The story of Wolf #10 begins with his capture in Hinton, Alberta, Canada in January 1995 as part of the Yellowstone and Idaho Wolf Reintroduction Programs. Wolf #10 was one of the first wolves to arrive in the United States and was the largest and most magnificent of all the wolves, with deeply intense golden eyes and beautiful light silvery beige tri-colored fur.
Wolf #10 was unlike any of the other wolves captured. Besides his massive size and strikingly good looks, #10 was bold, proud and aloof, and seemed to possess the quiet dignity and notable self confidence of a true Alpha. It was said that "if wolves had heroes, #10 would be a super hero!"
Wolf #10 was originally
bound for Idaho along with one of his fellow pack-mates from Hinton, but at the last moment the team decided to transport him to Yellowstone instead. A beautiful adult female had arrived in the U.S. without a mate and biologists thought that #10 might make a suitable mate for her. And so the decision to transport Wolf #10 to the Rose Creek Montana acclimation pen was made.
Shortly after Wolf #10 arrived in Rose Creek one local newspaper featured a full size photo of him on their front page and befittingly dubbed him "The Pride of Yellowstone." At about the same time one of the Yellowstone team members affectionately nicknamed him "Arnold" but most everyone just preferred to call him "The Big Guy."
Although many biologists frowned on the idea of the naming of wolves, the 3+ year old female called #9 had also been given a new name. Wolf biologist Renee Askins lovingly named the beautiful female "Natasha."
It had been determined that Wolf #9 was coming into estrus when she arrived in Yellowstone and team members hoped that the pairing of the two wolves would be successful. But it wasn't exactly love at first sight for the two newly introduced wolves. When big, bold #10 was first placed into the one acre acclimation pen, he and female #9 exchanged snarls and growls for nearly an hour. But time would soon change everything for these two remarkable wolves.
As the snowy winter days drifted into weeks, and the weeks into months, an extraordinary event unfolded in the Rose Creek acclimation pen.
Not only had Wolf #9 and Wolf #10 grown to accept one another, they had become truly devoted to, and dependent on, each other. They had developed a kind of deep trust and intimacy that only wolves could. Their open displays of affection and tenderness and the way their bodies cuddled and coiled together when they slept, was without doubt testimony to their ever deepening devotion and commitment to one another.
On the morning of March 21st the gates to all three Yellowstone acclimation pens were opened. Those monitoring the pens with special telemetry equipment watched and listened closely in anticipation of the wolves exit, but none of the wolves left their pens. Not on that day, and not on the next day.
On the third day, as biologists Mike Phillips and Doug Smith were approaching the Rose Creek enclosure on foot, they heard a long, loud, deep howl coming from somewhere behind them. They soon realized that sometime before dawn Wolf #10 had made the decision that it was time to go.
#10 would be the first wolf out of fourteen wolves in three packs to leave the acclimation pens.
Phillips and Smith watched as Wolf #10 stood majestically atop a hill, and with the wind and the snow blowing through his thick, whitened fur, beckoned to his beloved mate to come join him in freedom.
Wolf #10 howled on that snowy, early spring morning for nearly twenty five minutes. It was the first wolf howl to echo through the Lamar Valley in over sixty years and its haunting beauty was heard up to a half mile away.
About two weeks after their release,
biologists were suddenly unable to pick
up any signals from the radio-collars of #9 or #10. When the two wolves were finally located, eleven days later, they were well out of Park boundaries and within five miles of the town of Red Lodge, Montana.
At the time, Mike Phillips and Doug Smith both recalled thinking what a terrible location the pair had chosen to call home, and hoped that they would change their minds and return to the safety of the Park. But this was not to be.
Within just days of relocating the pair, what everyone had been dreading and fearing might happen, became a reality. Wolf #10's collar suddenly began signaling "mortality mode." This occurs when there is no body movement whatsoever for five hours, and could only mean one thing. Wolf #10 was dead.
All the jubilation over the
successful release quickly turned to
feelings of devastation, disbelief, and
outrage! The life of one of Yellowstone's most magnificent wolves had come to an abrupt, savage, and heartbreaking end.
It happened on the morning of Monday, April 24th, 1995. Wolf #10 was out exploring his new home territory when, without any cause or provocation, he was gunned down in cold blood and then viciously slaughtered! His body had been crudely skinned and be-headed! This unbelievably appalling and senseless tragedy occurred just one month after his release from the Rose Creek acclimation pen.
When all the facts were finally pieced together the killer of Wolf #10 would eventually be brought to justice, but not before one more heart-wrenching detail would be uncovered.
When the snow cleared and the body of Wolf #10 was finally recovered, a deeply dug den was discovered in a clay bank right next to
it. The only explanation for this is that apparently a "very pregnant" #9 must have
grown increasingly concerned when her mate
did not return to their denning area. Not knowing what else to do, she proceeded to track his scent to the location where his mutilated body had just been dumped and left.
Obviously overwhelmed with grief and very confused, #9 then dug a make-shift den right there in the snow beside her beloved mate's body. It must have been only at the very last moment that she reluctantly left her mate's side to retreat to the safety of thicker cover in time to bring eight tiny new lives into the world.
On May 17, 1995, Chad McKittrick was arrested and charged with the killing of Wolf #10. He was the first person ever to be charged with the murder of an endangered wolf.
On February 29, 1996 Chad McKittrick was found guilty of the murder of Wolf #10. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail, a $10,000 fine and one year probation.
After years of failed appeals McKittrick began serving a 3 month jail sentence in February 1999.