A trip to Yellowstone National Park in 2005 sparked a lifelong love of wolves for one Greentown native.
Haleigh Gullion and her family spotted a wolf pack while they were traveling through the park. Gullion watched the pack, intrigued by the way the wolves looked out for each other.
“They’re very pack-oriented,” she said. “Very family-oriented, like we are, which fascinates me. They look out for their pups. … I just thought it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Gullion, an Eastern High School graduate who's now in college, still remembers that day watching the wolves. Today, she is an intern with the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota.
“It was just the spark that went off in my head when I saw that pack,” she said.
As Gullion grew up, she thought she might want to be a veterinarian. Then, when she got into high school, she thought about working with wildlife, perhaps becoming a wildlife biologist.
That idea followed Gullion to college at the University of Montana, where she started studying wildlife biology her first semester. There was just one problem: she couldn’t keep up with some of the science classes, such as chemistry.
So at the end of that first semester, Gullion switched her major to literature in the environment. She writes for an online site, The Odysee Online, publishing articles on wild animals and her experience working with wolves.
One story she wrote, “Heroes: Life Lessons from Yellowstone’s Wolves,” takes a look at the wolves Gullion considers her own heroes.
“Not all heroes wear capes,” she writes. “And not all heroes have two legs.”
There are a lot people who can learn from wolves, she said.
“One thing is that they live their lives from day to day, and a lot of us we worry about the future,” she said. “We dwell on the past. We dwell on a lot of things. These guys, they have to think on a day-to-day basis because they’re constantly trying to survive. And I believe that’s what we should do too … think on a day-to-day basis and not worry ourselves to death on what may or may not happen.”
Gullion stumbled across the internship opportunity at the International Wolf Center by searching online for anything related to wolves. She said her experience as an intern in the Yellowstone National Park for two summers gave her the experience needed to work at the International Wolf Center.
The best part of working at the center, Gullion said, is seeing the wolves and building contacts with other wolf-lovers around the country. She was even able to meet David Mech, a senior scientist with the biological resources division of the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota.
“He’s practically the father of wolf biology,” Gullion said, adding that he helped co-found the International Wolf Center.
She said she also enjoys meeting people who visit the center, sharing her knowledge of wolves with anyone who will listen.
“The six interns we ended up with were the six who I really thought had a lot of passion, combined with experience,” said Krista Harrington, the Interpretive Center manager, in a press release from the International Wolf Center. “More importantly, I wanted them to be passionate about talking to people about wolves, even if we had to do some work on the details about wolves. The passion to teach people was there for all of them.”
When Gullion lived in Greentown, she would often visit the Wolf Park in Lafayette. The Wolf Park is an education and research facility dedicated to the conservation of wolves, according to the park's website.
Gullion said she always enjoyed visiting the park, but she regrets never having done a summer internship there while she lived in Indiana. She said it may be something she looks into for future internships.
After graduation, Gullion said she hopes to put her study of literature in the environment to good use.
“I know one thing that would be awesome to do would be write articles for National Geographic,” she said.