Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Menomonie, Wisconsin has Local Sponsorship Opportunities Available!

Thank you for considering being a sponsor of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Menomonie!

Tainter Menomin Lake Improvement Association (TMLIA), in partnership with the Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Films, LLC (WODCW), are excited to host one of the largest environmental film festivals in North America, which we are bringing to our very own Mabel Tainter Theater, on Saturday, November 7, 2020.

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour works with a variety of nonprofits, schools, museums, and businesses across the globe to host the film festival, each one creating a unique experience.  TMLIA & WODCW hope to use the Menomonie festival to help our community members identify their role as stewards of a healthy environment for future generations and inspire a connection to natural resources through the creative medium of film.  Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Menomonie would like to invite you to sponsor the event and support our efforts to host Wild & Scenic On Tour right here!

Festival-goers at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Menomonie can expect to see award winning films about nature, community activism, adventure, conservation, water, energy and climate change, wildlife, environmental justice, agriculture and more.

Because we want to show you how much we value and appreciate this important partnership, we offer unique benefits to our sponsors, and with several levels of sponsorship, one is surely just right for you.  Details are outlined in the enclosed Sponsorship Benefits table. Please note that in order to receive all benefits as outlined, a commitment must be made by Monday, September 21st 2020.  Depending on the level you are comfortable contributing, you can receive perks including advertising, complimentary tickets, tabling, and reserved seating.  Don’t forget, because TMLIA is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit organization, and WODCW has a fiscal sponsor, your sponsorship is tax deductible.

Regardless of level, sponsorship offers your business the opportunity to leverage your support into advertising that will reach a large and diverse audience. By bringing people together through an approachable and entertaining platform, we will foster conversations inclusive of a broader range of perspectives and ideas for solutions. Best of all, your clientele will see you are as committed to this community’s environmental and cultural thriving as they are.

Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Menomonie aims to bring our community together through the art of film! Get ready to be inspired!

To learn more about the Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour visit

http://www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org, visit our event’s Facebook Page “Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Menomonie,” or e-mail menomoniefilmfestival@gmail.com.

We look forward to hearing from you, and would be honored to have your organization’s support!

Sincerely yours,

Liz Usborne & Rachel Tilseth

Filmmaker: The Process

Experimenting with iPhone 8 4K camera settings. My feline makes a good model!

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Films is a Company producing film projects that inspire change through environmental education and legislation. Gray wolves are recovering on a worldwide landscape, our films, involve a global audience. We connect and engage viewers with filmmakers dedicated to documenting the conscious relationships between advocates, Gray wolves and wildlife. We view the need for people to learn how to coexist with wild wolves that are now struggling for survival worldwide. To support this effort, we maintain a network of subject matter experts in film producers, scientists, academics, as well as other advocates who share a common interest to advocate, produce and share educational stories of people and Gray wolves.


Minnesota & Wisconsin Photography Competition: Featuring Wild Canids

Photography Competition will be open for entree on May 1, 2020. The competition will be accepting photographs of wild canids from Minnesota & Wisconsin “Red & Grey fox, Coyote and Gray wolf.”

Dewey Bunnell, singer, songwriter & guitarist from the folk-rock band “America” has generously donated autographed CDs as prizes for the photography competition this year! Thank you Dewey!

Dewey Bunnell, singer, songwriter & guitarist from the folk-rock band “America” has generously donated autographed CDs as prizes for the photography competition this year.

Competition details are in the works, and will be forthcoming…

Why hold a photography competition featuring wild canids?

Far to often the ecological roles they play are misunderstood. Wild canids have become targets, literally targets for extermination. Every winter states hold fox and coyote competitions awarding prizes for the biggest animal killed using predator callers and high powered rifles. The Minnesota & Wisconsin Photography Competition’s mission is to elevate public opinion by using the medium of photography to showcase wild canids. Thus, drawing attention to their value as a photographer’s subject and to the environment.

Wildlife Photography Contest entrees 2019
Last year Jim Brandenburg donated a print for the 2019 contest winner Chris Rugowski. Photo courtesy of Jim Brandenburg.

Photography Competition will be open for Entree on May 1, 2020. The competition is accepting photographs of wild canids from Minnesota & Wisconsin. Red & Grey fox, Coyote and Gray wolves.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project: Ecology of Summer Wolves in Northern Minnesota

Some of the first howls from a pup of the Wiyapka Lake Pack in early May 2019. The pack had a total of 5 pups in 2019, and the pups were about 1 month old when this video was recorded. http://www.voyageurswolfproject.org

The Voyageurs Wolf Project is focused on understanding the summer ecology of wolves in and around Voyageurs National Park in the iconic Northwoods border region of Minnesota, USA.

Video Footage from Voyageurs Wolf Project

These wolves from the Shoepack Lake Pack are the most elusive and remote wolves in Voyageurs National Park and the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem. This pack occupies the eastern half of the Kabetogama Peninsula, which is an incredibly wild place in the interior of Voyageurs National Park. This video footage is from this past November and December.

We have been in the field all week doing trail camera work (switching SD cards, putting in fresh batteries, putting out more cameras, etc) and got lots of neat footage from this past fall! Will be sharing more soon!

About Voyageurs Wolf Project

The Voyageurs Wolf Project, which is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park, was started to address one of the biggest knowledge gaps in wolf ecology—what do wolves do during the summer? Our goal is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the summer ecology of wolves in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem in northern Minnesota. Specifically, we want to understand the predation behavior and reproductive ecology (e.g., number of pups born, where wolves have dens, etc) of wolves during the summer.

Photograph credit Voyageurs Wolf Project

In March 2019, we set up three remote cameras at a den that had been used by the Sheep Ranch Pack from 2016–2018. The pack did not use this den in 2019 but wolves and a variety of other elusive animals visited this area. This video is a compilation of the wildlife activity that was recorded.

To learn more about The Voyageurs Wolf Project got to www.voyageurswolfproject.org

Photograph credit Voyageurs Wolf Project

Twenty-five Year Anniversary of Wolf Reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park

Today, in Yellowstone National Park, twenty-five years later; The Montana and Wyoming Legislature dismissed the idea of a buffer zone for wolves that wander outside Yellowstone, instead instating a law prohibiting such buffer zones. The film takes viewers through the controversy surrounding Yellowstone National Park wolves being legally hunted in Wyoming, Montana & Idaho when they wander from the sanctuary of park. The film takes you into the advocates lives, why they advocate, the work they do, and how the advocate’s work will preserve the legacy of Yellowstone Park wolves.

Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Yellowstone Story Film Project Our film is in production. Watch the following teaser “Meet the Advocates”

Director Statement by Rachel Tilseth

This is a story of passion, endurance and fighting even when the odds are against you. In this story I want to introduce you to four courageous people working to preserve the legacy of Yellowstone’s wolves. People either love or hate the wolf, and he’s been long misunderstood for many centuries. Thousands of people in vehicles line the roads in Yellowstone National Park hoping for a glimpse of a wild wolf. People are everywhere, dozens at a time, searching through spotting scopes for wolves. One of these wolf watchers is advocate Ilona Popper, whose passion for wolves can be clearly heard in her voice. We introduce the viewer to ilona Popper as she sets up her spotting scope in Lamar Valley home to one of Yellowstone’s beloved wolf packs. As Ilona speaks you can hear the urgency in her voice because it’s September and the Montana wolf hunt is just around the corner. She recounts the tragic story of a famous alpha female wolf that was killed by a wolf hunter after she left the sanctuary of the park.

Time lapses will introduce the viewer to the ever changing weather that wolves face in Yellowstone. Drones are not allowed in the park boundaries but aerial footage will, along with the time lapses, give a perspective of the immensity of the park landscapes.

We introduce the viewer to Dr. Nathan Varley as he hikes in the picturesque landscape that is Yellowstone in winter, and is set at the Buffalo Ranch situated near the Lamar river. Dr. Varley is on a hike with wolf watcher clients where he explains the history of Yellowstone’s wolf reintroduction. Throughout the year, Dr. Varley along with his wolf tourism business partner and wife Linda Thurston, take their clients into the park every morning.

We introduce you to Marc Cooke President of Wolves of the Rockies during a spring snow storm and within view of the famous northern gate of Yellowstone. The viewer will see herds of bison, elk and antelope in spring time grazing on the moist green grasses as Marc talks about the famous 06 wolf of Lamar Valley pack.

I will introduce the viewer to cell phone audio of the Lamar Valley wolf packs’ hauntingly mournful howls, that was recorded at the very same spot where their family member was killed by a wolf hunter just outside of the park. I will introduce the viewer to Yellowstone’s wolf watcher community; then you will watch them as they move from one pull out to the next counting wolves.

You’ll hear engine noise from above as the head Yellowstone Wolf Project staff Dr. Doug Smith flies about counting wolves. The viewer will meet Yellowstone Wolf Project staff Kira Cassidy as she talks about wolf pack dynamics, recounting observations of one wolf pack’s struggle for survival, against the back drop of the Yellowstone River in Winter.

Film Treatment

This documentary tells the story of advocates working to preserve the legacy of Yellowstone National Park wolves that face an uncertain future because of legal wolf hunts just beyond the park’s border. A famous wolf, known as 06, was killed in a legal wolf hunt when she left the park’s sanctuary in 2012. Six years later 06’s daughter, known as Spitfire, wolf 926F suffered the same fate in November 2018. Today, Wolves in Yellowstone have become the “rock stars” of their species due to the hundreds of thousands of people that venture into the park hoping for a glimpse of a Yellowstone wolf. The death of 06 and other collared wolves has ignited a battle to create a buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park to protect it’s wolves because legal trophy hunts take place in Wyoming, Idaho & Montana.

The film is set in our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-sq.-mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. By 1926, as a result of federal and state predator control efforts, gray wolves (Canis lupus) were officially extirpated from Yellowstone National Park. Northern Rocky Mountain wolves were eventually listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973.

Click here to donate to this film project

With ESA listing came the goal of restoring wolves to their historic range, and in 1995 and 1996, following many years of public planning and input, a total of 31 wolves, captured in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, were reintroduced to Yellowstone. Wolves flourished amidst Yellowstone’s abundant prey and expansive, protected wilderness.

The first wolf arrives in Yellowstone at the Crystal Bench Pen (Mike Phillips-YNP Wolf Project Leader, Jim Evanoff-YNP, Molly Beattie- USFWS Director, Mike Finley-YNP Superintendent, Bruce Babbitt-Secretary of Interior) JIM PEACO (CC-BY-2.0)

The Montana and Wyoming Legislature dismissed the idea of a buffer zone for wolves that wander outside Yellowstone, instead instating a law prohibiting such buffer zones. The film takes viewers through the controversy surrounding Yellowstone National Park wolves being legally hunted in Wyoming, Montana & Idaho when they wander from the sanctuary of park. The film takes you into the advocates lives, why they advocate, the work they do, and how the advocate’s work will preserve the legacy of Yellowstone Park wolves.


Advocate Dr. Nathan Varley, Ph.D. in Ecology from the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Alberta. His research focused on the relationship between wolves and elk after wolf reintroduction. Dr. Varley, a businessman co-owner of Yellowstone Wolf Tracker tours in Gardiner, Montana, has taken scores of hopeful wolf-watchers to see the Lamar Canyon pack, and says that the majority of his company’s $500,000 gross income comes from tourists like these “I estimate that a half-million people saw 754,” he said. “It was one of the million dollar wolves that was taken out of the population.” Quoted from NYT article: Research Animals Lost in Wolf Hunts Near Yellowstone by Nate Schweber 11/28/2012

Advocate Linda Thurston, Co Owner of Yellowstone Wolf Tracker tours in Gardiner, Montana. Thurston began working on the Yellowstone Wolf Project in 1996, during the early years of the wolf reintroduction. She headed up the first denning behavior study on wolves in Yellowstone Park, and received her master’s degree in wildlife biology from Texas A&M while doing so. Thurston and Dr. Varley through their business focus on teaching people about the behavior, ecology and management of wolves in and around Yellowstone Park for the past 14 years. Both Thurston and Dr. Varley are active in wolf conservation issues through Bear Creek Council, a grassroots organization that works to protect wolves and other wildlife just outside the boundary of Yellowstone Park.

The following is Linda Thurston’s dialogue from Meet the Advocates Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy—The Yellowstone Story Film Project: “We’ll watch wolf packs in the park and we get to learn about every individual and their personalities. And the younger ones, the older ones, and the ones you know are the good hunters for instance, and the ones that play the support roles and learn their personalities. Then we’ll watch them for years. Then there’s an elk hunt and a wolf hunt right outside the park. These wolves will leave because it’s a free meal for them to eat a gut pile that an elk hunter left on the landscape. Then that wolf might get shot over it. And it’s heartbreaking for us to see this animal, it’s not like our pet, but we get to learn its personality like as if it was a pet. And it just breaks our heart and makes you wanna speak up and do something about it.”

Advocate Mark Cooke

Advocate Marc Cooke is founder of Wolves of the Rockies (WOTR) who’s mission is; to Protect & Defend Wolves of the Rocky Mountains through advocating and education. WOTR gathers wolf advocates from around the world to consolidate our voices into a force that will influence the protection and acceptance of wolves in the Rocky Mountain Region. Educating people with facts about wolves, and wolf behavior to counter the negative image created by commercial interest groups, fictional entertainment and extremism.

Advocate Ilona Popper

Advocate Ilona Popper has a M.A. English Language and Literature, University of Virginia and has worked for 40 years as an editor, writing coach, and teacher. Ilona has worked intensively on preserving wolves in the YNP area and in Montana. She helped establish and served as chair for the Bear Creek Council Wolf Committee and was invited to sit on Finding Common Ground, a council called by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to bring together wildlife advocates and environmentalists with sportspeople and livestock producers. The participants were often at odds, especially about wolves, but she saw that “each person shared a love of wildlife and nature.”

The film will also introduce the viewer to Yellowstone Wolf Project staff. Douglas W. Smith, senior wildlife biologist for Yellowstone Wolf Project. Kira Cassidy, Kira holds her M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota, with projects focusing on territoriality and aggression between packs of gray wolves. Now working as a Research Associate for the Yellowstone Wolf Project. Rick McIntyre has served as a seasonal park ranger at such sites as Yellowstone, Denali, Glacier, and Big Bend national parks. His books include War Against the Wolf: America’s Campaign to Exterminate the Wolf (Voyageur Press) and Grizzly Cub: Five Years in the Life of a Bear. Watch a Yellowstone National Park video of Kira Cassidy watching the alpha female wolf 926F as she chases an elk click the link: https://youtu.be/n_LkLFt3uYc Click here to donate to this film project Poster design by Any Reich

Producers Maaike Middleton and Rachel Tilseth Director Rachel Tilseth A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Film, LLC

Inside of the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Yellowstone Story Producer Maaike Middleton is a wildlife filmmaker. She was born in The Netherlands and grew up in Montana. She has traveled the globe filming wildlife from pumas in Patagonia, the illusive Amur tiger in the Russian Far East and grizzlies in her backyard. Maaike is passionate about telling stories that can make a difference and address issues that impact us all. When she is not setting camera traps to capture animal behavior she is watching films and helping with the selection process for the Wildlife Film Festival Rotterdam. She received her MA from University of London- Royal Holloway BA Montana State University- Bozeman. She has worked on projects for Smithsonian, Nat Geo, Curiosity Stream, BBC Nature, PBS and ARTE. Producer and Director

Filmmaker Rachel Tilseth Tracking Wisconsin’s Gray wolf in 2017.

Rachel Tilseth is a fine artist, educator, environmentalist, wolf advocate and filmmaker. Rachel lives and works in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Rachel earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education in 1992 from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors.

Rachel has been an environmentalist since high school. Rachel participated in the first Earth Day in 1971. Later, Rachel participated in the protests of sulfate mines that took place in the early 1990s. Rachel worked with activists John Trudell and Walter Bresette, whom she met at the Protect The Earth Festival near Hayward, Wisconsin. Rachel’s first art teaching job was in Kyle, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1992.

In 1991 on a howl survey in the chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Rachel met Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery Program Head Wolf Biologist, Adrian Wydeven. Seven years later Rachel became involved in Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery Program. Rachel officially became a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Volunteer Winter Wolf/Carnivore Tracker in the year 2000, and as a result learned about the lives of wild gray wolves. In 1999, Rachel put together a story proposal about Adrian Wydeven’s volunteer Winter Wolf Tracking Program, and submitted it to National Geographic Television Channel. Although the proposal wasn’t accepted Rachel received a telephone call from them to explain why. The National Geographic Channel at the time was busy working on starting a global network and all of their resources were tied up in working to get it off the ground. The National Geographic Channel advised Rachel to resubmit the proposal in a year. Rachel continued working to draw attention to Wisconsin’s Gray wolf and wrote to Dr. Jane Goodall in Tanzania, Africa about the recovery program. Rachel received three handwritten postcards from Dr. Jane Goodall. In 2011 Great Lakes wolves were delisted. Rachel worked to draw attention to the plight of Gray wolves during the three years Wisconsin held wolf hunts.

Rachel garnered the attention of the press in an effort to bring public awareness to Wisconsin’s wolf hunt, especially the regulations that allowed dogs to be used to track and trail wolves. Rachel made it known that Wisconsin quite literally throws dogs to wolves. Rachel has put together public events, three film screenings, one film festival, in order to bring education and awareness about Wisconsin’s wolf hunt, and wildlife issues. In 2011 Rachel started a Facebook Page and named it after the county she tracked wolves in; Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin (WODCW). WODCW became known nationally and internationally. In 2018 Rachel began working on a film series titled Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy. Rachel’s film series tells the stories of advocates/people working to preserve the legacy of wild gray wolves. The first series is about Yellowstone Wolves, “The Yellowstone Story” and Rachel is the Producer and Director. Rachel formed a film company in 2019 Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Films, LLC.

  • Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Presents A Film
  • Produced by Maaike Middleton Rachel Tilseth
  • Song “Don’t Know Why, But They Do” Words & Music by Joe De Benedetti Noah Hill
  • Edited by Maaike Middleton
  • Cinematography by Maaike Middleton
  • Directed by Rachel Tilseth
  • B Roll National Park Service
  • Graphic Design Andy Reich
  • Advocates Ilona Popper Nathan Varley Linda Thurston Marc Cooke

A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Film, LLC Click here to donate to this film project

Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy—The Yellowstone Story Advocates Linda Thurston & Nathan Varley business owners at http://www.wolftracker.com We advocate emphatically for the wildlife upon which our business depends. Unlike a lot of businesses in our industry that stay quiet and sit on their hands, we show up to speak out on controversial wildlife issues. We are not afraid to stick up for wolves, bison, and bears when they need a voice. As leaders in Bear Creek Council, an all-volunteer, local grassroots group, we dedicate our effort to wise stewardship in our area. We fight mine proposals that threaten Yellowstone’s habitat and water quality. We fight trophy hunters that want to shoot wolves and grizzly bears along park borders. We fight for the next generation and their right to experience the same wild Yellowstone we know and love.

Gray Wolves…

With their piercing looks and spine-tingling howls, wolves inspire both adoration and controversy around the world. Find out how many wolf species exist, the characteristics that make each wolf’s howl unique, and how the wolf population in the continental United States nearly became extinct. Find out more at National Geographic

Short video from National Geographic


Read more about Gray Wolves at www.nationalgeographic.com


The Most Persecuted Native Carnivore…

Coyotes are hunted year-round in an open hunting season with unlimited daily bag statewide in Wisconsin. The scientific data doesn’t support such a reckless hunt of a wild carnivore.

Unlimited hunts on coyote are reckless conservation policies that must be changed.

Coyotes (Canis latrans)

Coyote photograph credit NPS

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are medium-sized wild canids indigenous to North America. They are seasonally monestrus socially monogamous, and territoria. Once bonded, a coyote pair remains together for an indefinite number of years, sharing responsibility for territory maintenance. Litters averaging 3–7 pups are typically born March thru May in most North American latitudes after a gestation of 60–63 days,and both parents participate in the care and rearing of young
Mature offspring may disperse or remain within their natal territories, assisting in the defense of resources and infant pups, but typically only the dominant male and female breed. Juvenile coyotes around 12 months of age can be reproductively active in their 1st winter, but available evidence suggests that juvenile and yearling females are less fecund than adult females 2 years of age. Older females 10 years of age gradually pass into reproductive senescence, whereas a male coyote was reported to have sired pups when 12 years of age. Older coyotes may continue to maintain territory residency or revert to a transient lifestyle. Source Journal of Mommalogy

The coyote, our unique Song Dog who has existed in North America since the Pleistocene, is the most persecuted native carnivore in North America. The coyote is the flagship species for all misunderstood and exploited carnivores. Poisoned, trapped, aerial gunned and killed for bounties and in contests, an estimated half a million coyotes are slaughtered every year in the U.S. — one per minute. —Project Coyote

Wonton Waste

Photos surfaced of decomposing coyote carcasses located on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands south of the city of Washburn. The USFS and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are the investigating the dumped coyote carcasses.

“Altogether I found more than 60 coyote carcasses at the dump site before I quit counting,” said Paul DeMain, the Hayward resident who took the photos on April 29, 2018, near a popular hiking trail in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. “Killing and dumping wild animals is repugnant to living beings, life, and our coexistence with creation.”

Why doesn’t Killing the whole pack work?

When pack animals such as coyotes, dingoes and wolves are killed, the social structure of their packs breaks down. This causes coyotes to breed to replace their pups. Coyotes protect territories, and breaking up a pack brings in other coyotes. If the coyote pack has established a territory near livestock it makes more sense to leave them intact. Why not implement non lethal controls teaching the established pack to steer clear.

“Coyotes keep rodent and rabbit populations in check. Rodents and lagomorphs (rabbits and hares) are important food items for coyotes, often making up more than half of the dry weight of prey items found in scats (Fedriani et al., 2001; Morey et al., 2007).” —Project Coyote

Coyote photograph credit by John E Marriott

Coyotes are hunted year-round with no daily bag limit

The scientific data doesn’t support such a reckless hunt of a wild carnivore. Coyotes are hunted year-round in an open hunting season with unlimited daily bag statewide in Wisconsin. Coyote are considered expendable because they are so adaptable. Coyotes in Wisconsin are considered furbearers that can be hunted with no daily bag limit.

Grassroots Support

Many dedicated citizens at the grassroots level are beginning the work to limit coyote hunts to a single season in Wisconsin.

I relished being awakened with the sounds of the coyote family outside my house while living on the prairie of South Dakota in the 1990s. I returned home from town one afternoon to find their lifeless bodies nailed to the barn. I was a renter, not the property owner, and asked them why they killed them. Their response was the only good coyote is a dead coyote. I tried to educate them that coyote will not hunt near or around their den site. But it fell on deaf ears because it’s been a culturally ingrained behavior to kill predators, such as coyote, ever since the continent was settled by western civilization. —Rachel Tilseth

“American policymakers have always needed enemies, and with wolves gone, the coyote stepped unsuspectingly into the glare”
― Dan Flores, Coyote America

Tracking the Pack: You might never actually see a gray wolf, but the sign they leave behind makes up for it!

Gray wolves are shy and elusive creatures living in Wisconsin’s northern & central forests. Today there are around 978 gray wolves in Wisconsin according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 2018-2019 wolf count. I’ve been a part of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) winter wolf tracking program for 20 years now. One thing I’ve learned is that you may never actually catch sight of a gray wolf while conducting a tracking survey, but signs they leave behind will definitely make up for it. The following is one such story of the life of a gray wolf pack I observed while conducting a winter wolf tracking survey in northern Wisconsin.

In 2006 in late January while conducting a winter wolf track survey I ran across sign that indicated the alpha female was in estrus. On a snow covered road I found sign of the alpha pair’s scent marking every 10th of a mile down the road. I observed that whole wolf pack were leaving sign, from subordinate individuals, to the alpha pair. Subordinate individuals leave squat urination signs, and the alpha pair leave raised leg urination. Typically only the alpha male and female make the raised led urination signs. The alpha male also leaves raised leg urination sign along with scat markings indicating this is his territory and he intends to guard it! These markings were made at the edge of their range, and wolves are very territorial at this time of the year.

I continued tracking, observing and documenting all the sign along the snow covered road full of wolf tracks. A mile or so down the road I found the evidence I was hoping to find; a snow covered pine tree sapling with rusty-red colored urine on top of it. The rusty-red colored urine was the tell tale sign that the alpha female was in estrus.

You might never actually see a gray wolf, but the signs they leave behind makes up for it! And this was a winter wolf tracker’s dream come true.

Photograph credit John E Marriott

The Italian Wolf: Unique Subspecies in the world

The Rare Canis lupus italicus

By Brunella Pernigotti

The population of the Italian wolf is a unique subspecies in the world: it’s Canis lupus italicus, as the great Italian naturalist Altobello had already proposed in 1921. As proof of this, in the study published in 2017 a team of researchers from nine European countries studied, starting from the origins, the uniqueness of the Italian wolf, discovering that it stands out from all the others in Europe and in the world, both at the level of autosomal chromosomes, that is, most of the DNA of an individual, and at the mitochondrial level, that is DNA inherited through the mother. Romolo Caniglia, geneticist and coordinator of the study, explains:

“Using methods that allow us to date up to when the separation of the Italian wolf from other European populations took place, it surprised us to discover that this uniqueness does not go back to past centuries, when the wolf was exterminated by men from all Central Europe; the results indicate instead that Canis lupus italicus started to distinguish itself already from the end of the last glaciation age, when the wolf populations then existing in Europe had been pushed south by the ice, while new wolves from Asia were beginning to arrive from the east “. A subspecies whose diversity has ancient roots and which therefore should be protected.

To these facts Marco Galaverni, WWF Italy species and habitat manager and one of the researchers who participated in the study, adds that “while the population seemed to be finally recovering from the historical minimum of just a hundred wolves surviving in the 70s, reaching about 1600 individuals that hardly recovered part of the original range in the peninsula and in the Alps, a new wave of poaching is causing hundreds of victims every year, with firearms and poisoned baits. There is a need for adequate monitoring that allows for constant information on the species.”

Therefore, in Italy, we have a particular and rare subspecies of wolf which represents a heritage of genetic biodiversity to be defended and protected. To this appeal many are the scholars of the various disciplines who are responding, spending themselves in hard and difficult work to monitor and protect wolves.

It is important to make the work of these people known and to spread the culture of acceptance and coexistence between men and wolves, to achieve positive results that are not dictated by ancient prejudices and emotions, but by an objective and scientific approach. The dissemination and education activity is therefore as important as that of study and research.

Therefore, you can count among the best supporters and advocates not only biologists and researchers, but also nature photographers and park guards, communicators and teachers. After centuries of persecution and wolf hunting, a competitive relationship is no longer acceptable in our time, on the contrary it is our duty to study and find compatible solutions that allow us to preserve the wealth of wild creatures that populate our country and the whole Earth.

Un mare in montagna in Italy Credit Brunella Pernigotti

A Film Explores the thoughtful “Can Do” Approach Solving Serious Problems

“Living with Carnivores: Boneyards, Bears and Wolves” is a documentary film about living with large carnivores. The story begins a decade ago in western Montana’s Blackfoot River Valley and explores how a rural agricultural community responded to the resurgence of grizzly bears and wolves. The film explores the thoughtful “can do” approach of Montana ranchers who realized that the age old practice of dumping dead livestock onto “boneyards” was destined to spell trouble by attracting grizzly bears and wolves onto ranches resulting in poor outcomes for wildlife and ranchers.

At its core, this film attempts to illustrate that it is possible to transcend ideological divides and to solve serious problems in a polarized world.

Produced by Alpenglow Press Productions and Seth Wilson. Filmed and edited by Jason D.B. Kauffman, Alpenglow Press Productions. Narration by Craig Johnson

The Blackfoot Challenge

In the early 2000’s, ranchers and other partners of the Blackfoot Challenge (a community based conservation effort in Montana’s Blackfoot River watershed) developed a deadstock removal program. “Living with Large Carnivores: Boneyards, Bears and Wolves” is a newly released film that shares the journey of the folks of the Blackfoot Challenge as they work to find solutions for reducing conflict with carnivores on the agricultural landscape.
While the film demonstrates the work being done in one area of Montana, it also proposes the idea that by working together, from a grassroots level, we can learn to reduce the risk of living with large carnivores on our farms and ranches. The Blackfoot Challenge has provided a model for carnivore conflict reduction that can successfully be implemented in any part of the world.

Photo image credit PBS