Wolves Mired in Political Intrigue
The film tells the story of Wisconsin’s gray wolves, the controversies surrounding them, and how people are learning to coexist as these native predators are again fulfilling their ecological role after returning to the state about 45 years ago.
Featuring: Dr. Jane Goodall, Adrian Wydeven and Marvin DeFoe
Rachel Tilseth: Producer & Director and Manish Bhatt: Producer
The film will tell the story of Wisconsin’s gray wolves and the controversy that surrounds them. This documentary will examine the various people involved, between several opposing forces for over a decade culminating with court battles.
Gray wolves recolonized parts of Wisconsin in the 1970s, after being killed off in the state in the 1950s, and grew to a population of over 1000 wolves by 2020. Unfortunately this conservation success story has become very controversial in the last decade. Federal and state endangered species acts have helped recover wolves in the state, but four attempts by the federal government to delisting wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), have resulted in court challenges returning wolves to the endangered list. After federal delisting in 2012, the Wisconsin legislature mandated that wolf hunts would be required whenever gray wolves were off the ESA list.
The most recent delisting battle started in January 2021, leading to a court-ordered three-day controversial wolf hunt during the breeding season in February, and it went over the allotted quota; angering many Wisconsinites. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) began work on a new state Wolf Management Plan that was last completed in 1999. The DNR formed a committee of stakeholders, including the tribes.
Ojibwe bands in Red Cliff and Bad River have their own, Ma’iingan (Wolf) Relationship Plans. The state must work with the tribes on wolf management, including any wolf hunting seasons. Political battles began over how to manage the next hunt in November 2021. The struggle between the DNR, its Natural Resources Board, and pro-wolf advocates ended with several lawsuits and one that yielded an injunction to stop the November 2021 wolf hunt. The Six Ojibwe tribes also sued and claimed the wolf hunt violated their treaty rights. A year after the controversial wolf hunt, a California judge ordered gray wolves in much of the lower 48 states back on the ESA on February 18, 2022. Though gray wolves have numerically recovered in Wisconsin, the future of wolf management remains in limbo in the state.
Meet the People
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack. ~The Jungle Book
Adrian Wydeven grew up in northeast Wisconsin, and has a BS in biology and wildlife management from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (1976), and an MS in wildlife ecology from Iowa State University (1979). His master’s research was on the ecology and food habitat of elk in the Wind Cave National Park, SD. He worked as a wildlife manager in Missouri and Wisconsin from 1980-1990. Adrian headed up the state gray wolf recovery and conservation program for Wisconsin from 1990 through 2013, while also working with other rare mammals and wildlife. He retired from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in 2015 after nearly 33 years. Adrian continues to be actively involved in wolf surveys and conservation through the Timber Wolf Alliance and Wisconsin Green Fire.
Marvin DeFoe a contributing author of the Ma’iingan Relationship Plan and member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He is an educator, teacher, birch bark canoe builder, and Red Cliff elder. He grew up in the Red Cliff community and is part of the sturgeon clan. Named Shingway Banase in Anishinaabe, he is he is passionate about maintenance and revitalization of the Ojibwe language. Marvin is past Vice Chair on the tribal council and has been the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for four years.
Dr. Jane Goodall is a world famous primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots and Shoots. Her work began in Tanzania where she studied the social and familial behaviors of chimpanzees. She is considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. Her work has been critical to conservation and animal welfare efforts.
There are more people to come…
Meet the Filmmakers
Rachel Tilseth Producer & Director
Rachel Tilseth is an art educator, freelance writer, producer/director, environmentalist, and DNR volunteer Winter wolf tracker. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education, 1992, from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors. Rachel’s first teaching job was on Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota. Rachel believes an art education helps students to become better consumers. Rachel is a fine artist emphasizing watercolor and oil painting. Rachel brings her knowledge of design principles to her work as a documentary film director.
Since high school, Rachel has been an environmentalist and participated in the first Earth Day in 1971. In the 1990s, she participated in the sulfate mines protests alongside activists John Trudell and Walter Bresette at the Protect The Earth Festival near Hayward, Wisconsin.
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 became involved in Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery Program. She 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. Rachel brings her knowledge of Wisconsin’s wolf & the politics surrounding them to the film.
Manish Bhatt Producer
Manish Bhatt is a conservationist, writer, lawyer and education leader. He holds a Bachelors of Arts magna cum laude from The George Washington University, a Juris Doctor magna cum laude from St. Thomas University School of Law and a LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center.
Having grown up in a rural community in New York’s Catskill Mountains, Manish has a lifelong commitment to preserving wild spaces and wildlife. As an officer and Judge Advocate in the United States Coast Guard, Manish deployed in support of cleanup efforts following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and led section 7 consultations with federal agency partners under the Endangered Species Act. He also worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and State Historic Preservation Officers to ensure compliance with marine environmental laws and regulations. Manish has served as a teacher and Head of School and believes in experiential and outdoor education. As a school leader, he worked closely with fundraising partners and grant providers to ensure student success and curricular development.
Manish is a feature and investigative writer for the Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Films. To each article he brings deep curiosity and commitment to objectivity. As a lifelong learner, Manish seeks data and trend analysis as a part of his reporting, in addition to interviewing experts in the field of wolf biology. Manish has co hosted, alongside Rachel Tilselth, WORT Radio’s Access Hour to share wolf science and information with the listening audience.
“Gray wolves a native species, existing on the landscape have an innate right to exist, and a right to occur within areas of suitable habitat on the landscape. It’s important that we point out the ecological justification for their benefits, but at the same time, they have an innate right to exist. We need to appreciate that and allow them to persist and live on the landscape.” —Adrian Wydeven
Benjamin Coffey – Bio
Benjamin Coffey will be carrying the role of a Cinematographer in the film, People and Wolves. He is owner of two Film & Media Production companies based in Charlotte, North Carolina. These agencies supply high-end, custom content for clients internationally. Coffey has five years of professional experience in visual storytelling. After receiving his Associates at Liberty University, Coffey regularly attends certified training for RED and ARRI Camera Systems in LA & Chicago. He has collaborated on over 250 Productions in Europe, Asia, and North America. Benjamin Coffey has represented a variety of corporate clients such as Google, Disney, Dreamville, GK Hair, Lingodeer, and a variety of other top-rated Agencies and Corporations.
Previous Narrative Film projects have been decorated and screened in International Festivals such as LA Film Awards 2020, New York Film Awards 2020, Top Shorts 2020, Flickfair 2021, Festigious Los Angeles 2020, and more. He has been complimented on his use of applying technical knowledge to the emotional connections of a scene. As a cinematographer, Coffey seeks safe, efficient, and reliable methods of storytelling to bring a director’s vision to life.www.benjamincoffey.com
The most important goal of our documentary films is scientific facts about wolves and the ecosystems they impact. Through our films, the viewer can gain biological knowledge. As a result, this increases their overall awareness of gray wolves.
Our films give people an opportunity to see wild wolves where they live. We show the viewer the beautiful places where wolves are abundant. Therefore, our films bring these experiences right to the viewer.
Our films are meaningful stories where people can learn something. Our films achieve this through high-end research, storytelling and professional filming. Through this, it provides viewers with something of great value to watch.
Our films will make the viewer stop and think about how the human race is impacting wildlife, specifically gray wolves. After watching our films the viewer will think longer & deeper about the meaning of the film’s message.
We envision a world where coexistence between people & wolves is the “norm”.