FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a gray wolf. An environmental group has filed notice that it will sue the federal government to force it to adopt a plan for the recovery of gray wolves across the lower 48 states. Biologists with the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 they want to expand that recovery nationwide. (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,file) (Anonymous)

Meet the man who lived with wolves

Shaun Ellis, wolf researcher and subject of a National Geographic show, describes his life living in a wolf pack

Adam Clark Estes
January 17, 2011 6:18PM (UTC)

Shaun Ellis, the famous "Man Among Wolves," described his year living as a wolf in a Guardian essay over the weekend.

His candid, first-person account is a classic reach-for-the-stars tale. Ellis remembers being afraid of wolves as a child, but after reading the work of American naturalist and wolf researcher Levi Holt, he sold everything he owned to fly to Idaho and work closely with wolves. And work closely he did.


Remembering the decision-making that lead to his eventually living with a wolf pack for over a year, Ellis writes:

Even though the other biologists and scientists thought it was dangerous, I soon wanted to get closer to the wolves really to understand their behaviour. I couldn't help wondering, "Could a human become part of their family?" If I could, I thought, imagine what information I could share.

But wait there's more:

I ate what they ate, mostly raw deer and elk, which they would often bring back for me, or fruit and berries. I never fell ill and my body adapted quickly to its new diet. It's easy to look back and think, "What horrible food", but when you haven't eaten for a week, it looks appetising.

Ellis, who is also the subject of a British documentary called "The Wolfman" and who is British himself, is somewhat of a media fascination. With specials on both National Geographic and Animal Planet, his voyeuristic fascination with wolf packs is echoed by the public's voyeuristic fascination with non-traditional approaches to research. (Or whatever you want to call living with wild animals for a year.)


Living with wolves sure makes for good YouTube viewing, though. Here's Ellis teaching a wolf cub how to howl:

CBS News also interviewed Ellis about his book, "The Man Who Lives with Wolves:"

And just as a reminder that wolves are not the only gentle beasts, here's that heart-warming account of the two British men who kept a lion named Christian as a pet. After living in the wild for years, Christian still remembered (and did not maim) his former masters:


Adam Clark Estes

Adam Clark Estes blogs the news for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @adamclarkestes

MORE FROM Adam Clark Estes

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Noble Beasts

Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •