A Wisconsin premiere of “Medicine of the Wolf” explores ecological significance
by Craig Johnson Source: The Isthmus
October 13, 2016
Why are we afraid of the big, bad wolf? Is it because they kill so much livestock, or steal our babies? Or is it because they have been vilified for centuries in every manner of media from folk tales to blog posts?
Julia Huffman’s award-winning documentary, Medicine of the Wolf, explores the lives of wolves in Minnesota, their place in the ecosystem, their relationship with humans and the continued smear campaign against the predators.
It includes footage shot by National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg, and will screen at the Barrymore Theatre Oct. 19 as part of Wolf Awareness Week. The 7 p.m. screening will be followed by a panel discussion with wolf experts and advocates, including Robert Mann, an elder from the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Randy Jurewicz, former wolf administrator for the state Department of Natural Resources.
Wolves once ranged throughout the lower 48 states, but by the late 20th century they could only be found in northern Minnesota. After decades of protection and management, their range expanded to more than 10 states, and they were removed from the endangered species list. Here in Wisconsin, 528 wolves were “harvested” from the north from 2012 until 2014, when a federal court ruling put wolves back on the endangered list.
“A forest with wolves is a healthy forest,” says environmentalist and author Barry Babcock, who appears in the film and will speak on the panel. Babcock says wolves spark a “eutrophic cascade,” which influences plants and animals throughout the wilderness: Wolves cull the deer population, which means the deer don’t eat as much foliage; more foliage means a greater variety of herbivores are sustained, which leads to a greater variety of small predators and scavengers (eagles, foxes, weasels, etc).
Despite their beneficial effects, the vilification continues, with propaganda fueled by exaggerated tales of wolves killing livestock. Now, the push is on in various states, including Wisconsin, to allow wolf hunting again. Sometimes the hatred crosses into the irrational. Animal behaviorist and panelist Patricia McConnell says she heard “one hunter in Northern Wisconsin say he liked to kill wolves in as painful a way as possible, because ‘they are evil.’” The truth is that incidents of wolves attacking humans are about as common as them blowing over pigs’ houses.
Huffman and the panelists hope that Medicine of the Wolf will help turn society’s mistrust and hatred for wolves into a respectful partnership. Learning to share the world with wolves would not only improve their lives, but our own as well.
Featured Image Jim Brandenburg
Purchase tickets here: http://www.barrymorelive.com/tickets/1610194.html