on behalf of wolves. They organize letter-writing campaigns when wolves are threatened, for example.

NWC is watching a recent Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks proposal to triple the allotment of wolves that could be hunted in Hunting District 313, which is located along Yellowstone’s northern border near Gardiner, Montana. Last year the allocation was two wolves, but at a recent FWP Commission meeting, agency leaders proposed increasing the number to six.

The Commission voted against the measure and left the number at two. However, the Commission is accepting public comments on wolf hunting seasons, quotas and district boundaries until June 18. Comments may be posted online at http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/publicComments/2016/wolfSeasons.html

And of course the group encourages wolfwatching.

Warren told a story of bringing a friend to Yellowstone last summer in August for a “Speak for Wolves” event held in West Yellowstone. Her friend had never seen a wolf in the wild. After their road trip brought them to Yellowstone, they were finally at one of the overlooks in Hayden Valley, the wide-open river valley of the Yellowstone between Lake and Canyon. The crowd at the overlook was observing a black wolf through their scopes. Warren’s friend was having difficulty getting the hang of peering through a spotting scope, but she finally figured it out.

“I see a wolf!” she exclaimed.

“She was jumping up and down and crying and hugging me,” Warren laughed.

The other observers at the overlook, thrilled to be there for a wolfwatcher’s first wolf, broke out in applause.

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Learn more abou the National Wolfwatcher Coalition online at www.wolfwatcher.org; on Facebook under the name “Wolfwatcher” and on Twitter @NWCWolfwatcher.

About Liz Kearney

Liz Kearney is a former Yellowstone tour guide and snowcoach driver. She lives in Livingston, Montana, where she covers the park and other news for the daily newspaper, the Livingston Enterprise.

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