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Wrestles With Wolves: Saving the World One Species at a Time with Bill Konstant, CALS '74

Bill Konstant with Steve Osofsky, et al.
From left to right: Victoria Priester (ZAWS Executive Board Member, DVM Class of 2026), Katelyn Cadwallader (ZAWS President, DVM Class of 2026), Bill Konstant '74 (Special Speaker), Steve Osofsky, DVM '89 (CWHC Director & Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health & Health Policy)

Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) alumnus Bill Konstant ‘74 visited Cornell on Wednesday, September 6, 2023 to give a talk to students, alumni, faculty, and the general public based on his memoir, Wrestles with Wolves: Saving the World One Species at a Time, hosted by the Cornell Wildlife Health Center and the student-led Zoo and Wildlife Society (ZAWS) based at the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).

Konstant is a seasoned conservationist who’s worked at a wide range of nongovernmental conservation organizations as well as major zoos. He was also involved in the campaign to establish the Belize Zoo, and most recently collaborated with the Jane Goodall Institute in Israel.

Bill Konstant and captive wolf named "Eric," shown wrestling.

During his talk, Konstant described how he named his book after an encounter with a timber wolf that had been raised in captivity. The wolf had typically been shy around humans, but it readily approached and greeted Konstant, leading to a series of photos of Konstant “wrestling” with a wolf.

Bill Konstant at book signing table with the Cornell Wildlife Health Center

Konstant’s talk was infused with humor and warmth with every anecdote, as well as lessons for aspiring and seasoned conservationists alike. During one retelling, he showed a myriad of photos of frogs from The Golden Frog Hotel, a hotel in Panama that helped temporarily house critically endangered golden frogs that were being wiped out by chytrid fungus while an emergency facility was being built.

The golden frog has become a cultural symbol for Panama and for the conservation of its wildlife, and this was the first time that many students in the audience had heard of these conservation efforts. “Learning from Bill's experiences about the myriad of ways that we as students can become involved in research was eye opening,” said Lucas Fink, a current CALS Class of 2023 student. 

Bill Konstant signing books at recent talk.

Konstant is passionate about passing on his love for conservation to the next generation, and he described working with young kids enthusiastic about wildlife conservation as one of the most meaningful things he has ever done. During one project, he worked with fifth graders to write and then publish books about endangered species.

“Attending talks like Wrestles With Wolves is valuable because it broadens students’ perspectives about how what we learn in college can be applied in real life. Bill's work in conservation is an inspiring example of how we can make an impact on the world around us," Fink said. 

A special thank you to Bill Konstant for sharing his lifetime of stories, and for donating the proceeds of books sold on the night of his talk to ZAWS.

Written by Victoria Priester, DVM ’26

Related programs: Zoological Medicine