The idea that only man is equipped for conserving our planet’s natural resources is a dying concept; dying right along with the untold numbers of wild sentient beings killed in the name of conservation. Such problems drive home a critical flaw in the paradigm of conserving wildlife. In the state of Wisconsin alone coyotes are hunted year round because they’re considered vermin that need to be exterminated. It’s about time we work towards changing the paradigm of killing to conserve. It’s going to take a major shift in thinking that will require opening up lines of communication between the general public; specifically with interests in conserving our natural resources for future generations to come. It’s not about numbers. It’s about sentient beings sharing our planet, and how we can coexist for the benefit of all living upon Mother Earth. That’s why Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin has joined The National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests. ~Rachel Tilseth

No need for alarm after dog/wolf encounter in Cable area, says expert…

One of the top wolf experts in the state of Wisconsin, retired Wisconsin of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist Adrian Wydeven, lives near Sessions. Wydeven is retired now, but still chairs the Timber Wolf Alliance advisory council.“Wydeven said because Session lives on the edge of a development with mostly woods to the north of him, and because Sessions feeds deer, these two factors would more likely attract a wolf to come closer to a home”...Wydeven believes a single wolf attacked Jameson, and the wolf was responding the way dogs themselves often do when meeting another strange dog — they fight.”

“Part of it is just two stray dogs running into each other and it ending up in fight,” Wydeven said. 

It’s possible the wolf’s intention was to kill Jameson for food, but Wydeven said it’s more probable it was just an accidental encounter.

Read the full article Read the full article from the Sawyer County Record

We’ve all heard of wolves attacking hunting dogs deep in the woods, but we are less likely to hear about a wolf attacking a dog near a home. The latter is raising some concern in the Namakagon area. 

Joe Sessions, who lives on the north side of Gardner Lake east of Cable in the Town of Namakagon, left for work at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10. His mother, who lives a mile away, came down to feed Sessions’ 70-pound German wirehaired pointer, Jameson, and to let him out for his evening stroll to “do his business.” But then at approximately 5:45 p.m. something very unusual happened.

“My mother was in the house and heard dogs fighting, squealing and she ran to the dogs and saw my dog coming up the driveway limping, and then she saw there was blood, but she didn’t know what happened,” Sessions said.

When he got home from work, Sessions immediately understood the problem.

“I could see the puncture wounds and scratch marks and everything else,” he said.

The next day Sessions took Jameson to the veterinarian.

“She said it was a very, very large canine (that attacked Jameson) and guaranteed it was a wolf. She said a dog can’t do what this did,” Sessions said.

Jameson was stitched up and drain tubes were put in. Stiches came loose and it was back to the vet.

One of the top wolf experts in the state of Wisconsin, retired Wisconsin of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist Adrian Wydeven, lives near Sessions. Wydeven is retired now, but still chairs the Timber Wolf Alliance advisory council.

Wydeven took an interest in the attack because a lone dog attacked by A wolf at home is rare. He went to Sessions’ home and investigated, and later a wildlife biologist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Wildlife Services also investigated, talking with Sessions and surveying the area for animal tracks.

“The guy from Fish and Game (USDA) found six-inch tracks, and he examined the dog and talked with the vet and agreed it was a wolf attack,” Sessions said.

Wydeven said because Session lives on the edge of a development with mostly woods to the north of him, and because Sessions feeds deer, these two factors would more likely attract a wolf to come closer to a home.

However, Sessions said all his neighbors feed deer and even though he’s seen wolf tracks and wolves while deer hunting, no wolf has ever come close to any of the homes until Jan. 10.

Wydeven believes a single wolf attacked Jameson, and the wolf was responding the way dogs themselves often do when meeting another strange dog — they fight.

“Part of it is just two stray dogs running into each other and it ending up in fight,” Wydeven said. 

It’s possible the wolf’s intention was to kill Jameson for food, but Wydeven said it’s more probable it was just an accidental encounter.

“Sometimes a wolf will go after a dog for food, but in this case it was probably a single wolf that left its home territory and was looking for a new territory to join,” he said.

Most wolves attack dogs from July through September while hounds are either training or used in hunting bears. The attack happens when dogs come across a wolf pack that might also have a den of pups. The wolves respond to defend their territory and pups. 

Wydeven said once a wolf pack attacks bear dogs they appear to develop a “learned behavior” and are more likely to attack again.

But a wolf attacking a dog near a home or on a leash is extremely rare. In the state of Wisconsin last year one pet dog was killed and one was injured by a wolf, but many more hunting dogs were either killed (15 to 20) or injured (10 to 15).

“I’m not aware of any dog on a leash being attacked by wolves in Wisconsin,” Wydeven said. “Coyotes have attacked dogs on a leash. Where dogs will get attacked is if they are allowed to roam a little bit and they get a little distant from the hunter or a person and the dogs don’t see them and they stumble on a wolf, and the wolf considers it trespassing on its territory.”

If there is a wolf attack, Wydeven said the owner should call the USDA-Wildlife Service at (800) 228-1368. 

“An agent will come to your home to examine your dog and the site of the encounter to verify if it was a wolf attack or other animal,” he said. “If the attack was caused by a wolf, the DNR provides reimbursement for any vet fees and a replacement payment if the dog dies. Also the wildlife specialist may make recommendations on ways to reduce future attacks, and under some circumstances may decide to try to capture and remove the wolf.”

Sessions said he doesn’t want a wolf too close to his home, but since the Jan. 10 incident no wolves have been seen and he believes Jameson is safe.

“There are still tracks and I see the tracks in the woods, so I know they are still around,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. It was an unfortunate incident and I don’t hold anything against the wolf. That’s what they do.”

Because gray wolves are still listed as an endangered species, there is no authority to shoot a wolf other than to protect a human, and Wydeven said attempts to shoot a wolf often end up in mistakenly shooting a dog.

“We do not need to be fearful of wolves because of this recent encounter,” Wydeven said. “Continue to enjoy your walks with your dog. Just make sure you have your dog adequately under control. Being a little more vigilant is not a bad thing, but there is no reason to be fearful. Wolves have been with us for many decades and there is no reason to believe that they are posing any greater risk. The vehicles going down the road are still the biggest risk for your dog.”

Session reminds his neighbors with pets that they live in an area that also includes large predators.

“I just told my neighbor be careful when you let your dogs out at night,” he said. “Make sure you can see them. Go out with them. Make some noise when you go outside. And just be careful.” 

Michigan Men Confessed to Killing Gray Wolves…

DNR officials caught the men responsible for two separate Upper Peninsula wolf poaching incidents in a span of 24 hours.

A 58-year-old from Greenland Township and a 67-year-old from Menominee Township, both confessed to the crimes in Ontonagon and Menominee counties, respectively, on Tuesday.

Their names are being withheld pending their arraignments in the respective county district courts. Gray wolves are a protected species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and as such, can only legally be killed in defense of human safety.

“Wolves are examples of important wildlife species that play a critical predator role in the ecosystems of the Upper Peninsula,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, a district law supervisor in Marquette.

“Our conservation officers did some great work in obtaining confessions from these two individuals who killed wolves collared for study purposes by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.”

The investigation began when DNR Wildlife Division personnel received a mortality signal from the collar of an adult female wolf in Ontonagon County.

Sgt. Marc Pomroy and CO Zach Painter went to the site located off Gardner Road in Greenland Township.

“We gathered some information at the scene, and we conducted suspect interviews the following day,” Painter said. “During those discussions, the suspect admitted he shot the animal with a rifle, which we seized as part of the investigation.”

The Menominee County kill came during the firearm deer hunting season when a mortality signal was received from a 1-year-old male wolf on Nov. 19.

“I retrieved the collar later that day from a place along River Road in Lake Township,” said CO Jeremy Sergey. “The collar was intact, covered in blood, but was not attached to a wolf.”

On Tuesday, the man from Menominee Township confessed to killing the wolf, months after the original crime. He was, however, an original suspect developed by the DNR in November, according to a news release.

Illegally killing a wolf is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both, and the cost of prosecution. Source

Featured image information: A gray wolf shot in Ontonagon County Saturday is shown. A Greenland Township man has admitted to shooting the animal with a rifle. (Michigan )

Poaching is and has been one of the biggest causes of Gray wolf mortality in Wisconsin…

There are 955 Gray wolves living throughout Wisconsin’s northern and central forests, minimum Winter count WDNR wolf progress report 2017-2018. The Gray wolf is part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy. Yet, poaching is and has been one of the biggest causes of Gray wolf mortality in Wisconsin according to Dr. Adrian Treves. Listen to his talk with host Patty Peltekos on A Public Affair talk show WORT Radio.

“Predators are a natural part of our environment and they perform an important ecological role,” says Professor Adrian Treves. On today’s episode, Patty talks with Professor Treves, founder of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab, about a number of issues surrounding wildlife predators. They discuss predator population management and the high rates of poaching in the United States, the ineffectiveness and dubious legality of wildlife killing contests, regulatory mechanisms for keeping the wolf off the endangered species list, and what can be done to improve human and wild carnivore interactions.

“The assumption that legal killing would decrease illegal killing has often been portrayed as an effective way to manage recovering large carnivore populations and, despite no prior scientific evaluation, has been promoted by some conservation authorities [46]. For example, the World Conservation Union—IUCN claims through its manifesto for large carnivore conservation in Europe that ‘legalised hunting of large carnivores can be a useful tool in decreasing illegal killing’ [47]. In light of our results, we find this recommendation has no support. Indeed, liberalizing killing appears to be a conservation strategy that may achieve the opposite outcome than that intended.Source

Featured image is of of Wisconsin Gray wolf from Wisconsin Snapshot

#OneEarth, How a Desperate Extractive Industry Infiltrated the Water Protectors…

Everything comes down to protecting Mother Earth. We just don’t have anywhere else to live, this is our last chance, we have one planet, one Mother Earth, and she is sacred. In 2016 we heard the war cry “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life) coming from the center of Sacred Stone Camp part of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. In April 2016 Water Protectors gathered together in solidarity at Sacred Stone Camp and native peoples from all over the world joined them. They gathered to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from coming through their land. What they didn’t realize at the time was that there was an infiltrator amongst them.

I first heard about this infiltrator from an article in The Intercept. It’s now known who this infiltrator is and the name of the company that hired them. It’s apparent that the oil industry is not going to go down peacefully. I believe these extractive industries are even behind the push to delist the Gray wolf because they want easy access to wolf habitat. The Endangered Species Act not only protects the endangered species but also protects the habitat they depend on to survive. Extractive industries want this habitat! I think the fight to protect our water from greedy extractive industries encompasses much more; it’s wolves, it’s water & it’s everywhere, and our sacred mother is crying for us to save her life. #OneEarth #OneMother

In 2016 we heard the war cry “Mni Wiconi” (Water is Life) coming from the center of Sacred Stone Camp part of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Read the following The Infiltrator by December 30 2018, 8:00 a.m

A former Marine working for the private security firm TigerSwan infiltrated an array of anti-Dakota Access pipeline groups at Standing Rock and beyond.

JESSE HORNE STILL struggles to talk about the day he was kicked out of the anti-Dakota Access pipeline movement. It had been an intense week. Searching for direction and ideological fulfillment ever since Iowa’s stand against the pipeline wound down, the 20-year-old had reconnected with some of the state’s more radical pipeline opponents, and the group was now taking on drone warfare. After a protest outside a drone base in Des Moines in which Horne and several others were arrested, two of his fellow activists, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, sat him down and told him to stay away.

“They were asking me if I was an infiltrator,” Horne told The Intercept. “My response was absolutely not.”

There was a lot Horne says he didn’t know at the time — for one, that Reznicek and Montoya had recently been involved in a series of acts of pipeline sabotage. Between March and May 2017, above-ground valves along the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa and South Dakota were pierced with welding torches, creating new costs for the pipeline company, Energy Transfer, and sending its security personnel into a frenzy. A few weeks after their conversation with Horne, the two women would claim responsibility for the sabotage.

Another thing Horne says he didn’t know: that someone he considered a “brother in the cause” was indeed an infiltrator. For months, a man calling himself Joel Edwards had posed as a pipeline opponent, attending protests, befriending water protectors, and paying for hotel rooms, supplies, and booze. He told some people he had a job with a hotel that allowed him to travel, others that he was a freelance journalist reporting on the pipeline resistance. But five former contractors for TigerSwan, the secretive security firm hired by Energy Transfer to guard the pipeline, confirmed to The Intercept that Joel was an undercover intelligence operative. His real name was Joel Edward McCollough, and he had been sent to collect information on the protesters, explicitly targeting those who were down on their luck. Horne, who struggled with addiction, appeared to be a perfect target.

McCollough passed along what he learned to his superiors at TigerSwan, who attempted to use the information to thwart protest activity and identify people or plots that represented threats to the pipeline. Traces of his surveillance turned up in TigerSwan’s daily situation reports, which were written for Energy Transfer and at times passed to law enforcement. The former TigerSwan contractors interviewed by The Intercept, who declined to be named because it would threaten their continued work in the industry, had either worked with McCollough directly or knew of him through internal communications.

Like other contractors working for TigerSwan, McCollough had developed the skills he deployed in the Dakota Access pipeline fight during the U.S. war in Iraq, where he served as a Marine Corps interrogator and counterintelligence specialist. TigerSwan was founded by James Reese, a former commander of the elite special operations unit Delta Force, and the company got its start as part of a boom of mercenary security firms in the early years of the war on terror. McCollough was participating in something akin to a massive experiment in U.S. military-trained operatives applying lessons learned fighting insurgencies abroad to thousands of pipeline opponents engaged in protest against a Fortune 500 energy giant at home.

Behind the operation was Energy Transfer, whose pipeline empire has been key to propelling the U.S. oil and gas boom at a moment when the devastating impacts of climate change demand a rapid halt in fossil fuel production. Were the environmental movement able to convince policymakers to take climate science seriously, Energy Transfer would be out of business.

Instead, the business of building oil and gas pipelines is booming. Construction projects approved across at least two dozen states continue to face fierce resistance — including Energy Transfer-owned projects in Louisiana and Pennsylvania — ensuring that the pipeline security business will keep booming too. Although TigerSwan has failed to win many of the new contracts it once aspired to, few clear incentives exist to deter others from reproducing the mercenary firm’s tactics.

Through interviews with more than a dozen water protectors who were approached or befriended by Joel, The Intercept has tracked the TigerSwan operative’s path from Iowa to North Dakota to Illinois as he attempted to infiltrate an array of DAPL-opposed organizations, including Bold Iowa, Mississippi Stand, and Food and Water Watch, between September 2016 and April 2017. McCollough declined to comment for this story. Neither TigerSwan nor Energy Transfer responded to multiple requests for comment. Click here to continue reading the full article from The Intercept.

Photograph credit Jim Brandenburg

Call to Action Wisconsinites: Read this Story, Send it to Your Legislators in Madison.

Hounding has got to go! The coyote hunter in the video is never prosecuted. Warning the following video contains violence against a helpless wild sentient-being. Watch the video, then read the story behind it. I’ve been trying to get justice for this coyote since I first found the video in 2014. I turned it in and a Wisconsin DNR Conservation Warden, Nick Miofsky, investigated the hunter in the video and deemed it a case for animal cruelty. The warden turned it over to the Florence county DA. But the District Attorney deemed it to old to prosecute. Even George Myer thinks the actions seen in this video are wrong and illegal. Read the rest of the story because someone sure doesn’t want this video to be seen by the public because it’s a clear case of animal cruelty. Hounding must go! Let’s get JUSTICE for the coyote in the video! Please send this blog to your legislators in Madison, the new WDNR Secretary and the new Governor. Directions are at the bottom of the story.

In the video what you are seeing is a clear act of animal cruelty in progress. Yet the hunter in the video is never prosecuted.

Read the full story.

Will there ever be justice for the coyote being tortured by a hunter’s dogs in the video? I’ve been asking that question for several years now. When I found the horrific video in 2014 that a hunter posted to a hound hunting page I immediately downloaded it. I was hoping to seek justice for the coyote. I sent the video over to a group I was working with at the time in 2014, and they told me they would help me investigate the hounder in the video. I kept asking them if they found anything out about the hounder in the video, but they never got back to me. I gave up trying to get help from this group. After over six months or so of no response from this group, I turned the video and the name of the hunter, Francis Metz, over to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden, Cara Kemke, in June of 2015. (See the screenshots of the emails).

The following screenshot is the response from Warden Kamke. She gave the case to Conservation Warden Nick Miofsky and he contacted me. I gave him all the details of where it was posted and the name of the coyote hunter in the video.

The warden, Nick Miofsky, did an investigation into the video and the hunter Francis Metz. Then, the warden turned the video and the evidence they collected over to the Florence County District Attorney on animal cruelty charges. Finally, I had hope that there would finally be justice for the coyote. How Ironic that in the end the district attorney of Florence county deemed the video as to old to prosecute.

I’ve had this video for four years now, and there’s been no justice for this coyote. Yet, so many people want to keep the horrible truth from being seen. Even George Myer thinks the actions seen in this video are wrong and illegal. But he too did nothing about the animal cruelty being committed by the coyote hunter.

Next, on March 15, 2016 Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin received a message in the inbox from George Meyer Executive Director at Wisconsin Wildlife Federation inquiring about the video on YouTube. The following is the message from George Meyer:

I viewed the Utube film of the dogs attacking the coyotes. While I support coyote hunting, the actions shown on the video are wrong and illegal. Please provide information on whether it took place in Wisconsin and who was involved. If done in Wisconsin I will personally look into it and seek legal redress.

The following is my response to Mr. Meyer’s message:

Thank you for being appalled by the actions in this video as I was. I found the video on a hound hunting Facebook posted by Francis Metz. I turned this over to a warden and it was investigated. Then turned over to the DA in Florence County for animal cruelty. But the DA did not pursue it. It was disappointing. But I haven’t given up and was getting ready to do a FOIA to get all the details. This is my email Address Email me and I will forward you the emails. I look forward to receiving your email, Best, Rachel Tilseth

The following is Mr. Meyers response:

Will contact you tomorrow.

I never received an email back from George Meyer. In fact I never heard from him again. Disappointing to say the least.

That’s not the end of the story. In fact it’s just the beginning. I had the video on Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s You Tube Channel for a number of years, that is until March 15, 2017. It was taken down by YouTube deeming that it violates community standards. And a strike was assigned against my account.

My question is why was the video deemed, “violates YouTube’s community standards” then removed on March 15, 2017? Apparently all a person has to do to get a video removed is complain by clicking on the Flag Icon appearing on the far right under the video.

How to Remove Videos From YouTube That Someone Else Uploaded (source)

Wave the Flag

Under each video on YouTube is a toolbar with buttons that perform different actions, with a Flag icon appearing on the far right. This is the flagging tool which allows you to report a video to YouTube staff for review. Click the button and provide details as to why the video should be removed. If the video violates YouTube’s Community Guidelines it will be removed; but if there is no violation, the video will not be removed no matter how often it is flagged.

The video was removed and a strike was placed against Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s YouTube channel. Dare I even suggest a campaign by coyote hunters was responsible for removing the video?

Someone, or several “someone’s” wanted this video off my You Tube channel. Perhaps the proof is in the video, that clearly shows the coyote is being tortured by the hunter’s dogs. Why are they trying to cover up this animal cruelty? I want justice for the coyote in the video. The coyote hunter in the video was never prosecuted. Let’s not let the barbarous act committed against the coyote go unchallenged!

Please help me find justice for the the coyote…

The coyote was once a living breathing member of a community, and living in the wild in northern Wisconsin. Please take action copy and paste the link of this blog and send it to your Wisconsin State legislators, the head of the Wisconsin DNR executive team.

There’s a new Governor Tony Evers too!

Contact your local municipality, county boards and state assembly & senate and ask for a ban on wildlife killing contests! #GetInvolved

Contact Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers Click here 

Contact Wisconsin State Assembly click here 

Contact Wisconsin State Senate click here 

Say shame on this hunter who pushed his dogs to attack a coyote in the video! We want justice for the coyote! Hounding Wildlife has got to go! Animal cruelty is against the Law.

Featured image credit Sean Crane Photograply

And thank you for sharing this blog!

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Coyotes are hunted year round in Wisconsin, and coyote hunters are allowed to use dogs to track and trail coyote. But it’s illegal to allow your dogs to engage and attack the coyote. Dogs are often used in coyote hunting contests as well.


Special thanks to Wisconsin Conservation Officers Kara Kempke and Nick Miofsky for following up and investigating these animal cruelty acts seen in the video. These wardens did their jobs. Unfortunately the District Attorney in Florence County did not! On January 7th 2019 the New Governor Tony Evers will take Office. He has appointed a new Department of Natural Secretary.

Copy and paste this blog in your message to the new Wisconsin Governor.

The 2018 Wolf Festival in Italy was an event I didn’t want to miss…

Between Turin and Castelluccio di Porretta Terme there are about 400 kilometers. A pleasant journey through the hills of Asti, which then turn into those of Piacenza, and then enter the rich and dark earth territory of Bologna. As we drove the car we were singing all the way accompanied by the windshield wipers: Mirco, my companion, drives and I let myself be brought along, and looking lazily out of the window.

Manservisi Castle Doorway

We arrived in the afternoon, when the light of a rainy day is fading. We meet with our friends from Milano and together we walk the few meters of paved path that leads to the entrance of the Castle of Manservisi and … voilà, immediately we are immersed in a warm, festive and welcoming atmosphere.

Manservisi Castle

Just in time to greet the “hosts” Maria and Antonio, complete the reception procedure and become familiar with the meanders of the Castle in order to be able to find the way to our room, and we are immediately attracted by the voices and lights of the conference room, where the presentation of the festival is about to officially begin. There are hundreds of photos of wild wolves exposed in the exhibition and, sitting in the parterre, it seems to be really in the middle of a pack. When the magical notes of the musician Oreste Filippi spread, they enchant me and, listening to them with my eyes closed, I have the feeling of being in peace with the world, in the middle of my life and exactly where I should be.

In the photograph Antonio Iannibelli (holding the microphone) and Maria Perrone.

As I looked around in the other rooms, then, I was surprised by all the smiles of the people I met. They are all guests of the Festival, like the biologist and writer Alice Cipriani and the painter Marina Fusari. I lost myself among all the books on display, I admire the watercolors and the images, I absorb every color or word concerning the wolves.

During a good and convivial dinner we meet other participants of the festival who share the table with us: many have come from every corner of Italy to learn, deepen their knowledge, and get more information about this fascinating, resilient and elusive animal. I think I’m like a little girl on a school trip.

During the evening after dinner, despite the bad weather, we try to come out in a group for a simulation of wolf howling: a very suggestive experience, immersed in the darkness of the forest to listen in silence to its noises. Unfortunately, as we had anticipated because of the bad weather, the wolves do not respond. We seemed to be the only creatures out in the bad weather.

Sleeping in the dorm rooms with our friends increased the feeling of being back in our youth and we found ourselves laughing at silly things in the dark cabin just before before falling asleep.

…Coming to the Festival of the Wolf is useful for me, therefore, to know other Italian realities, to establish parallels and differences…

On Saturday, for most of the day, I found myself saturated with news, updates, useful or curious information, thanks to the interesting interventions of the various figures of specialists that arrived from different areas of Italy. The specialists alternated on stage in the conference room, and with friendly simple language, that made us spend many hours without a moment of boredom or fatigue.

Photo: The panelists Fabio Quinto, Gabriella Rizzardini, Francesca Ciuti, Erika Ottone speaking

My passion and my sense of justice, that leads me to defend every creature in a position of disadvantage, have led me over the years to know quite well the situation in the Alps, especially in my Val di Susa, in Piedmont, where wolves returned only in the 90s, cautious and almost invisible. This is in fact a valley close to Turin, with a high anthropic density and a geological conformation not very welcoming, since the highest mountains, which would provide an ideal refuge far from the men, have steep and rocky walls,. While the valley bottom is narrow, crossed by roads, highways and railways. It’s a difficult environment for the settlement of wolves, yet these, once again demonstrating patience and determination, have managed to settle and form some permanent packs. Coming to the Festival of the Wolf is useful for me, therefore, to know other Italian realities, to establish parallels and differences.

Lastly, my intention is also to interview some women, protagonists of the Festival, to know the deep motivations that have persuaded them to take care of wolves, in their different fields. At the end of all the interventions I approach a couple of them to ask some questions.

I’ve always been a lover of nature, wildlife and in particular of the wolf that for me is the emblem of freedom. ~Erika Ottone

The first one is Erika Ottone – Veterinary surgeon with experience in rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of wild animals, wildlife monitoring and environmental education. From 2017 she works for the Pollino National Park Authority in Basilicata, dealing with monitoring and assessment of livestock predations by wildlife in the context of the project “Living with the wolf, knowing and preserving”

Erika says: “I’ve always been a lover of nature, wildlife and in particular of the wolf that for me is the emblem of freedom. I have been lucky to have a lot of experience in environmental education, so I realized that conservation cannot be separated from education. All conservation projects are not worth much if they are not accompanied by a sensitization activity. Currently I work as a veterinarian, certifying the predations on domestic animals by wild animals and so I have the opportunity to talk with breeders and educate them, to provide them with correct and current information and to make sure that they leave their old beliefs and that wrong cultural heritage that leads them to hate wolves. We try to intervene also to improve their life that is often economically precarious.”

Question: “So I understand that in the Parco del Pollino the biggest problem is the difficult coexistence of wolves and shepherds. But are there phenomena of poaching and illegal hunting?”

Erika: “Unfortunately, poaching is there but it is a little known problem, because there is silence and fear to denounce. For this reason, going to the farms in that area, I can talk with people who work and are always present and, as they live in the mountain, they know what happens: I explain to them that killing a wolf is useless, because one died, another comes, instead they must understand that we are there to improve the lives of everyone: breeders and wild animals.”

Question: “According to the Native Americans, the wolf is sacred, it is to protect and care for and represents the medicine of the world. Can we say that the wolf is the medicine for Italy? How could it be? ”

Photo: Erika Ottone

Erika: “In Italy, the wolf is the guardian of our mountains. Thanks to its natural role at the top of the food chain, it controls numerically wild animals and makes selection also on domestic ones. He is the guardian of an ancestral culture and in my opinion he is also a hidden friend of the breeders, because for centuries they have lived together on the same lands, they are roommates who basically take care of them even if in a different way. Now the situation is difficult because there is a struggle between them and that is why we have to spread a new vision of the role of the wolf, in order to let it continue to be the guardian of our mountains. ”

Therefore, according to the words of Erika, in Italy we could change the phrase “Medicine of the wolf” into “Education of the wolf”.

From Erika’s stories I understand that this slim, discreet figure of a small, great woman with expressive eyes, has made a difference. She did not get lost along the rough paths, overwhelmed by strong breeders, who are accustomed to dealing with veterinarians belonging to the so-called strong sex. Instead she has persevered thanks to her expertise and sensitivity. I deduced that she has succeeded, because of her grace, to perform the miracle of popularizing the science, the knowledge of the wolf and to educate the local populations of farmers to a more peaceful coexistence with the “mountain keepers”.

The other interesting protagonist of my interviews is Maria Perrone, a naturalist photographer, web content manager and an excellent organizer of the event. Her companion, who shares with her his life and passions, is the writer and naturalist photographer Antonio Iannibelli. He has loved wolves since his grandfather used to guide him through the paths of their kingdom, in the Pollino National Park. Together Antonio and Maria founded the association “Provediemozioni” and together they organize many initiatives related to the wolf: she mainly takes care of the contents of the blogs and the communication and organization of events such as the Festa del Lupo, which lasts three days, takes place every two years and which is now at its sixth edition with ever-increasing success. First of all, I congratulate Maria for her punctual and precise direction, thanks to which these days are unfolding perfectly: I can only imagine the great commitment and the effort behind it, so that everything runs smoothly. To my question about why a woman like her, with a work so far from the natural environment has approached the wolves, her answer is disarming and sincere: for love. It is love that leads a woman to devote herself entirely to a passion, and in this case it is love for her husband, who introduced her and guided her through the woods during her first steps in search for wolves to photograph. She has passion, the passion that drives a woman to love and therefore to defend. Here are her words.

I can tell that only after two years of useless hikes made at 4 am, often with a temperature of -17 degrees Celsius, I could see my first wolf. ~Maria Perrone

Maria: “Why wolves? Because I met Antonio who infected me with his love for the wild nature and for the wolves. I am a very passionate woman and if I am interested in something, I like to understand it deeply. So, beyond what he told me, I started looking for and finding contradictory information about this animal: who defends it and who wants to kill it. Then my instinct for the defense of the weakest came out. The Festa del Lupo was born from this idea of reading, talking and telling about one’s own experiences. For example, I can tell that only after two years of useless hikes made at 4 am, often with a temperature of -17 degrees Celsius, I could see my first wolf. I wrote an article about my first sighting, because it seems that before me, I mean in 2008, no woman had ever photographed a wild wolf in Italy. In fact, the first time I saw them I was so excited that I did not want to detach myself from the binoculars to take the camera, with the risk of losing sight of them. I think the wolves wanted to test me, because after that time, I started to spot them and take pictures of them much more often. Thus, the Wolf Festival is also an opportunity to share scientific knowledge and experiences in the field. For me, then, that I have an organizational and precise mind, that I put to good use for my work but in a completely different field, it was immediately congenial to create this event. I must say that this edition had much better results than ever because we changed the format to make the interventions of the experts more appealing. We had a really interested and motivated audience, who has reached this place on the mountain on purpose, heading out on a long journey with rain and fog, doing many kilometers, (as you have done for example), to hear about wolves.

Question: “I ask you the question I always ask everyone: the wolf is sacred to the Native Americans and is considered a medicine that cares. What does it represent for Italy? ”

Maria: “In general, those approaching the wolf approach the wilderness and this leads to living with less fear and greater openness. With Antonio I started going out into the woods at night and hearing disturbing noises. But he, who was really a great teacher to me, says that you are afraid of things that you do not know, so if you can identify and name the noises you hear, you do not fear them anymore. For example, in addition to the wolf, he taught me not to fear other wild animals, even the viper. So loving the wolf means learning not to be afraid and, ultimately, not to fear diversity and change. Finally, to your question about why a woman is passionate about wolves, I answer because women identify with wolves because they are mothers, they defend their children, they are resilient; in fact, I have met some men who fear him, but I never met a woman or a child who told me they were afraid of it. We live in a world where people live with more and more fears and phobias, so I think the wolf can take care of our sick world “.

Photo: Maria Perrone

After thanking Maria, I consider that we women are close by nature to the meaning of life, to what reflects the concept of existence with so much force as that which nature expresses every day in all its manifestations. The cycle of life, death and life is respected in an almost sacred way by wolves, and also by healthy and balanced women; as Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes in her famous book “Women who run with wolves” and we, though immersed in a life seemingly far from these ancestral rhythms, we are irresistibly attracted to it. When I look at the mountains, I hear the call.

…It is not a single wolf to howl, but a whole pack: we can also hear the voices of the puppies (about five months old), who try to imitate the big ones with more acute howls, ending almost with yips…

As the day comes to a close we all relax and enjoy an excellent dinner. In the end, before gathering around the big fireplace, where the roasted chestnuts are crackling happily, waiting for Oreste to play his fascinating music again for us, we decide that it is time to go out for a walk to have a coffee at the bar of the village. The pungent cold of the clouds welcomes us outside the door, luckily the rain stopped, the fog is thinning and some lights can be glimpsed down into the valley. While we chatter noisily, our ears perceive an ancestral yet familiar sound, something that makes us dumb while we look at each other in disbelief: a few kilometers far from us, in the darkness of the forest that lies next to the village, there is a concert going on. It is not a single wolf to howl, but a whole pack: we can also hear the voices of the puppies (about five months old), who try to imitate the big ones with more acute howls, ending almost with yips. The whole thing lasts a few seconds, at the end the concert closes with the dark voice of an adult, leaving behind only the barking of the dogs of all the surrounding houses. We are astonished: as if, after talking about them all day, they decided to give us this exciting and unexpected gift. It will be difficult to fall asleep, after such an exciting experience, but we must try to sleep: the weather forecast bodes well for tomorrow’s excursion and the alarm clock is already on.

Gianluca Maini

When we open our eyes it is still dark and we don’t understand what’s the weather like, but we prepare ourselves with all the enthusiasm and charge that the event of last night gave us. The appointment is outside the Castle, with Gianluca Maini, biologist and naturalist and our passionate guide on the traces of the wolf in the Corno alle Scale Natural Park. After having managed to organize a small procession of cars, we queue and follow him along the asphalt road for a few kilometers, to the point where we leave the cars and we walk: a colorful and heterogeneous group of hikers, all armed with tools to walk and photograph and with the curiosity to climb along the paths of a forest that immediately appears fascinating in its hazy and fairy atmosphere. Gianluca explains to us, with the passion in his eyes, the mysteries of the packs that populate those areas, pointing us also to the secret place where a photo-trap is located, from which he extracts a memory card. He inserts the memory card into the laptop and immediately we all get close to him as curious children when Christmas presents are opened. Unfortunately there are no interesting passages in those last recordings, nevertheless we have learnt thanks to this moment what it means to do research in the field and known the taste of discovery.

Camera Trapping

We continue our trip on thick carpets of wet leaves or under high vaults of intricate branches of fir trees. We cross clearings and discover traces of wolves’ passages, whose diet is explained thanks to the visible remains. It may be the luck of beginners, however I also have the honor to find a fresh dropping!

Gianluca explains to us, with the passion in his eyes, the mysteries of the packs that populate those areas…

The day remains cloudy and the hike is rightly shortened when it is clear that the light drizzle is becoming real rain and that it will not stop soon.

I leave unwillingly that magical place, where I have learned a lot of secrets about its vegetation, its animals and its geological history. I think I would like to be with someone like Gianluca Maini also when I walk into the woods of my mountains: having an expert who explains to you in so a clear way what you can only ask yourself what it is, without ever having an answer, it is a precious opportunity.

Tracking wolves in the park.

Now Sunday is coming to an end and, back to the Castle, we just have the time to thank and greet with affection all the protagonists of this wonderful festival, to load our luggage in the car and take the road back to Turin, with the deep voice of the woods still in our ears.

Photo: Maria Perrone, Brunella Pernigotti and Antonio Iannibelli

I consider that we women are close by nature to the meaning of life, to what reflects the concept of existence with so much force as that which nature expresses every day in all its manifestations. ~Brunella Pernigotti