People & Wolves: A Wisconsin Stroy Mired in Political Intrigue
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 people involved, between several opposing forces for over a decade, culminating in court battles. The film features Adrian Wydeven, Marvin DeFoe, Peter David, Michael Waasagiizhig Price, Patrick Durkin, and Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace, including interviews with farmers, hunters, WDNR staff, and Ojibwe tribal members.
Rachel and Manish both spoke about the filmmaking process, the impact these issues have had on them personally, and what they are looking to achieve with the films message. Listen on Spotify
Meet the People
Adrian Wydeven grew up in northeast Wisconsin and had 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). And is a scientific advisor for the film. His master’s research was on elk ecology and food habitat in the Wind Cave National Park, SD. He worked as a wildlife manager in Missouri and Wisconsin from 1980-1990. Adrian headed up Wisconsin’s state gray wolf recovery and conservation program from 1990 through 2013 while 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 actively participating in wolf surveys and conservation through the Timber Wolf Alliance and Wisconsin Green Fire.
The timing of the February wolf hunt was a concern to many of us because it was done at a time when wolves are breeding. And we felt that that was not an appropriate time to hold an intense harvest of the wolf population. Adrian Wydeven
The film is about people and wolves.
Adrian is not only a wildlife biologist, wolf biologist, to be exact; he understands the politics that drive wolf recovery.
While filming a wolf education workshop this past summer- Adrian took us on a wolf howl survey; three wolves howled far away, then one howled close; Adrian said this was probably an alpha; they had very distinctive howls and seemed to have personality as if they were howling to us,
Later over cocktails, I asked Adrian if he had a favorite wolf pack, and he said yes, it was the wolves we had just heard. He told me the story wolf; they had collared the wolf from that pack with broken teeth, and he thought at the time, well, let’s see how long they live; nine years later, they found the wolf dead, and the necropsy showed the wolf had been shot several times throughout their life. To me, that story showed how wolves support individuals within the pack.
Manish Bhatt and I tagged along with his wife, Sarah Boles, tracking gray wolves in February.
Meet Marvin DeFoe. Marvin is very passionate about protecting his brother. He believes you don’t harm your brother; you build a relationship with them.
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. He is named Shingway Banase in Anishinaabe and is passionate about maintaining and revitalizing the Ojibwe language. Marvin is the past Vice Chair of the tribal council and has been the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for four years.
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
Meet Peter David
After we finished filming outside on his cabin’s deck, Peter opened up a small bag of bird seed, holding out some in his hand for the chickadees, and they began to feed right out of his hand! So I tried, and it was a tactile experience feeling their little claws on my hand as they grabbed a seed!
Peter David is a retired wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, where he assists GLIFWC’s member tribes in the implementation of their off-reservation, treaty-reserved rights. He received his education (bachelor’s and master’s 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 been able to steward resources as varied as wild rice and wolves.
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
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN 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.
Michael Waasegiizhig Price is the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Specialist at the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission in Odanah, WI. And is a producer/cultural advisor in the film. He is Anishinaabe and an enrolled member of Wikwemikong First Nations, Canada. His role as TEK Specialist involves integrating Anishinaabe language, cultural perspectives, and ceremony into research methods and resource management to make science more culturally relevant. Michael received his Master of Science in Forestry from the University of Montana and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. He also received his Certificate of Ojibwe Language Instruction from Bemidji State University.
The Anishanabbe word, Nitaage, has two meanings; to kill something for food and Mourn the death of a loved one. Michael Waasegiizhig Price
Patrick Durkin of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is an award-winning outdoor writer, newspaper columnist, and general outdoors reporter. He has been MeatEater’s wildlife research contributor since June 2018 and frequently writes for national archery and hunting magazines. Durkin also provides editing services for books and magazines and served as contributing editor/writer for the Archery Trade Association from September 2001 through January 2021.
“Cole failed more publicly in February 2021 by sitting silent when Kazmierski suggested doubling the number of harvest tags for the state’s hastily run wolf hunt. Even though Kazmierski lacks any scientific training or practical fieldwork, neither Cole nor anyone from the NRB asked him to cite precedents before approving his tag allocation.” Patrick Durkin Outdoors
Larry Fickbohm and Gayle Gonsior
We interviewed Larry Fickbohm and Gayle Gonsior, livestock farmers in Wisconsin’s wolf country. They are semi-retired now, but they had 300 sheep and used livestock guard dogs, Maremmas, to protect the farm. They believe farming in wolf country requires you to save the lives of wolves and livestock.
Watch the short teaser.