“People & Wolves” Documentary Film Production

A Wisconsin Story Mired in Political Intrigue


Dr. Jane Goodall, Adrian Wydeven, Marvin Defoe, and Peter David.

Adrian Wydeven headed up the state gray wolf recovery and conservation program for Wisconsin from 1990 through 2013.

The timing of the February wolf hunt was a concern to many of us because it was done at a time that wolves are breeding. And we felt that that was not an appropriate time to hold an intense harvest of the wolf population.  Adrian Wydeven


Peter David is a retired wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, where he assisted GLIFWC’s member tribes in implementing their off-reservation, treaty-reserved rights.

 I think that the hunt exposed a lot of things, the brutality that took place there and the motivation for a lot of people. And I think many people in the hunting community were really offended by that hunt. Peter David

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.

To not hurt and kill the maiingan, Especially when they’re pregnant. Especially when they’re pregnant with little pups in there. And that’s what happened. That’s even more devastating to me personally. Woman are the backbone, that’s our backbone. And they’re the ones who’s gonna keep the communities together as the woman. So when the hunt took place this past year, they were killing, killing female maiingan.  Marvin DeFoe

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & Messenger of Peace.

People tend to treat animals as things that should be managed to suit our human purposes. Wolves are highly intelligent, have a rich emotional life, and have feelings such as fear, anxiety, contentment, frustration, compassion, and so on. Wolves are intensely loyal to pack members and are likely to grieve of the death or disappearance of a close companion. Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & Messenger of Peace. 

The film tells the story of Wisconsin’s gray wolves, the controversies surrounding them, and how people learn to coexist as these native predators are again fulfilling their ecological role after returning to the state about 45 years ago.


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. Still, 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. 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.

A film by Rachel Tilseth

Filmmakers: Rachel Tilseth, 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 from 1992 from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors. 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.  Manish N. Bhatt, Producer – Manish is an environmental lawyer and educator. With a career that has spanned the United States Armed Forces to secondary and higher education, Manish brings expertise in environmental law, policy, and fundraising to support the film. 

Cinematographer Tyler Grape

Tony Urgo, Trailer Editor

A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Film

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: