BearHead Photography has many images to showcase his expansive portfolio on mammals of North America, and here are his pictures of wild white, black, and grey wolves.
Hearing a wild wolf howl is one of the greatest sounds in nature. Often times I hear the wolf, but never get to actually see the wolf. This white wolf howled for a long time, so it gave me time to track the sound and maybe find the wolf. When I went over a rise and saw this white wolf on the top of the ridge, my heart about stopped in pure excitement! Moments like this is why I'm a wildlife photographer.
A Powerful Look
Wolves are a very pretty and powerful animal. When they stop and stare at something, they mean business. They are a very social creature, but do not like wolves that they do not recognize. This wolf was scanning an area before heading that direction to make sure the coast was clear.
After wolves have made a kill they will eat some and then go take a nap. After they move off other animals and birds move in to start eating. This wolf did not like all the ravens gathering on its food, so it ran back to the kill and jumped at the ravens to scare them off.
Call of the Wild
Wolves howl to get the attention of other wolves in the area. This wolf had gotten separated from its pack members and was trying to locate where they were. At first she was calm and relaxed, but then she really started to howl. As she stood on the rock howling, it was a cold enough morning that her breath was visible as she howled.
King and Queen Wolf
The history of wolves in Yellowstone is well documented. A few packs have captured the hearts of thousands, and not many wolves did it more often than the canyon pack. I tried for years to get a good picture of the alpha pair, but getting a particular two wolves together close enough in photo range is very difficult. My persistence paid off, and what a sight it was to see the canyon pack alphas together on a ridge in perfect light!
This wolf had lived in Yellowstone for many years, and at one point was a grey wolf. Over the year, though, she turned almost completely white, which helped her blend in during the winter. It's amazing to think that this wolf once had a different color coat.
Wolves like to communicate with other wolves in their pack often. They socialize all the time when they are near each other and often play. One way to greet each other is by licking the other on the face.
In the winter in Yellowstone it is rarely warm. Most of the time the temperature is in the teens or colder. This black wolf had been running around much of the morning searching for something. As it stopped on the hillside to take a breather, the sun warmed the wolf as the temperature was -5 degrees.
Finding a wolf pack is always a thrill. Many times I will encounter one or two wolves, but rarely the whole pack together. As the sun set, this pack let out a group howl from the ridge that could be heard for miles.
Wolves are fun animals to watch. It appears as if most of the time they are having a good time and enjoying each others company. This wolf continued to turn its head sideways as if it couldn't figure something out.
One of the greatest animals to see in nature, in my mind, is a wild white wolf. After pursuing a wolf in a different pack, this wolf decided it was time to run for safety. The excitement in me as this wolf came running directly at me, and away from the other wolves, is something I will never forget and likely never experience again. Wolves normally run away from humans, so to have it running directly toward me was incredible!
Valley of the Wolves
Yellowstone is a very large park and it's landscapes are bigger than people realize. Finding wolves in this landscape is not easy. Once you see a wolf and how small they look, like rocks in the valley, it makes one appreciate them more. Seeing this pack scattered across the valley made for a great night.
Wolves are mostly a meat eating animal. On occasion they will eat other food just to get by. This wolf was picking and eating berries, which was a new type of behavior to me.
Young wolves are always fun to watch. They are unpredictable and can change moods and directions at any time. This wolf was contemplating following the path of a pack mate, but wasn't sure if it should make its own trail or not.
When another wolf pack enters a different territory, they know they may encounter trouble. Wolves will do anything to protect their home territory and don't take intrusion lightly. This pack was tired of the other pack being in its territory, and moved in their direction to let them know they were serious about defending their home.
Seeing this pair of wolves where they were was a great surprise. They were the alpha pair of pack that normally stayed well to the west of where I was. But I didn't care what pack they belonged to as they were on the ridge howling to the rest of their pack.
In a wolf pack there is a strict hierarchy that is followed. The wolves of the pack know where they are within the pack, and act that way depending on if they are subordinate or dominate. Seeing all these different wolves greet each other differently at the same time truly showed which wolves were the dominate wolves of the pack.
Finding wolves in any season is not easy, but in the fall it is hard because they blend in so well with the foliage. I happened to find this wold crossing a dry river bed and followed him until he left the river bed. Seeing him against the fall colors made for a photo I didn't think I would ever get!
Black and White
These two wolves were the alpha pair of the pack. It a heavy snow storm, they were moving along a ridge looking for a place to rest. The snow really made the entire area white, and allowed these two wolves to really stick out on the ridge.
In Yellowstone, there are some meadows that have huge rocks in them left by ancient glaciers. These rocks can make for great outlook posts for different animals. This white wolf went up on the rock to get a better look at a different pack it heard howling.
Finding a black wolf is exciting. Finding a few black wolves is a real treat. Seeing four black wolves running across an open meadow over a frozen river is thrilling, and likely to never happen again.
One of the hardest wolves to find is a white wolf in the snow. Unless they are close to you, they are extremely hard to spot. I had been tracking this wolf, and when it came over the hill and ran downhill I was ready.
As night started to come, this wolf pack started to move. They looked like they were heading somewhere completely different for the next day as they headed up and over this ridge eventually. Having them all lined up was neat to see on the ridge.
When this wolf decided to stand on the rock I got excited. There was no other rocks around in the meadow, and the wolf went and stood right on top of it. Not long after standing there it started to howl. I was very excited about this photographic opportunity.
Only a few wolves in the park have names giving to them. This wolf has been known about since a pup and has been mostly visible for much of his life. He is a very pretty and big black wolf, so the name was given to him Big Blaze.
During an early morning snow fall, this wolf howled and howled. At times it was difficult to even see the wolf, the snow was coming down so hard. It was almost as if the wolf was howling for the snow to continue.
Finding a white wolf in snow is not easy. Even if I know there is a white wolf in the area, it certainly doesn't mean I will find it. Unless a white wolf is close, it is so hard to find and track. I fortunately was able to find this wolf just before it crested the ridge and seperate it from the background.
There are different pitches in wolf howls and even a faster pace howl. The howl of this wolf was a consistent call of help. All it wanted was for its pack to respond, and they never did, so he howled and howled for over two hours.
White wolves are such a pretty animal. Anytime I have been fortunate enough to see one, I have been amazed at how powerful they seem. With this wolf standing on the ridge, it looked as if it was watching over the park.
On this morning I had seen fresh tracks, but no wolves. I started to wonder if the wolves had moved on from the area. When all of a sudden these wolves came bursting out of the trees chasing each other and running not far from me!
As the rest of the pack was following her, this alpha female wolf stopped for a few seconds to check out the area where they were headed. It is the responsibility of the alpha wolves to keep the pack safe, and where better to do that from that a rock pile on top of a ridge.
I spend days and days just hoping to see a wolf close enough to photograph. Some winters that chance never happens. When I found a carcass that was fresh, I stayed and waited to see what would come to it, and when this black wolf came running through the grass I almost couldn't focus the camera I was so excited.
Many of my opportunities photographing wolves have been when they are in a meadow. It's always neat to see a wolf, but a snow background gets boring after a while. When I caught this wolf moving along the edge of a frozen river, it made for a great photo as I was able to make the background disappear and look as if there were only the rocks it was walking on.
I spend weeks and weeks every winter looking for and tracking wolves. It takes this much time because wolves are skittish and don't like humans. But it is for shots like these when I get to photograph a wild wolf trotting through the snow, on a beautiful morning, that I put all that time in.
Photographing wolves is often when they are at a distance. Being creative with a distant wolf is key to get wolf photos some times. As this wolf moved high along this ridge, I waited for it to get to this tree that was below it. Most people wouldn't even take this photo because the wolf was so far away, but I saw an opportunity to create a different wolf photo with the landscape.
Finding wolves in the woods is very difficult. They blend in very well, and if they don't move are nearly impossible to find. I was fortunate to find this large wolf in the trees as he looked for his pack mates.
Wolves do not like water. They can't swim for long distances and prefer to never be in water. However, rivers are a part of nature and they have to get from one side to the other. It was rare to catch these three wolves swimming the river at the same time.
This wolf was tired from all the activities of the mating season. There were other wolves close by, but it needed a break. It looked back to see where its other pack mates were while taking a break.
In winter, it is hard to get any color in the picture because of how white everything is. You can get brown, but that's not exciting. Capturing this wolf near a red/orange cliff gave the picture a color pop that brought this shot to life.
A Wise Look
When able to see a wolf up close, it is often very easy to tell if it is a young or old wolf. A wolf's averages life span in Yellowstone is 4 years. This wolf is a known wolf and has been around much longer than 4 years.
After listening to this wolf howl to its pack mates, I was able to determine roughly where in the woods it was. After patiently waiting, I couldn't believe my eyes when I found it running down the ridge.
In My Dust
Young wolves are full of energy most of the time. They particularly like to play and fight with their siblings. These 2 older pups were on a full out sprint chasing each other with one staying just in front of the other.
Communication between wolves happens a couple of ways, but a long distance communication happens by howling. During the mating season for wolves there is much more howling than normal as wolves move around in search of a mate. Howling lets other wolves in the area know that another wolf is around.
I like it better when it is a heavy snow winter, because wolves are easier to spot on the landscape. In Yellowstone, the sage can be very tall and hide the animals that are in it. I somehow managed to spot this white wolf in the tall sage, but was just catching glimpses of it. When it came into a clearing and fully showed itself, the wolf showed off its spectacular white coat.
When not sleeping, wolves are on the move. They can cover miles in one movement. It can appear as if they never get tired. This black wolf stuck out badly against the brown grass as it moved through the field.
One of the only areas in Denali to get a decent wolf photo is in the river beds. This old wolf was very camouflaged, and I was super excited to have spotted it way down the river drainage. As it came closer, I could really see the beauty of this old wolf.
Seeing a wild wolf pack move across an open meadow is incredible. Just seeing a wolf is exciting, but getting to see a whole pack in a line makes a winter. The two wolves chasing each other were young wolves, and it was fun to watch them play as the other wolves watched.
Finding a wolf close is incredibly hard. I can spend winters with never having an encounter close enough to get a good shot. This wolf had gotten separated from its pack, and was calling often to try and find them. It didn't care that I was around because it was so busy trying to call to its pack and hear their response.
Wild wolves can be in three variations of color: white, black, and grey. Grey is the most common, followed by black. A wild white wolf is very rare and always a special occasion when I see one. Being able to photograph this pack and get all three different colors of what a wolf can look like in one shot was a treat.
This wolf was the alpha male of a large pack in Yellowstone. In February different wolves will branch out on their own to try and find a mate to start their own pack. This wolf didn't need to do that, as he had a mate he was very dedicated too, so he would just watch as other wolves played games and tried to court each other.
On the coldest of days, the ground will get covered in beautiful layer of hoar frost. It truly makes everything look beautiful. Finding a wolf in the early morning while the ground was still covered in the frost made for a memorable morning.
It took me a long time to get a decent wolf photo. All of my encounters were with wolves very far away until this wolf. The great thing about nature is you never know what you will see when you go look. This wolf came out of nowhere and gave me a couple minutes of shooting before it continued on.
As night quickly approaches, watching wolves becomes difficult. If this white wolf had not been right on top of the ridge, it would have been impossible to see. Night is when wolves are the most active.
While traveling through the sagebrush this younger wolf got distracted. Its wolf mates had mostly gone on ahead, and it being younger made this wolf a little more nervous being behind. It stopped to double check on something in the distance before catching up with the rest of the pack.
Finding wolves in the winter is often easier than in the summer because the wolves stick out more agains the white snow. Since the snow wasn't deep this year, it made finding a grey wolf very difficult to find in the light colored sage.
Spring is an exciting time for most animals, because that is when there babies are born. Predators know this as well, and they will try to catch a new baby bison before it gets larger. A grey wolf darts across the herd of mother and baby bison looking for a weak young bison to catch.
Wolves travel in packs, but are often times a large distance from each other. It had bee snowing hard all morning, and the pack was traveling close to each other to keep up with one another. They paused on the ridge once the snow cleared a little to look over the valley.
Winter is a wolf's favorite time of the year. They have a heavy coat for warmth, and can run on top of the snow while most of their prey sink in. This wolf paused and watched the snow begin to fall.
Wolf photos that are different are hard to come by. Just being close enough to photograph a wolf is difficult, and often that opportunity passes very quickly. Tracking this wolf along a ridge with a distant mountain behind it created that different shot I try so hard to get.
Wolves like to move in the late evening. They will rest all day and then finally move as the sun is going down. That is a frustrating as a photographer, because I need light to get photos. After spending all day watching this white wolf sleep in the distance, I was rewarded at the last moment as it came down the river toward me in the last light of the day.
The amount of times I have heard wolves howling on the other side of a hill, to never see them, is countless. It gets to the point when you think no wolves are ever going to show themselves again. What a great surprise it was when this black wolf slowly crept over the top of the hill to look over the valley.
Watching His Step
Bears and wolves do not get along. They are both predators, and have no intentions of sharing food. This poor wolf was very hungry and risking his life being so close to the bears in the hopes that he could catch a fish.
Do They See Me
When this wolf poked her head above the ridge, she saw that a group of bison were laying down. She snuck around and then surprised them. A lone wolf couldn't take down a healthy bison by themself, but if there was a hurt one maybe.
This wolf was on the move looking to find a mate to start a new pack with. When I found the wolf this morning, it was running through fluffy new snow that hadn't yet been touched by any animals and created a nice scene.
On a bright afternoon, this wolf was walking along a frozen river. As it was walking it kept disappearing behind hills and would go out of view. Finally, I found it again and the out of focus close hill makes the wolf appear as if it doesn't have legs.
Getting close to a wild wolf is super rare and often unexpected. Wolves don't like people, so they don't usually approach us. This wolf had mating on its mind and didn't care that it was walking toward me as it went to woo a wolf in the distance.
After hearing howling and trying to determine where the howling is coming from, there isn't much greater pleasure than finding two wolves on a ridge not far from where you are!
Wild wolves are always a thrill to see. Most of my viewing of them is from a great distance, though. When I do have the opportunity to see them closer up it is exciting. A white wolf is rare, and seeing it right beside a grey wolf made me realize just how special the white wolf's color is.
This wolf is a known wold who has lived in Yellowstone for many years. He's had a rough life and been in a few different packs. Earlier in his life he was black, but after many hard years he has turned into a white wolf.
This wolf was fleeing for its life. Its pack had just been attacked by another wolf pack and it had run for its life, hardly turning around to see if its mates were going to make it. When it came to this gap between rocks, instead of taking more time and going around, it decided to leap in-between them to save time.
In the Night
Wolves have a very bad misperception about them being vicious animals who like to attack humans. That is far from the truth, as they run away from humans as often as possible. This pack of wolves did look scary in the morning fog, but they were just bunched together waiting for the fog to pass through.
Finding wolves in the wild is always an exhilarating experience! I was slowly driving down a frozen road when I spotted this wolf hiding behind a tree. He did not want to be seen, and I was very fortunate to have spotted him. When he did step out, he was a beautiful black, grey wolf and the alpha male of his pack. Once he moved on, the rest of his pack followed.
Wolves do not like to cross rivers for fun, especially in the winter. The reason this wolf decided to wade up to its chest in the early morning was a carcass. Most of the pack had already left, but this wolf wanted to eat more and risked the swim.
Chasing prey requires teamwork for wolves. The most efficient number of wolves hunting together is 3-4. It is not easy work for wolves to take down a large bull elk, so they have to work together. This elk was headed for the river where it knew it would be safe, and made it.
A dry winter is not favorable to wolves. They like large amounts of snow because they can run on top of the snow, and their prey will slow down in the snow. This wolf pack was enjoying all the snow that was falling on their territory.
Photographing a black wolf in dark light is not easy and it doesn't create much contrast. In the winter it is cloudy often, and when the sun is out I normally can't find a wolf close enough to photograph. This was a special morning as this wolf walked my way in the beautiful morning light.
Wolves are very active in the morning hunting and searching for a meal. This young elk had gotten separated from the herd as they ran from the wolves. When the wolf returned it was still there and using the ridge as a source of protection.
A wolf stops momentarily to check on what was making a splashing noise. As it stops, the sun lights up the back side of the wolf. It stayed still longer than I thought it would, and then continued on its way in search of food.
After a fresh snow it always makes the photos so much better. It is also easier to track animals as fresh tracks are much easier to distinguish versus old tracks. After following tracks for a few hours, I found this wolf in a meadow watching me long before I knew it was there.
Tracking wolves takes weeks and weeks to have one good opportunity to photograph them. Sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes I don't get anything. But when the moments do come and a black wolf comes to a little ridge in photographic range, I forget about all the times I didn't get any pictures.
Hunting bison is a learned behavior that not all wolves know how to do. This wolf surprised the bison herd after it popped up over a hill, and the bison took off in fear. The lone wolf didn't get a bison, but it was fun watching the bison run at full speed away from the wolf.
The teeth of a wolf are very important. If they have bad teeth it is much harder for them to take down prey and to eat. This younger wolf will not have to worry about that as her mouth and teeth are in great condition.
Wolves and bears don't get along well. This wolf was hanging out along a salmon stream that was covered in bears. It was always on the lookout for bears, but still managed to catch some fish and avoid the bears.
This wolf was fairly skinny and trying hard to find food. He would often go to the river and chase after salmon, but I never saw him catch one.
In heavy winters, wolves can hunt more easily because they stay on top of the snow with their large paws more easily than the hoofed animals they hunt. It was a light winter this year, and this wolf was carefully eyeing up elk to see if it was worth chasing them in the shallow snow.
I love watching wild wolves and the way they can move so quickly across the snow. They can move miles a day and make it look effortless. This wolf needed a short break, so it found the one rock in the meadow and laid down for a rest.
Wolf photography is much harder in the summer than in the winter. The wolves blend in greatly with the sage brush and grass, not only making them harder to find but also making harder to get a good photo. And because there was a pack, and not a single wolf, I was able to create interest out of the tough landscape with the wolves.
The colder it is in Yellowstone, the better the pictures are I always say. The cold creates a more dramatic scene, and also gets animals moving more. It was -5 degrees Fahrenheit on the morning I found this wolf, and it's face had frost on it from breathing hard while running.