By Bob Ferris
In conservation there are always turning points. For instance, I remember working on a swan project in the 1990s that involved ultra-light aircraft and imprinting young Trumpeters to teach them a migration route. My boss at the time, Rodger Schlickeisen (below left at left), turned to me the morning of the first leg of the trial migration and said: Do you think this is going to work?
In the time leading up to that point I had not given failure much thought, but I did then. We had invested more than two hundred thousand dollars in the project and I was getting more and more nervous as the ultra-light cruised back and forth and none of the swans rose to follow. All our months of efforts selling the Atlantic Flyway Council on the idea, getting the permits, and training the swans came down to this one moment in time.
And then Yo-Yo the swan (at right above) took flight and the others followed. I was ecstatic. The project had pivoted on the wing beats of a young and improbably named swan who simply did what swans had done for hundreds of thousands of years—took off after the “leading parent” and started its first long flight.
My wife and I were getting ready to return from a family trip to California, when I got the news that Wanda and Journey had at least three pups rather than the two that we had originally thought (see one of the pups below right and more photos on our facebook page). This welcome news put the frosting on an already delicious cake and reminded me of that feeling so many years ago sitting by that frosty field when Yo-Yo took off.
We hit Dunsmuir, California about 10PM and for some reason we just started to howl. Perhaps it was the glow off Mount Shasta or the acknowledgement of what was happening wolf-wise to the north of us.
Or maybe it was just the joy of turning this important corner in western wolf conservation. We were hoarse but happy when we reached Oregon and we came within legitimate howling range of Journey, Wanda and crew, but I am not sure that mattered to us in the least.