Buffalos and wolves have a particular relationship that has been going on for thousands of years. Wolves have hunted buffalos for their survival in the tough climates the two species live in. At one point they lived all across North America but when humans moved in they were pushed aside and both were almost rendered extinct. Now the only place they live is in Northern Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park. There the struggle for existence continues between the continent’s largest land mammal and its biggest predator.
The Wood Buffalo National Park is partially in northern Alberta and partially in the North West Territories. It is huge spanning five times the area of Yellowstone Park. In 1922 Canada established this park to protect what was left of the buffalo herds in the wild.
Director Jeff Turner installed an aerial camera so we could follow the whole wolf hunt from beginning to end from this unique perspective. The hunts for buffalo can span over 30 miles and the camera follows throughout. Buffalos are not easy to kill as they are large and have incredible endurance. Some chases have lasted for over 20 miles.
A wolf pack consisting of eight members and led by an alpha male is the focal point of the PBS special. On average a typical wolf pack must kill one buffalo per week to have enough food to live on. It is not simple as the buffalo on average is twenty times bigger than your typical wolf.
With the aerial camera we get an inside look at the techniques a wolf pack uses to hunt down and kill buffalo. We see that depending on how the buffalo herd reacts there are a couple of different techniques used by the wolves, who work as one. The winter is an easier hunting season for the wolves with spring and summer being more difficult due to the fact that the female wolves give birth during this time and it disallows much time for the females to go off on the hunt. Unfortunately during this time is when many newborn pups die of starvation.
Another interesting aspect that the documentary shows us is how the continuation of the age old tradition is in jeopardy due to the Alberta Oil Sands. The Oil Sands are located upstream from the Park and threatens it due to its expansion.