DAVE: All at once, our search has taken a new direction! We now have some track evidence that the adults might have been away from the den or rendezvous site. Just when it seemed we'd totally struck out with finding the den, we suddenly developed a ray of hope. A biologist from the Canadian Wildlife Service studying snow geese here told us late on Saturday afternoon (after our fruitless search with the helicopter) that he had seen lots of wolf tracks at the head of the fiord along which we had often tracked the wolves. Thus we turned our attention there, found scads of old and fresh tracks going both ways and saw that the wolves had headed across a mile-wide set of mud flats to the other side of the fiord. Being unable to cross the flats, we scanned the other side with 15X binoculars and spotted a wolf walking down the slope of an eroded ridge that could easily be a den area. The wolf disappeared for half an hour, and we never saw it or another wolf again. But, we can bring a powerful spotting scope to our lookout tomorrow and watch for a longer time. If we see a wolf there again, or 2 or 3 adults (or possibly pups!), we will confirm that as a den or rendezvous site. We have high hopes about this possibility, for the tracks now indicate that the den is somewhere across the fiord. On the way back to camp, we ran into a wolf heading our way and confirmed that it is not one of the 3 we have learned to identify. It seems to be a non-scent-marking male, and we ran some preliminary behavioral tests with it. So all in all, things are looking up.
And so the pendulum swings again! This demonstrates perfectly that what seem at first to be wild-goose chases ending in failure (in this case, wild-wolf chases!) are, instead, opportunities for new strategies. Instant gratification is not a given in fieldwork. In fact, that rarely happens. This job requires tenacity and the determination to learn from what is NOT found as well as from what is. This is one reason that researchers like Dean and Dave keep meticulous and accurate notes about every single observation, no matter how inconsequential it might seem at the time. From that information, the researchers make new plans.