Film project examines how people & wolves are learning to coexist.

Photo credit Voyageurs Wolf Project.

Why use the title “People & Wolves”? I believe people have been connected with this iconic canine since the beginning of time; either with the wild wolf or through domesticating him/her to become our best friend. There has always been a connection between us two species. I want the viewer to see how people have worked to recover wolves in Wisconsin. I have always been a let’s get it done kinda person, focused on solving the problem, and showing the public through this film that people and wolves can find a way to coexist.  My interest has always been in wolf recovery now that species are back in the Wisconsin landscape.  I’ve spent over two decades learning about wolf recovery in Wisconsin. When I began tracking in the year 2000, there was a total of 66 wolf packs compared to 234 packs today.  I’ve witnessed wolf recovery firsthand as a participant in the program as a citizen scientist volunteer.  I learned that they are very elusive and go out of their way to avoid any contact with us humans.  I was fortunate enough to learn about a wolf pack that I helped monitor.  Through observation learned how family-oriented they are just like us, or like our best friend the dog.  I’ve learned a great deal from working with biologists like Adrian Wydeven and Peter David about wolves’ ecology and from Marvin DeFoe, an Ojibwe tribal elder, about what wolves mean to them.   Rachel Tilseth, Director ™



The film just finished its first shoot in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.  Lake Namekogon was the location. Our first shoot was at Northland College, Timber Wolf Alliance’s Wolf Ecology and Conservation  Certification weekend in August.

Voices of experience
On our first shoot that evening we went out with Adrian Wydeven on a wolf howling survey. It was successful because an adult wolf responded along with his pack mates and his/her howl had a lot of character to it. This added to the fact that our guide has several decades of experience dealing with wild wolves in Wisconsin.  I took the following video clip with my iPhone 11 Plus of the beautiful scenery surrounding the workshop on Lake Namekagon.

Film Project: People & Wolves ™

“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. ™

With an appearance by Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace.

Featuring Adrian Wydeven, Marvin Defoe, and Peter David

Featured Image Credit special thanks for allowing the use of their wolf footage in the film.

People & Wolves film project’s Fiscal Sponsor is Film North Look for the film’s page under fiscal sponsorship projects” where you will be able to click the “donate button” and make a tax-deductible donation to the film.  Thank you for your support!  Click Donate here!

A Wolves of Douglas Co WI Film co, LLC, Co-producers Manish Bhatt, and Rachel Tilseth. Director is Rachel Tilseth.  The film Project is actively fundraising.

People & Wolves Teaser directed by Rachel Tilseth

Sponsorship opportunities are available to learn more click here.

People & Wolves: A Wisconsin

“Wolves Mired in Political Controversy”

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 delist 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. ™

The film has several teasers available and is Directed by Rachel Tilseth.

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

Adrian Wydeven

Adrian Wydeven grew up in northeast Wisconsin and has a BS in biology and wildlife management from the 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

Marvin DeFoe is a contributing author of the Ma’iingan Relationship Plan and a 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 passionate about the 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.

“Wolves are considered sacred by the Ojibwe, who see them as their “brothers,” according to Marvin Defoe, an elder of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. “The legends and stories tell us as brothers we walk hand in hand together. What happens to the Ma’iingan [wolves] happens to humanity.”

Peter David retired biologist for The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission.

Peter David is a retired wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, where he assisted GLIFWC’s member tribes in the implementation of their off-reservation, treaty-reserved rights. He received his education (bachelor’s and masters in Wildlife Ecology) from UW-Madison, and from the tribal elders and members for whom he has worked for the last 35 years. At the Commission, he has had the opportunity to steward resources as varied as wild rice and wolves.

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE

An appearance by Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace.

Along with Patricia McConnell, PhD

Tonya Eldred, a biologist with Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission

Sandy Gogee

Robert Mann

Scott Pita

and more…

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Meet the Filmmakers

Rachel Tilseth Producer & Director

Rachel Tilseth

Rachel Tilseth the Producer & Director of the film project is a retired art educator, freelance writer, and filmmaker. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education, 1992, from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors. Rachel brings her knowledge of principles of design to her work as a documentary film director. In 2000 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. As the producer of the film, Rachel brings her knowledge of Wisconsin’s wolves & politics surrounding them.

The film will address how people are learning to coexist as these native predators.

Manish Bhatt Producer

Manish Bhatt

Manish Bhatt is a conservationist, writer, lawyer, and education leader. He holds a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from George Washington University, a Juris Doctor magna cum laude from St. Thomas University School of Law, and an 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.

To make a donation to the film Click Here!


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