Louise Gray reviews Land of the Lost Wolves on BBC One.
In Washington state in the US, wolves were driven to extinction 70 years ago but against the odds they are coming back across the border from Canada. Land of the Lost Wolves (BBC One) explored the love/hate relationship between the locals and these beautiful animals.
While biologists are hoping this marks a comeback for the wolf in the western states, with the territory they use spreading as far south as Mexico over the next few decades, hunters are twitching their triggers. Ranchers claimed the wolves threaten their grandchildren as well as their livestock and are ready to “shoot, shovel and shut up” – even though it is illegal to kill one.
The film would have made particularly fascinating viewing for animal lovers in Scotland, where there are serious suggestions that wolves should be reintroduced in the Highlands.
Gordon Buchanan, the Scottish wildlife film-maker, is more than aware of the problems. Here, he was shown shocking pictures of skinned wolves and interviewed angry cowboys in a saloon bar. But really he is on the side of the conservationists and the viewer was swept along in the excitement of finding the “pioneer” pack leading the recolonisation of the Cascade Mountains.
Biologists claim that wolves help keep the ecosystem in balance by stopping deer from overgrazing. “The Cascade Mountains without wolves is like the Serengeti without lions,” one said.
Buchanan, still a wildlife documentary heart throb despite cutting off those gorgeous curls, set up a “robo wolf”, sprayed wolf urine on trees and even attempted a rather feeble howl in his efforts to capture the wolves on film. He trekked through the snow and got so hot running alongside the husky sled he had to remove his thermal underpants.
The best footage was from the cameras hidden in the woods as the wily wolves manage to evade the humans while leaving intriguing signs of their presence. As we learned more about the intelligence and history of these creatures, you began to wonder who was watching who.
Wildlife documentaries today have to do more than show us our favourite animals, as biologists try to work out how they will survive in the future.
The story of the wolves in America is particularly intriguing as an example of our wider struggle to protect wild creatures in the modern world while living alongside them.
The end result was better than any book or cartoon, with the added bonus that we can carry on watching this story in real life to see what happens next.
VIDEO Land Of The Lost Wolves - Ep1
At a time when wildlife is disappearing across the planet, one animal is making a comeback - the wolf.
Wolves were wiped out across much of America, with more than a million wolves estimated to have been shot, poisoned or trapped when European settlers arrived.
This enthralling series documents the return of one very special wolf pack to the snowy peaks of Washington's Cascade Mountains - the first to return to the American Northwest in 70 years. By BBC
VIDEO Land Of The Lost Wolves - Ep2
After spending four weeks camping out in the bitterly cold Cascade Mountains, wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan and a team of wolf experts discover that most of the pack have been killed by locals who live by the motto "shoot, shovel and shut up". But have any of the pack escaped unharmed? As the team chase exciting new leads, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. By BBC