A Wisconsin Story “Wolves Mired in Political Intrigue” with Dr. Jane Goodall, Adrian Wydeven, Marvin Defoe and Peter David. A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Film, in Association with BC Cinematics. Director Rachel Tilseth, Producer Manish Bhatt and Cinematographer Benjamin Coffey.
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 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 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 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 on the ESA list on February 18, 2022. Though gray wolves have numerically recovered in Wisconsin, the future of wolf management remains in limbo in the state.
To hear those howls a singing away A howl here and a howl over there Come on, it’s lovely weather for a howl with you.
Outside the snow is falling And families are calling “Howl Howl” Come on, it’s lovely weather for a howl with you.
Awoo-yip awoo-yip let’s howl Let’s roll in the snow We’re running in a wonderland of snow.
Awoo-yip awoo-yip it’s grand Just nuzzling your nose Were running along with the sounds Of a wintry forestland.
Our thick fur coats are nice and warm And comfy are we We’re snuggled up together like two wolves With the whole pack.
Let’s take the first path before us And howl a chorus or two Come on, it’s lovely weather for a howl with you.
There’s a Birthday party at our friends Farmer Gray It’ll be the perfect ending of a perfect day We’ll be Howlng the songs we love to howl Without a single stop At the fireplace while we watch the chestnuts pop Pop pop pop.
There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy When they pass around the blueberries and pie It’ll nearly be like a picture print of coexistence From a long time past
These wonderful things are the things We remember from the first time we shared man’s fireplace In ancient times long ago.
Have a Howling Good Holiday Season from All of us at Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin!
This is the question I hear most often from those who know me and are amazed that all of a sudden I am dealing with wolves. In fact, I teach English and my life has been oriented towards other goals after having searched in vain for a way to study and graduate in a subject, Ethology, which in Turin in 1980 still resonated like a whimsy of the” flower children”. But certain things “go around immense and then come back”, so many years have passed, and after Milla died – a crossbreed very similar to a wolf and my guiding spirit for 10 years – from 2013 I started doing anthropological and naturalistic research, to understand better the behavior of these magical creatures who, in the meantime, have come back to the Alps and now populate the woods of my house, in Val di Susa.
Since then, the more I get into the study of wolves, the more I realize that the atavistic bond that binds us is made up of much deeper and inherent elements in both our natures, which are so similar and parallel. Wolves are our alter ego, they are the mirror in which men see themselves and find their roots, for better or for worse. Our society tends to disconnect us from nature and its laws, deluding ourselves that we can control everything on earth, under the sea, in the sky. Human history has only ever taken and consumed the Earth, the wolf now represents an obvious obstacle and is here to tell us: Enough!
The distorted image we have of these creatures is due to many factors, ancient and modern. We have forgotten it, but there are populations still strongly linked to the Earth, who respect and consider its creatures as our teachers. The wolf has taught us not only the techniques of hunting, but also the strategies of encirclement, charge and attack, which men have used in their military actions for centuries. Now the question that prompts me to investigate is: why do we maintain such a difficult and contradictory relationship with this species? Maybe because wolves are predators, considered rather dangerous, but not enough to revere them and elevate them to the rank of the most noble (always according to a human evaluation) felines such as the lion or the tiger?… We tear our clothes off if a hunter kills a lion in distant Africa, but we let the most important remaining predators, those at the top of the perfect natural trophic mechanism of our regions, be hunted, tortured, or poisoned in our home. Why? Do we think that wolves are bad dogs? Why do we have the right to judge them instead of simply accepting them? Would we perhaps like to erase with them that wild part that we know is in ourselves? …
These are open questions. But, I repeat, I am sure of one thing: that we are disconnected, detached from our own roots, so we no longer realize that the world we have created is falling into a chasm full of plastic and pollutants, where the natural habitats no longer exist, not only for the rest of creatures, but also for us. Recreating environments, where free and uncontaminated nature reigns, is a gift that we should give to us and to the future generations. Each creature has its own role in the ecosystem, whether we want it or not. Unfortunately, we have already lost thousands of species that have become extinct through our fault, because we do not want to change our attitude and we believe that we are right, yet we do not realize that we become poorer, (and sicker), every time we cut down a plant, or a forest disappears, or we kill a living creature for no reason. As Jane Goodall says: let’s try to consider wolves, and other animals, as sentient beings, who are capable of feeling joy, pain, fear, love. And I think: like us, they are affectionate and, within their pack, they take care of each other; they too are competitive and territorial, so they defend their borders and can attack and kill if other alien wolves threaten their lands; finally, they have to feed their offspring so, to get food, they use the weapons they are equipped with: fangs, physical strength, but also intelligence and flexibility. The differences with humans do not seem so many to me.
Undoubtedly the presence of the wolf is uncomfortable and in Europe, where the natural territory has now been almost completely modified and domesticated, this problem is particularly felt, but the solution cannot be to erase them from the face of the Earth. Simple common sense should suggest that by doing so, we would create a dangerous void in the ecosystem that could be immediately filled by another species or which could lead to a significant loss of balance in the “natural system”. So we must commit ourselves to change attitudes, trying to dialogue with all the parties involved, putting aside prejudices and entrenched positions. Thinking of being on the side of reason and expecting “others” to change their opinion will lead nowhere. It takes willpower, humility and open-mindedness to meet, look each other into the eyes and talk, bearing in mind that each person counts and can make a difference: who has the courage to change, will change the world. Only an empathic, intelligent and wise approach will help us to find together a solution that leads to the peaceful coexistence of all creatures.
Finally, I love to remember that every wolf is an individual, with its own story, even if often there is no one to tell it. Theirs are stories of heroes without medals, of difficulties and risks, of kilometers traveled, of courage, of death and of hope. Stories of love, of atavistic wisdom, of hiding places, of air and howled stars, magical stories we can read in the depths of their eyes. Let’s make sure that the green flame, the same that Aldo Leopold saw in that gaze, does not go out.
“Living with Carnivores: Boneyards, Bears and Wolves” is a documentary film about living with large carnivores. The story begins a decade ago in western Montana’s Blackfoot River Valley and explores how a rural agricultural community responded to the resurgence of grizzly bears and wolves. The film explores the thoughtful “can do” approach of Montana ranchers who realized that the age old practice of dumping dead livestock onto “boneyards” was destined to spell trouble by attracting grizzly bears and wolves onto ranches resulting in poor outcomes for wildlife and ranchers.
At its core, this film attempts to illustrate that it is possible to transcend ideological divides and to solve serious problems in a polarized world.
Produced by Alpenglow Press Productions and Seth Wilson. Filmed and edited by Jason D.B. Kauffman, Alpenglow Press Productions. Narration by Craig Johnson
The Blackfoot Challenge
In the early 2000’s, ranchers and other partners of the Blackfoot Challenge (a community based conservation effort in Montana’s Blackfoot River watershed) developed a deadstock removal program. “Living with Large Carnivores: Boneyards, Bears and Wolves” is a newly released film that shares the journey of the folks of the Blackfoot Challenge as they work to find solutions for reducing conflict with carnivores on the agricultural landscape. While the film demonstrates the work being done in one area of Montana, it also proposes the idea that by working together, from a grassroots level, we can learn to reduce the risk of living with large carnivores on our farms and ranches. The Blackfoot Challenge has provided a model for carnivore conflict reduction that can successfully be implemented in any part of the world.
With so much depressing news about wolves these last few weeks – from the relentless anti-wolf legislation in Congress, to the dreadful Montana and Wyoming wolf hunts – I so desperately need some positive wolf thoughts running through my head right now. So, I take myself back to the first time I ever saw a wolf in the wild.
Believe it or not, for something that had such an emotional effect on me, I cannot for the life of me remember the exact place or year – I think it might have been in 2004 and possibly near Cache Creek. I was on a week-long backpacking trip in the northern portion of Yellowstone. On my backpacking trips I have always gone with a guide so I can just enjoy being in the moment and soak up the grandeur of all the sights and sounds around me. That being said, my topographic map-reading and triangulation skills are pretty much non-existent.
We had good weather for most of the trip, and our group of about 8 people was a fun one. We saw numerous birds, eagles, elk, coyotes, a cinnamon black bear, and buffalo, but as always, on any backpacking trips I had taken in Yellowstone, no wolves – not even a howl. What I would give to hear or see a wild wolf, but alas, I thought this trip would be like all the others – devoid of wolves.
“The gaze of the wolf reaches into our soul.” ~Barry Lopez
Our last morning in the back country started with coffee and a breakfast of instant oatmeal, granola, and any food that was left over from the week – get rid of as much pack weight as possible before the day’s hike. Everyone was a bit introspective, trying to hang onto the tranquility of the wilderness, knowing that all too soon the worries of the real world would come crashing back. We were also faced with our longest trek of the trip – a 10+-mile hike over a mountain pass to get back to the trailhead.
Most of us lingered over a last cup of coffee, reluctant to finish packing up our tents and gear. Suddenly, our guide, Howie, pointed to the hiking trail about 100 yards away. Everyone’s head spun in that direction, and there they were – six wolves! They were walking single file along the same trail we had just hiked the day before. One wolf was collared, and the last wolf in line was limping and trailing behind the others. The wolf that was second to last in line would often wait for the limping wolf to catch up.
I remember thinking how much longer their legs seemed to be than a dog’s legs – tall and lanky, but just so beautiful – the epitome of true wilderness. No one had a camera at hand, and we passed a couple of pairs of binoculars among ourselves to watch them. My heart was pounding so hard at the thrill and excitement of finally seeing a wolf in the wild, that I could barely hold the binoculars still.
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.” ~John Muir
They didn’t hurry down the trail, even knowing full well we were there. I suspect they sensed that we were not a threat to them. When the wolves went out of sight, everyone was jumping up and down and high-fiving each other at our good fortune. The chances of seeing wolves on a backpacking trip are slim. Although they were in our view for only a couple of minutes, those fleeting moments are something I will treasure forever.
I do not know which wolf pack we saw, and I am not sure if our guide ever found out either. I do know that the sight of those wolves stirred something deep in my soul – something that keeps me yearning to see them again.
I feel a strong obligation to fight for wolves – perhaps the most wrongfully persecuted animal in the world. I will fight so others have the chance to experience that same heart-stopping thrill of seeing a wolf in the wild. I will fight so that people will see that we can coexist with wolves. I will fight so that wolves can live in peace and not be subject to the heartless cruelty of humans.
Changing the perceptions of people who have negative views of wolves begins with dialogue. If we want to change this negative to a positive perception we must open the dialogue, and engage, ask questions, and plant seeds – seeds of compassion that will grow into new perceptions of valuing the role wolves play in balancing the ecosystem.
“You only have one way to convince others – listen to them.” – George Washington
Trying to change negative perceptions by demeaning, insulting, and shouting down the other side won’t get us anywhere, and will most likely only harden their resolve. Think of how we feel when an anti-wolf voice makes derogatory comments about wolves or wolf advocates – it just makes us angrier and widens the divide.
“The most powerful way to win an argument is by asking questions. It can make people see the flaws in their logic.” -Unknown
It can be extremely difficult not to scream angrily back when we see injustices to those animals we fight so hard to protect. I travel to Yellowstone to watch wolves and follow their lives on a daily basis. I have come to know these wolves on a personal level – their different personalities, their families, their successes and hardships. When one of them is killed, especially by the hand of man, it breaks my heart.
When I learned of the poaching of the 12-year-old Canyon pack alpha female earlier this year, my gut reaction was to hurl insults at the anti-wolf crowd. I was angry and hurt, and I wanted to hurt back. In my heart, I knew this wouldn’t help the wolves at all; in fact, in the long run, it might be more detrimental. I also realized that this would be going against the basic philosophy of Compassionate Conservation – “first do no harm”. If I truly believe that, it also means showing compassion towards those with whom I wholeheartedly disagree by raising a voice in compassion for all beings.
“You cannot force someone to comprehend a message that they are not ready to receive. Still, you must never underestimate the power of planting a seed.” – Unknown
If we want to see the end of the persecution and hatred of wolves, we must sow the seeds of compassion and knowledge; nurturing the seeds of compassionate conservation will lead to valuing the wolf as part of the natural world.