Meet the Advocates inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy-The Yellowstone Story Film project in the making…
A Film Project
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 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.
Support the Film
The film’s fiscal sponsor: FilmNorth’s mission is to empower artists to tell their stories, launch and sustain successful careers, and advance The North as a leader in the national network of independent filmmakers. We achieve our mission by nurturing a vibrant, diverse community of film and media artists; providing education and resources at every stage of their careers; and celebrating their achievements. www.myfilmnorth.org
The Film’s vision by director 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.
Learn more click here
Meet the Filmmaker
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.
Meet the 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