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Maybe they would have eventually recolonized Yellowstone without human intervention. They were already beginning to ease back down across the border, filtering into Montana through places like the Yaak, the Ninemile, and the Flathead valleys, but the American public wanted them sooner. So we went out and got them, and brought them here in trucks and helicopters, wrenched from their old homelands, and with significant mortality. Not that a more natural recolonization would have been entirely seamless.
Already, not one of the original recolonizers survives; in the wild, a seven- or eight-year-old wolf is getting old, and a ten-year-old wolf is ancient, and ten years have gone by. Already, the last of those first returning—or returned—wolves have gone under, down into a soil that did not birth them, but which sustained them, and from which they summoned a seemingly miraculous flowering of wildness.
There is color in the land again. How can the crimson blood of elk in the snow release a bluebird? How can black and silver wolves combine, like pigment, to unleash a new surge of yellow warblers and brilliant tanagers back into a landscape long absent such threads, such an abundance of colors?