The Wolf That Changed America
Interview: Wolf Trainer Sausha Seus, on Filming Live Wolves

Sausha Seus is a wolf trainer with Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife, an animal training service based in Heber City, Utah best known for its star ursine thespian: Bart the Bear. Sausha handled the wolves that played Lobo and Blanca in NATURE’s The Wolf That Changed America. She has been working with wolves for 17 years. Wild wolves can be dangerous, and the wolves Sausha works with are trained, so — as always when it comes to wild animals — don’t try this at home. Here, Sausha speaks about wolf training and what it was like working with wolves on The Wolf That Changed America.

Q: How did you become interested in wolves?

A: I became interested in wolves because my parents own Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife. WRMW trains and tames wild animals for the film industry. My parents, Doug and Lynne Seus, introduced me to the wild kingdom at the age of three. I was part of a wolf pack by the time I was five. My passion for animals – wolves, in particular – has been heightened by being able to work with them on a daily basis.

What was it like the first time you came face to face with a wolf?

The first time I came face to face with a wolf I was five. It felt like looking into another universe. The same is true today, 26 years later. The eyes of a wolf pierce your soul.

Introduce us to the wolves that played Lobo and his mate.

There were actually two wolves that played Lobo and two wolves that played Blanca. The main wolf that played Blanca was Cree. The double wolf for Blanca was Spirit. Both Cree and Spirit came from Seacrest Wolf Preserve, a well-respected educational facility. Cree is the peacemaker of the pack; he is serene and sweet. Spirit is the wolf in our pack that initiates play. Spirit is a happy go lucky wolf.

The main wolf that played Lobo was Coda. The double wolf for Lobo was Coda’s brother, Yukon. Coda and Yukon both came from Bear Country (an animal preserve in South Dakota). Coda is somewhat of a trickster wolf and will try to get away with things like pretending he isn’t listening. Yukon is an aloof wolf. He is very self-actuated.

Off set, the wolves exercise, eat, and play. They get to run in the Rockies by pristine mountain lakes and rivers. They get to go swimming in the backyard pond and dive for cookies.

When dealing with wolves, how do you gain their trust?

The wolves have been part of the family since they were tiny puppies. They have never been treated unfairly or unjustly. Frankly, they are loved as members of our family.

How do you communicate with wolves? What training methods do you use?

Communication with wolves is verbal and non verbal. Wolves are masters of body language and respond to it immediately. We use the positive reward method of training. The wolves are never forced to do anything. Wolves love to learn and revel in praise, reward and affection. Ear scratches or belly scratches are the best! Wolves souls are wild and free. You can only ask, you can never tell a wolf to do anything; they do it because they want to.

What was a typical day of shooting The Wolf That Changed America like?

The typical day of shooting began at 4:00 a.m. The trainers would arrive at Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife and load the wolves in their cozy trailer. It was always before dawn and sometimes the wolves would look at us like, “Are you serious? We’re getting up this early again?” By call time (5:30 a.m.), the wolves were excited and ready to work.

Usually, we would shoot from 5:30 to 12:00 noon. We would let the wolves rest in the middle of the day and begin shooting around 4 p.m. until the sun went down. The days were long but the people involved made up for the lack of sleep!

How did the wolves react to the camera and crew?

The most positive aspect of this shoot was the fact that it was so small! We had a cameraman, a director, a production assistant, and the wolf trainers. A couple of days we had a soundman. This made up a crew of six or seven which worked so wonderfully for the wolves. The wolves were able to know everyone and were very comfortable performing.

Describe some difficult or frustrating moments you had on the shoot with the wolves.

The most difficult time on the shoot was a night shoot. The temperature dropped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and most of us were not prepared for the weather to turn that quickly!

Have you ever been frightened by one of your wolves?

No.

What are some of your favorite memories of handling wolves throughout your career?

Some of my favorite memories are, of course, wolf puppies. There is nothing more precious than a baby wolf howl. 

What can humans learn from wolves?

The sense of utter and complete devotion to family. An alpha male wolf will hunt and bring back food in this “belly basket” and regurgitate it for his mate and pups. The alpha male will starve himself in the process if necessary. The bond of a wolf is about loyalty, and it is unbreakable.

  • Donna

    I raised wovles also they are very mysjetic creatures and yes they pierce your soul witht there eyes, there just beautiful creatures at one time i had a pack of 8, now i no longer have no more they have all gone to Heaven now, and i sure do miss them very much when the howled you heard something very beautiful , but i never dreamed i would be without them now. There are very family oriented too. thank you donna

  • Ms. S. Doré

    I grew up in Kane, PA, which was home to the “Lobo Wolves”. (Canis Lupus Nubilus). The Lobo Wolves derived their name from a word in the Blackfoot Indian language meaning “Buffalo Wolf”, which, when spoken aloud, sounded like the word “lobo”.
    Dr. Edward H. McCleery, a Kane physician, had a preserve of Lobo wolves and were kept on his wolf farm on the outskirts of Kane for over nearly 40 years. The Lobo wolves were literally on the edge of extinction. Dr. McCleery, who managed his wolves with devotion and affection, owned and operated the wolf farm until just before his death on May 23, 1962 at the age of 94. We visited the wolves often, and I was in love with them. As a child, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have one. Our High School mascot was one of the wolves, but I forget his name. He was beautiful!!
    Where are they now?? No one knows for certain. It is reported the remnants of McCleery’s wolf pack was sent to Bateman, Montana to a survivalist camp. Rumor has it that there are over 200 wolves located there, all descendants of the Kane Lobo wolves, but such numbers cannot be substantiated – and the members of the Montana refuge aren’t divulging any information.
    We, of Kane, PA, were very proud of ‘our’ wolves, and still are. Dr. McCleery was a true hero for the conservation of such a beautiful species.

  • wolfdogged

    Thanks for the info on the Buffalo wolf.
    However, the lobo wolf in this documentary refers to the Mexican wolf, Canis lupus baileyi. http://tinyurl.com/6mf2ht

    This is a must read classic.
    Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton

    LOBO THE KING OF CURRUMPAW
    Read here http://tinyurl.com/573lym

  • Ivy Mcdonald

    I enjoyed the movie “The Wolf That Changed America” on tBt television show.. and alos cried when Lobo mate was killed, and after being traped he died with a broken heart.

    However the man (forgot his name) who looked right into Lobo’s eyes, realized what he had done was actually wrong, and had decided to educate peoples views on the Wolf and thier importance to our enviorments.

    I always am heart broken for all animals that are killed becasue of the ignorance of man.. I am gulity of this curiosity of having a wolf, I purchased a half breed (50% Timber wolf & 50% Malamute) , and unfortunatly he died looking down at the end of a gun barrel, and it was my fault becasue no man really will be able to domesticate any dog with the wild… it is such a stupid thing I did, and everytime I see my male siberian, Nanuk, he is mistaken of being a wolf, I tell people he is not, and than I tell them the stupid thing I did,and thinking “how cool” I would be to own a wolf!

    I am so so sorry my Timmie” my Timber wolf!

  • Patty

    I was torn by the story about Lobo and his death in 1946. I had a wolf, Tika, and when my husband passed away, at home, alone. I was on the phone with him when he passed. My husband was only 52, heart attack, and when the paramedics came in the home, our wolf was running in and out of the house, leaping over my husband and never did bite anyone. Someone had shut the door on Tika and he body slammed the door, till I got home. Our wolf, Tika had the same sad howl, he howled for three days. They are a wonderful animal. Tika passed this last January at the age of 13. We were blessed to have him as our brother wolf.

  • Gina

    I have always loved wolves, ever since I was a little kid. I think it would be cool to own a wolf or to raise wolves but that will probably never happen — only in my dreams. I think that they are amazing creatures.

  • Pat Tomlin

    How did they get pictures of the dead wolves? I’m assuming they didn’t kill their trained animals.

  • Jackie Orander

    I have always loved wolves..I missed the 1st part of the PBS special last nite,so looked up this site. My love began w/ German Shepherds which are very wolf-like. My Shepherd was black and beautiful, but taken away from me and killed by an evil man, 30 yrs. ago. I have never fogotten nor forgived losing my beauty whose name was Tonya. My daughter adpoted another and named her Tonya as well..we know her doggie days are dwindling and soon she will join her name sake in doggie Heaven. PBS is the greatest and most informative to watch. Will you be repeating “The wolf who changed America?” I surely hope so.. A wolf lover…

  • Betsy Arehart

    I grew up in New Mexico and as a child read Seton’s stories over and over. Probably got my wolf love from him. However–I never have known exactly where in New Mexico he worked! I believe it was N.E. New Mexico, however I have looked on maps and never found a “Currumpaw” River. Regretably, NE New Mexico is one part of the state I have not explored. If anyone knows where the Currumpaw River is or if there is one, I’d be interested to know. Wonderful documentary–I didn’t know that Seton was so instrumental with conservation movement and the boy scouts. Or that he moved back to New Mexico!

  • wolfdogged

    Currumpaw is actually a fictional name given to the Cross L ranch in the short story by Earnest Thompson Seton called King of the Currumpaw in his book Wild Animals I have known. (See reply #3)

    http://nenewmexico.com/tours.php?p=2

  • Nancy Bain

    Someone mentioned that Lobo and Blanca were Mexican wolves. Probably not. A Mexican wolf is never white. Yes, Mexican wolves were in New Mexico at the time of Seton but there were probably other wolves too from further north that traveled south. Just recently a dark colored canid, looked like a wolf, was spotted on a ranch in NE New Mexico and it was not a Mexican wolf. It is thought that it had traveled south to this New Mexico area. Wolves do travel many miles in search of new territories. Viva el lobo.

  • tanYaisa

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/7/stop-killing-our-wolves-in-alaska-and-the-usa

    I would love to meet Bart’s family one day. The Seus family……Great Spirit love them!

  • woldogged

    Nancy Bain wrote:

    Someone mentioned that Lobo and Blanca were Mexican wolves. Probably not.

    ****In 1920, as the acting assistant district forester for the Forest Service’s Southwest region, Aldo Leopold proudly stated that the “New Mexican wolf population had been reduced from three hundred to thirty in just three years” (McIntyre 1995, pg. 189). His anti-predator efforts lead to the solidification of the alliance between southwest hunters, ranchers and the government. The same year, J. Stokley Ligon called for an international border patrol of trappers and hunters to deal with the “illegal alien” wolves dispersing from Mexico (McIntyre 1995, pg. 184). Even as Mexican wolf numbers continued to plummet, the federal government hired professional wolfers to hunt down the most elusive wolves. Here rose the legends of “Lobo, King of the Currumpaw” and his mate Blanca (McIntyre 1995, pg. 218)…****

    JSTOR: Famous North American Wolves and the Credibility of Early Wildlife Literature

    His account of the New Mexican wolves, Lobo and Blanca, was popu- lar …. such as Seton’s (1898) account of Blanca (mate of Lobo, King of Currumpaw) and a …
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rls=GGLG,GGLG:2007-31,GGLG:en&q=Lobo,+King+of+the+Currumpaw+mexican&start=20&sa=N

    I wish I were able to read the entire study. But with what I read at the 1st link, I have a strong suspicion that “Currumpaw” isn’t the only fictional part of the story.

    This was Mexican wolf territory and the odds of two non-mexican wolves establishing their own pack is not believable. Neither Lobo or Blanca were originally drawn to what Mexican wolves look like.
    http://www.mainlesson.com/books/seton/wild/zpage042.gif

    I believe Seton just wanted some extra flavor for his best seller book.

    Apparantly

  • mapbuff

    My topo map set shows a Currumpaw creek that is just north of Clayton NM. The creek appears to drain the region NW of Clayton and south of the Cimarron river.

  • Dorothy Meadows

    Do only male wolves have belly baskets?

  • tanYaisa

    Love the “Sawtooth Pack”……….been advocating for wolves over 2 decades. yOu all rock for HelPing stop the wolf slauGhter……..keep passing on the word. check out my myspace page tanyaisa

  • William E. Chamberlain, Jr.

    I have dealt with wolves on a daily basis for 23 years. I live in the mountains in northern Nevada and I presently live with 15 of them. Like Seton, Smith, & Seus, I know first hand the social, ecological, and physcial value of wolves. Our hatred for wolves today is based on conditions and fabrications of the past. It is verifiable fact that their presence in the wild has had sigificant benefits beyond what anyone first thought when reintroduction of them was first considered. Wolves are an essential peice of Mother Nature’s complicated puzzle, and are to be recognized for their contribution to it. Without all the parts of nature in play, ecological imbalances naturally occur. With the vast number of ecological imbalances of today, we are undermining the environment in which we live, and jeopardizing our future on this earth.
    From a social standpoint, wolves can teach us the ethics, values, and behaviors that will enable humans to be a far more positive contributor to nature than we are today. Wolves are the earth’s greatest teachers! Will we let ourselves learn from them???

  • ed wheeler

    It was interesting to read the comments by ms. dore on the McCleery wolves as I am currently managing them. The details of their history will be on their new web site soon. McCleerywolffoundation.org If you have questions contact me at McCleerywolf@gmail.com

  • Nancy Avolese

    I feel fortunate to have found this site. I admire all of the selfless work you do to preserve the wolves, their natural habitat, and their history. I too am interested in the Kane Lobo Wolves and Dr. McCleery who single-handedly saved this subspecis from extinction. He was a visionary and felt that if given kind treatment, wolves could be a friend to man.

  • timothy cox

    i remember going to kane pa. to see the wolves in the 1960’s, i rember going into someone’trailer and seeing a bobcat sitting on a tv , those wolves were great, i would sure like to see some lobes again

  • WildWolf

    I love how you don’t fear the wolf as a ton of other people do. I admire your job and would love to work with wolves myself.

  • Tifa Eddy

    Very interesting. I remember my first wolf puppies. Their souls lay in Heaven now though.

  • lucinda

    my dads friend raised lobo wolves, and on my 3rd birthday, he allowed me to pick 1. i picked the only male and the runt. i grew up with him, playing ang hanging on him. he was was very protective of the family, especially me. my dad would let him run in the yard with all us kids, but he made sure that no one got hurt or out of line. we had him until i was 12yrs, this is when he had arthiritis real bad, going blind, and hard of hearing.
    my dad grew up on a farm, so he wasn’t real commasionate on putting animals out of misery. but when it came to Lobo, he was like a child that my dad loved more then us kids. he had the vet put him down and my dad even shed tears for him (which my dad did very seldom.)
    this wolf touched all of our hearts and he was part of our family, i don’t care what people say about wolves, they are very loyal to their pack(s).

  • Marc McFarland

    I am very pleased by all the positive comments of so many people that share a love for wolves. I’ve been watching, “Nature” since I was a kid and it has inspired me to go on to study Biology and wolves in particular. The Mexican Grey Wolf(Canis Lupus Baileyi) is a sub-species of the North American Grey Wolf(Canis Lupus) that once inhabited a very large are of the Southwest United States and areas of Northern Mexico. When I finally earn my degree I hope to be able to study wolves and to help to reintroduce the Mexican Grey Wolf back into the Southwest and particularly my home state of Arizona. I would really love to see Mexican Grey Wolves roaming the Grand Canyon and the White Mountains once again.

  • Marc McFarland

    When I was fourteen I adopted my first dog from the Arizona Humane Society, an eight month old German Shepherd/Grey Wolf mix named Kaiser. When his winter coat comes in he looks pretty much just like a Grey Wolf except that he has the black snout and ears of a German Shepherd. He is my best friend and I consider myself extremely lucky to have found him. At first he had some behavior problems because his previous owners never took him for walks, never trained him, nor gave him any kind of purpose in life or anything to do. I quickly changed that and solved his behavior problems by putting him through basic obedience training and getting him involved in schutzhund(attack dog) training. Now don’t let the name fool you the attack training is only one very small part of schutzhund; the sport includes many other aspects such as tracking and search and rescue. He is now very well behaved and has won many awards. I consider him to be more intelligent them many people I have met and would still rather spend a day with Kaiser then many of the people I have met.

  • Terry

    Does anyone else have concerns about people attempting to domesticate and ‘train’ wolves? I feel like this is just not something we should do, these animals deserve to be respected and that means letting them live their lives with as little human interference as possible.

    I know that people love these animals and despite that fact we all would love to be able to live with and deal with Wolves it seems a hubristic notion to think that this is best/good for the wolves. Obviously helping injured animals is a thing which makes us feel good but in the wild an injured wolf would generally be dead within days of a serious injury allowing room for younger wolves to move up in the pack hierarchy. An amazing story but the fact that it was filmed using trained captured wolves ruins it for me personally.

  • Bouncee

    Thank you.
    Any creature in the nature can be a man’s friend.
    It is the cattle gone too big industry that has driven some men crazies to the wolf.
    He just needs to eat – like us.
    We kill far more animals, also cattle – and also humans by driving our cars, and by our weapons. And do we make a noise like that out of it?
    No – BUT we should.

    It is awful to see any natural creature suffer from an artificial reason – like being wounded by a gun or by a car.

    Hope we’ll see the film soon in Europe too.

  • Terra

    I was given a puppy that was very sick almost a year ago By a terrible man…She was starving…. Took her to the vet, got shots,got her fixed. nursed her back to health, she slept with my daughter…grew VERy big. And each vet visit. They told me I had a wolf.And had to get her cleared with the state… Thank goodness I used to train horses and have had many rescue dogs. Mostly herding dogs. Otherwise I don’t think I could have handled her. She is strong willed, very smart and extremely loyal. I am her pack leader, take care of her needs…she follows me everywhere…lol..unless my 7 yr old daughter is home. The are like two peas in a pod. I call them double trouble. And I have alot of land…so that helps her. I feed her alot of protein…and give her LOTS of love. She is like a cat and rolls and rubs all over us. And we give kisses..she likes to be close to my face..which was hard to adjustto at first. But also wanted her to know that I trusted her.
    I feel I got this wolf for a reason…I’ve had many animals. I watch her carefully …and have socialized her pretty well. But I also understand..she is not really a normal dog…and she can be very mouthy…which to others might be scary. I have been attacked by dogs before…and watch for anything. She has been very gentle…and a bit clumzy…and looks to me for guidance…it has been a learning experience…..and I wouldnt trade her for anything…

  • Stoddard Hardwick

    I have to agree with a previous comment. Any of Natures creatures can be a friend to man. I had a Carolina Dog come to live with me and like the comment with the Wolf puppy, these wild Canids know how to live in a communal enviroment and follow the “Law of the Pack”. This of course means to never show aggression to a person. However, all other animals are fair game. But my Carolina Dog seems to know which animals belong to people, Feral cats though have been killed. My families cat has been accepted but is the “Omega” of the pack. I give our cat extra attention to make up for that.
    Like Wolves, He can stare into your eyes and seem to know what you are thinking. He has livbed with me for ten years now and has been a once in a lifetime companion. He has shown me all the wonders of Nature in my area since his keen nose would find things I didn’t know were there. He doesn’t kill anything any more as a grateful Possum will attest.

  • wolfsowl

    To the person who thinks the story is fictional- yes, Lobo and Blanca do not resemble Mexican wolves in their photos or the drawings Seton made of them. However, the photo of Lobo was confirmed to have been taken on the New Mexico ranch where the story takes place , so either Seton brought captive wolves with him for the sole purpose of photographing them for his story (unlikely), or a pack of timber wolves moved into a cattle rich region a little farther south then they normally range (quite possible). I am pretty sure his story is based mostly on facts.

  • Yvette Johnson

    I believe the attribution of the name Lobo to the Blackfoot word for “buffalo wolf” is incorrect. Lobo is simply the Spanish (Mexican) word for wolf. Going back many centuries, it comes from the Latin word for wolf, “lupus” and exists in French as “loup.”

  • Kathy Sater Partch

    I basically enjoyed the movie because of two main reasons. Being it was a true story, and it gave the people a strict message throughout the movie in how to respect ALL wild life through a heart breaking experience with Seton. Especially the souls of an animal I so dearly love and always have. Wolf Trainer Sausha Seus, did awesome with her wolves in the movie. I admire her for her good hand.

    For my love of the wolf I also did something I regret. I purchased a FULL blooded male Can. Timber wolf I named Timber as a young cub and bottle fed him. I bought the cub from a game sanctuary back in the early seventies. I socialized him greatly which paid off for a lot of reasons. He was very friendly to people and other animals but basically a “wolf monster” in every other way. I feel mostly because he was still a puppy at heart (about two). The man that owned the game sanctuary I got him from said Timber probably wouldn’t grow up mentally until he was about four. And that man should’ve been shut down for selling wild animals to almost anyone he could find. My Timber was extremely dominating. I truly feel in the wild he would’ve been leader or died trying. Timber had a complicated and sad story behind his name. I’ve shared this story with many in hopes I can teach others that ninety-nine percent of full blooded wolves do NOT make a good pet. And wolf-dogs can even be worse in temperament. Timber wasn’t my pet. He was just my friend for little time.

    In memory of my friend, Timber: http://jokaysedona.com/timber.htm

  • mrs chandler

    i have just read about dr mccleery and am interested since he had his farm near my home. we should care about all animals and the environment.

  • ihetcat

    haker wolf taem

  • apihwolf

    goo

  • arianna kelly

    I very much admire your work and i am also a wolf lover :3

  • williams

    i have always loved wolves and what they stand for i admire your work with these beuitfull animals its about time people seen them the way they trully are they only kill to survive and look after there packs i would love to be able to see these packs in the wild but i dont think i will ever get the chance

  • http://jonwest321@gmail.com jon west

    From 1991 to 1999 I raised 3 male to female British Columbian Timberwolves job too low key Kayla Tonka. they were all. Black in color except for Keoni who is a sable color I dedicated 100 percent of my spare time to them. the more I study them the more bigger I made there in closures. went away from them when you come back to them their greetings are like no other. I would work with them professionally if given the chance. The more you learn in study about what they do in everyday life the more you want them to be free. I work with race horses now I have a natural ability of working with wild animals Wolf’s will always be very dear to my heart. sincerely John West

    because I developed a captivity anxiety or I feel I could not on them because I ate the more I learn about them the more I want them to be free

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