Denis R. O'Neill

Author, Screenwriter & Producer

A Howl in My Heart

A fable about the wolves of Yellowstone

In 1995 Ted Turner (and Turner Pictures) hired me to write an animated screenplay about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone ~ a project sponsored by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.   Wolves had been eradicated in North America in the nineteen-teens and twenties.  In Yellowstone, their absence from the eco-system led to a massively unbalanced natural tapestry – in short, not enough predators, too many deer, elk and other undulates… which led to what scientists call a “trophic cascade” of unwanted environmental outcomes.   The restoration of the wolf to its rightful position in the ecosystem was intended to right those wrongs… and restore a balanced ecosystem in the Park.

It succeeded in spades – after an original fourteen wolves were tranquilized in Alberta and relocated to Yellowstone.   I traveled to Yellowstone in the middle of the winter in 1995, and went by SnowCat into a remote part of the Park with project biologists to see the very first two wolves that were released.  Twenty years later, the project has been acclaimed as one of our country’s greatest environmental accomplishments, with ten sustainable wolf packs now living and propagating in the Park.   (There is a marvelous, five minute YouTube video called How Wolves Change Rivers that describes the project’s history and success.)

With permission from TNT, I have written a  (32,000 word) fable based on that screenplay that was never made.  It’s called A HOWL IN MY HEART… and is accompanied by twenty-four glorious illustrations (one per chapter) by Austrian artist/illustrator Helga Frenner.  It is the story of the first two wolves brought down from Canada – Sage and her alpha mate Orion – and their struggles to adapt to a new and sometimes unforgiving landscape.  They acquire allies (a pica and a raven) and enemies (two rogue coyotes) along the way… en route to a heartfelt, sometimes humorous, always compelling wilderness saga.

The story is an entertainment first and foremost… but a story with a very contemporary message:  Mother Nature’s song is always sweetest when every creature has a voice in the choir.


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