When Shaun Ellis came upon three abandoned wolf pups, he decided to raise them to be wild in a most unconventional way -- by pretending to be a wolf himself.
Ellis has spent his entire life studying the behavior of wolves and their interaction with humans. The National Geographic Channel followed Ellis' fascinating pursuit, producing a documentary called "A Man Among Wolves" that airs April 16.
First becoming interested in wolves as a child, Ellis says he decided to live among a wolf pack to help bridge the gap between wolves and humans. Ellis readily admits that many people will find it crazy that he lives and behaves like a wolf, but he thinks the ultimate benefits of his experiment make his case.
In the documentary, Ellis describes how he eats and lives with the wolves. His food is placed in a plastic bag inside an animal carcass that the rest of the wolves eat from.
In some ways, Ellis almost stopped being human. He talked about putting his emotions on hold while he was with the animals, because wolves do not feel emotions. When he leaves the pack, he finds it difficult to interact with other human beings. He is a "true wolf man. You can't get closer to wolves than he has," the documentary's producer, Bernard Walton, said of Ellis.
Ellis warns those watching though that "it's very dangerous for people who haven't been trained, who think that they can just walk into a wolf pack and be accepted."
The documentary includes the opinions of experts -- such as Chris Darimont, a wolf biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Society's wolf project and an instructor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia -- who are both intrigued by and skeptical of Ellis' unorthodox methods.
"I find it difficult to resolve that as humans we can teach wolves something," Darimont says. "I think the best teachers for wolves are their parents and older siblings in their natural social environment."
He concedes, however, that "lots of progress that has been made in science over the last century and more comes from the mavericks, or people that think a little differently."
Biologist Doug Smith, leader of the Yellowstone Gray Wolf Project, said, "When you eat and sleep and interact with wolves -- that's something we can't replicate here, we won't do, we can't do."
Walton described the difficulties in filming, such as the camera crew having to wear protective gear and the use of a small camouflage tent to hide the camera. The wolves, he says, became jittery around strangers, so Ellis was in a unique position of being comfortable with the wolves.
According to Walton, Ellis truly sees "the world through the eyes of a wolf," offering a point of view that scientists so far have not been able to access.
Man Among Wolves" will air on National Geographic Channel, Monday, April 16, at 9 p.m. EDT/PDT. Also, tune in to ABC News' 20/20 on Friday April. 13, 2007 to watch an interview with Shaun Ellis.