A gaggle of people caught Craig Goodwin’s eye as he drove through the Lamar Valley nearly a year ago.
Goodwin, a Spokane-area nature photographer, stopped. The group was staring at, and photographing, a wolf about 50 yards away.
As he joined the group, the wolf walked in his direction.
“She stopped right there, she stopped right in the sun, right before the shadows and just howled,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin took photos.
“It was exciting,” he said. “That’s the great thing about Yellowstone. You never know what you’re going to run across.”
Last week, Goodwin learned that the wolf he’d photographed – 926F, or Spitfire – had been legally killed by a hunter.
“Gosh, it just seemed so pointless to me,” he said. “I think it’s a shame that someone would hover around the edge of a national park to kill a collared wolf. Or any animal. That just seems like a cowardly act.”
Many decried the killing while hunters pointed out that the killing was legal. They argue that permitted hunts help control wolf populations and protect elk, deer and livestock.
But unlike some, Goodwin’s grief is not because he attributed human traits to the animal. Instead, he thinks humans lost something with the death of 926F.
“For me, it’s the loss of that encounter with the wild,” he said. “And those opportunities are so few and far between. I think there is real value for society, for people, to have those encounters.”
Goodwin is not anti-hunting. He believes hunters and “animal lovers can and should be conservation allies.” But he said, “The actions of this one hunter create a divide.”
Experiencing the wild can be a humbling and joyous thing, he said.
He’s seen his photos inspire and change viewers. The wild, even when mediated through a photo, can make a difference.
“With the picture they’re able to experience that a little bit,” he said. “I see the joy people have. And the glee people have.
“I was just sitting there in the bushes just 50 yards from this animal. It’s just an amazing experience and encounter. And I think we’re so far removed from wild places that it’s just a shame. That’s part of the sadness is seeing some of that experience lost.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.