Meet the Advocates: Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy—The Yellowstone Story Film Project

This documentary tells the story of advocates working to preserve the legacy of Yellowstone National Park wolves that face an uncertain future because of legal wolf hunts just beyond the park’s border. A famous wolf, known as 06, was killed in a legal wolf hunt when she left the park’s sanctuary in 2012. Six years later 06’s daughter, known as Spitfire, wolf 926F suffered the same fate in November 2018. Today, Wolves in Yellowstone have become the “rock stars” of their species due to the hundreds of thousands of people that venture into the park hoping for a glimpse of a Yellowstone wolf. The death of 06 and other collared wolves has ignited a battle to create a buffer zone around Yellowstone National Park to protect it’s wolves because legal trophy hunts take place in Wyoming, Idaho & Montana. The film is set in our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-sq.-mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. By 1926, as a result of federal and state predator control efforts, gray wolves (Canis lupus) were officially extirpated from Yellowstone National Park. Northern Rocky Mountain wolves were eventually listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973.

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Our film is in production. Watch the following teaser “Meet the Advocates”

With ESA listing came the goal of restoring wolves to their historic range, and in 1995 and 1996, following many years of public planning and input, a total of 31 wolves, captured in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, were reintroduced to Yellowstone. Wolves flourished amidst Yellowstone’s abundant prey and expansive, protected wilderness.

The first wolf arrives in Yellowstone at the Crystal Bench Pen (Mike Phillips-YNP Wolf Project Leader, Jim Evanoff-YNP, Molly Beattie- USFWS Director, Mike Finley-YNP Superintendent, Bruce Babbitt-Secretary of Interior) JIM PEACO (CC-BY-2.0)

The Montana and Wyoming Legislature dismissed the idea of a buffer zone for wolves that wander outside Yellowstone, instead instating a law prohibiting such buffer zones. The film takes viewers through the controversy surrounding Yellowstone National Park wolves being legally hunted in Wyoming, Montana & Idaho when they wander from the sanctuary of park. The film takes you into the advocates lives, why they advocate, the work they do, and how the advocate’s work will preserve the legacy of Yellowstone Park wolves.

MEET THE ADVOCATES

Advocate Dr. Nathan Varley, Ph.D. in Ecology from the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Alberta. His research focused on the relationship between wolves and elk after wolf reintroduction. Dr. Varley, a businessman co-owner of Yellowstone Wolf Tracker tours in Gardiner, Montana, has taken scores of hopeful wolf-watchers to see the Lamar Canyon pack, and says that the majority of his company’s $500,000 gross income comes from tourists like these “I estimate that a half-million people saw 754,” he said. “It was one of the million dollar wolves that was taken out of the population.” Quoted from NYT article: Research Animals Lost in Wolf Hunts Near Yellowstone by Nate Schweber 11/28/2012

Advocate Linda Thurston, Co Owner of Yellowstone Wolf Tracker tours in Gardiner, Montana. Thurston began working on the Yellowstone Wolf Project in 1996, during the early years of the wolf reintroduction. She headed up the first denning behavior study on wolves in Yellowstone Park, and received her master’s degree in wildlife biology from Texas A&M while doing so. Thurston and Dr. Varley through their business focus on teaching people about the behavior, ecology and management of wolves in and around Yellowstone Park for the past 14 years. Both Thurston and Dr. Varley are active in wolf conservation issues through Bear Creek Council, a grassroots organization that works to protect wolves and other wildlife just outside the boundary of Yellowstone Park.

Advocate Mark Cooke

Advocate Marc Cooke is founder of Wolves of the Rockies (WOTR) who’s mission is; to Protect & Defend Wolves of the Rocky Mountains through advocating and education. WOTR gathers wolf advocates from around the world to consolidate our voices into a force that will influence the protection and acceptance of wolves in the Rocky Mountain Region. Educating people with facts about wolves, and wolf behavior to counter the negative image created by commercial interest groups, fictional entertainment and extremism.

Advocate Ilona Popper

Advocate Ilona Popper has a M.A. English Language and Literature, University of Virginia and has worked for 40 years as an editor, writing coach, and teacher. Ilona has worked intensively on preserving wolves in the YNP area and in Montana. She helped establish and served as chair for the Bear Creek Council Wolf Committee and was invited to sit on Finding Common Ground, a council called by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to bring together wildlife advocates and environmentalists with sportspeople and livestock producers. The participants were often at odds, especially about wolves, but she saw that “each person shared a love of wildlife and nature.”

The film will also introduce the viewer to Yellowstone Wolf Project staff. Douglas W. Smith, senior wildlife biologist for Yellowstone Wolf Project. Kira Cassidy, Kira holds her M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota, with projects focusing on territoriality and aggression between packs of gray wolves. Now working as a Research Associate for the Yellowstone Wolf Project. Rick McIntyre has served as a seasonal park ranger at such sites as Yellowstone, Denali, Glacier, and Big Bend national parks. His books include War Against the Wolf: America’s Campaign to Exterminate the Wolf (Voyageur Press) and Grizzly Cub: Five Years in the Life of a Bear.

Watch a Yellowstone National Park video of Kira Cassidy watching the alpha female wolf 926F as she chases an elk click the link: https://youtu.be/n_LkLFt3uYc


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Poster design by Any Reich

Producers Maaike Middleton and Rachel Tilseth

Director Rachel Tilseth

A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Film

Visit Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Yellowstone Story’s Facebook Page Here for all Updates

Inside of the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Yellowstone Story

Producer

Maaike Middleton is a wildlife filmmaker. She was born in The Netherlands and grew up in Montana. She has traveled the globe filming wildlife from pumas in Patagonia, the illusive Amur tiger in the Russian Far East and grizzlies in her backyard. Maaike is passionate about telling stories that can make a difference and address issues that impact us all. When she is not setting camera traps to capture animal behavior she is watching films and helping with the selection process for the Wildlife Film Festival Rotterdam. She received her MA from University of London- Royal Holloway BA Montana State University- Bozeman. She has worked on projects for Smithsonian, Nat Geo, Curiosity Stream, BBC Nature, PBS and ARTE.

Producer and Director

Rachel Tilseth is a freelance writer, fine artist, filmmaker and environmentalist. Tilseth has been a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Volunteer Winter Wolf Tracker since the year 2000. Tilseth worked with the Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program as a volunteer since 1998, and as a result learned about the lives of wild gray wolves. Tilseth worked to draw attention to the plight of Gray wolves during the three years Wisconsin held wolf hunts. As an environmentalist Tilseth has organized events, film screenings and a film festival. Tilseth is the Producer and Director of Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy: The Yellowstone Story currently in production. Rachel Tilseth received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education in 1992 from UW-Stout, graduating with cum laude honors.

The Trailer

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Presents

A Film Produced by Maaike Middleton Rachel Tilseth

Song “Don’t Know Why, But They Do”

Words & Music by Joe De Benedetti Noah Hill

Edited by Maaike Middleton

Cinematography by Maaike Middleton

Directed by Rachel Tilseth

B Roll National Park Service

Graphic Design Andy Reich

Advocates Ilona Popper

Nathan Varley

Linda Thurston

Marc Cooke

Wolves of Douglas County WI Films LLC

Click here to donate to this film project

Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy—The Yellowstone Story Advocates Linda Thurston & Nathan Varley business owners at http://www.wolftracker.com We advocate emphatically for the wildlife upon which our business depends. Unlike a lot of businesses in our industry that stay quiet and sit on their hands, we show up to speak out on controversial wildlife issues. We are not afraid to stick up for wolves, bison, and bears when they need a voice. As leaders in Bear Creek Council, an all-volunteer, local grassroots group, we dedicate our effort to wise stewardship in our area. We fight mine proposals that threaten Yellowstone’s habitat and water quality. We fight trophy hunters that want to shoot wolves and grizzly bears along park borders. We fight for the next generation and their right to experience the same wild Yellowstone we know and love.

A Film Project “Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy – The Yellowstone Story”

A film that presents the viewer with a complete picture of what it means to advocate for an imperiled species protected within Yellowstone National Park; contrasted against an uncertain future because of wolf hunting taking place just beyond the park’s borders.

“Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy- The Yellowstone Story” tells the stories of people working to preserve the legacy of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. A Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Film. Produced by Rachel Tilseth And Maaike Middleton and Directed by Rachel Tilseth. Make a tax deductible contribution here to support the film project.

These stories will be the inspiration that helps the viewer to gain insight into the heart of wolf advocacy. Marc Cooke is one of the wolf advocates with a story to tell. Mark Cooke founded the nonprofit called Wolves of the Rockies headquartered out of Stevensville, Montana.

https://vimeo.com/264686221

Marc Cooke was born in Connecticut and living between both Cape Cod and Connecticut to a family of law enforcement officers. He attended parochial, public and private educational institution. During his childhood, he began what was to become a lifelong enjoyment and commitment to both domestic animals and wildlife well-being.

Marc Cooke After completion of higher education at Johnson & Wales University, he joined the United States Army to begin what would become a steady commitment to giving back to this country and causes he believed in. While in the military he was stationed in Germany and helped support Desert Storm and Desert Shield. It was during this time he met and married Lorenza and eventually moved to Switzerland.

After being Repatriated to Cape Cod Massachusetts for several years and continuing to have an interest in horses and wildlife. He eventually moved west and settled down in North West Montana.

https://vimeo.com/266407182

Enjoying all that Montana has to offer he quickly realized that wildlife was unnecessarily being abused for pleasure and profit. He became active at the grassroots level to abolish trapping in Montana. All the while watching the beginning of irrational hatred and abuse meant for wolves that had been reintroduced into Yellowstone and Idaho. He quickly shifted gears and began attending wolf related private and public hearings. It didn’t take long to realize that wolves were being railroaded and had virtually no grassroots support to defend and protect these animals at the local level. Livestock producers and all consumptive and trophy hunting organization were having their way with future wolf management in Montana and elsewhere.

As an individual, no county, state or federal decision-makers were listening. This was when Marc and several other pro-wolf individuals began National Wolf Watcher Coalition a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit. This eventually led to another nonprofit he founded called Wolves of the Rockies headquartered out of Stevensville, Montana.

Wolves of the Rockies is the most active local and national wolf defender and protector in Montana. Wolves of the Rockies has developed long-term relationships with other hunting and pro-wolf state and national conservation organizations. Along with decision makers such as Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commissioners and state and federal elected officials.

Marc Cooke Under Wolves of the Rockies leadership, we have achieved many pro-wolf accomplishments. The creation of two subunits 313 & 316 that border Yellowstone National Park. They have gone from no wolf killing quota to only being able to hunt or trap two wolves in each. Also, no individual hunter can kill more than one wolf in 313 & 316. Rewards for the apprehension of Yellowstone wolf poachers, derailing the intention of extending wolf hunting season in the Bitterroot Valley that would have allowed the hunting of midterm pregnant wolves. He pushed for a Montana Trapping Advisory Committee that will represent the anti-trapping public. Closing the wolf hunting season around Yellowstone National Park for several months one year. WotR has derailed or softened many legislative bills that were considered anti-wolf and carnivore.

More on this documentary film project …

Inside the “Heart of Wolf Advocacy-The Yellowstone” Story is the story of the people that advocate to preserve the legacy of wolves in Yellowstone. Here’s more on the other wolf advocates in the film.

Ilona Popper writer, wolf watcher and member of Bear Creek Council.

Rick Lamplugh author and member of Bear Creek Council.

Nathan is the owner of The Wild Side, LLC, a wildlife touring business specializing in outfitting groups of all ages to view wolves and other wildlife in Yellowstone National Park.

And more interviews…

Along with interviews from the Yellowstone Wolf Project Doug Smith, Rick McIntyre and Kira Cassidy.

“Inside the Heart of Wolf Advocacy-The Yellowstone Story”. presents the viewer with a complete picture of what it means to advocate for an imperiled species protected within Yellowstone National Park; contrasted against an uncertain future because of wolf hunts taking place just beyond the park’s borders.

About the producers…

Maaike Middleton Co Producer

M.A Documentary by Practice, University of London – Royal Holloway

Graduated with Merit  B.A Media & Theatre Arts, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, Graduated Cum Laude

Raised in the Paradise Valley, schooled in London, traveled to 25+ countries, rooted in the Montana wilds. Growing up in Paradise Valley all I wanted to do was travel and see the world. After getting my BA in Filmmaking from Montana State University I did just that. I traveled to some amazing places, from the wild Gobi dessert in Mongolia to the temples of Angor Wat in Cambodia to the hustle and bustle of London where I received a Masters in Documentary filmmaking from the University of London. Returning to Paradise Valley to document the beauty that surrounds me daily. My passport ever ready for the next international adventure and hiking boots ready to explore the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Rachel Tilseth Co Producer and Director

Rachel holds a Batchelor of Science Degree in Art Education, graduated Cum Laude and is a retired art teacher. Tilseth’s interests in nature, specifically wolves, led her to advocate for wolves and wildlife. In the year 2000 she became involved in WI DNR Wolf Recovery Program working as a volunteer winter wolf tracker to present. She founded the blog and social media network Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin to bring education and awareness to Wisconsin’s wild wolf. Tilseth has spent several years speaking out against wolf trophy hunts. Tilseth is active in working to ban Wolf Hounding in Wisconsin. She has a strong background in the visual arts. She’s a sculptor and oil painter. Tilseth has expanded her interest into filmmaking. She’s currently in the process of creating a documentary film about the heart of wolf advocacy.

Donate Here

We now have a fiscal sponsor for our film. To make a tax deductible contribution go to Plan B Foundation and donate today! Five percent of your donation goes to help wolves and wolf programs throughout the USA.

Featured photograph by Wild at Heart Images Sandi Sisti

Woman & Advocacy…

Julia Huffman is the producer and director of the award winning documentaries Medicine of the Wolf and Wolf Spirit.

Julia can you tell the readers where you grew up?
I grew up in Southern West Virginia with a few years living in “Philly”, Philadelphia.

 Can you tell us about a childhood memory that helped create who you’ve become now?

My parents “dropped out” of living in the city, when I was very young and joined a “back to the land movement.”  They really re created themselves and didn’t follow the norm of mainstream society. This influenced me deeply. I developed a close connection to the land and to animals growing up in the hills and hollers of WVA. Nature is my base. I am interested in finding new ways to do and say things in this life time and my parents really taught me by their example to be true to that inner voice.

 Can you tell us about a person in your life that inspired you?

Jane Fonda. Beautiful spirit inside and out. An incredible activist and honest. I think we dismiss honesty at times In our culture, but she always struck me as someone who doesn’t apologize for who she is, but can admit openly she made a mistake. We all do. But the humility it takes to be out In the public eye and work on the many environmental issues she has over the years and then also say, “I missed the mark there”, to me, takes incredible courage.

People don’t realize how many years this woman has been using her voice, money and celebrity to speak out for women, human rights, Indigenous rights, and environment… It goes on and on. And lastly she is actually a bit shy by nature, but does it anyway, because she believes in it, I relate to this!

 Can you tell us a little about your post high school studies and why you chose them?

 I got a degree in broadcast journalism, at Bethany College in West Virginia.  I wanted to be a news reporter at one time.

 Can you tell us about a person that helped develop your creative artistic side?

 So many. At a point in my life, I learned, finally, to ask for help and I have been blessed to have found several amazing mentors over the years.

One of my latest is actress Sheryl Lee. She really liked the film and we found each other through a mutual friend. I always thought her work was very cerebral and magnetic and so we had this mutual admiration, which is a good starting place. She is incredibly generous with her talent and time. She is a teacher by nature. She has shared gems of wisdom with me and supported and inspired me to be true to my creative and ever evolving intuition.

 You chose wolves as the subject of your award winning documentary Medicine of the Wolf. Can you tell us what led you to that choice?

 I have always loved wolves. My connection to them, like many, is through my first dog Bozo, he was my soul mate. You’ve heard the term, “the wolf is in your living room? Well Bozo was my “wolf.”

My film was really this amazing opportunity for me to learn more about the dog’s wild cousin, the wolf, right along with the viewer, I really went on that journey.

Medicine of the Wolf Trailer

 As a director can you tell us what was the most challenging segment to film in Medicine of the Wolf?

 All of it…ha ha. I call myself, “Me myself and I Productions”..

I say that with a smile, there are S0 many people who donated time energy, money love…into making it! And it certainly IS a WE film. But I bit off a huge chunk in wearing most of the hats. And I am grateful; it’s the doing that makes us learn.

 But maybe the pain was the hardest. The wolf hunt was happening when we were making it and I felt like the whole time I was sprinting (and I was) I had this crazy notion that I needed to save them…And I, we, do. And it took at toll.

 As a director can you tell us what was the most rewarding segment to film in Medicine of the a Wolf?

 I loved ALL of it truly. But being with Jim and my amazing crew up in Wolf country, in Ravenwood for several shoots was MAGICAL, it gets under your skin, the beauty and rawness of that country. And all that Jim shared and gave and revealed in the film was the biggest gift and life changing experience, I truly cherish and admire Jim so very much, he is one of my teachers.

 Can you tell us how has the making of the film Medicine of the Wolf touched you spiritually?

…..It changed me. I am fairly quiet about this, as I believe now that some of what we experience in life is sacred.

Chi Ma’’iingan, Larry Stillday who is in the film and has since passed, shared with me, that the Medicine of the Wolf is love, this I know now on a core level.

 Can you tell us how the overall production of Medicine of the Wolf enhanced your professional career?

New opportunities.

Well. I was invited to do a TEDx talk in Fargo, My talk is on the Healing power of Wolves, so that is a big honor..I have traveled all over now with the film, many seem to really like it. Maybe I am recognized more now as a director. I think as women, there are still a very low percentage of us getting our projects seen and so I am honored to help carry that torch for us.

 Now let’s talk wolves. Can you tell us why you think the topic of wolves drives such fear and hate in some people?

I think that the wolf issue in many ways represents a mirror into our own selves; meaning they remind us of our capacity to love deeply and hate deeply.

And just like the political battles and the bashing you see around us now, many humans seem to need to vilify something.

The wolf in my mind in certain circles has become a scapegoat of misplaced anger and resentment.

 Can you tell us what about the wolf inspires you? Why do you champion him?

The wolf has given so much, just by being. The film was a thank you for all that they have done for the planet and for us humans.

You’ve chosen the topic of Celebrating the wolf for your Ted Talk; can you tell us why you chose that topic?

We have been so programmed to believe that wolves are bad and evil, its everywhere in the news…ISIS attackers are labeled ”Lone wolves” The Wolf of Wallstreet…etc etc etc.

And anti wolf groups continue to spread propaganda about wolves that is incredibly destructive.

So my intention is to speak only of the wolf in the positive and celebratory way that they rightly deserve. I believe that words and ideas…can change hearts and minds. We’ll see! J

Julia’s Ted Talk

 

Final question. Can you tell us what’s next for you? 

Rest. Maybe a dramatic feature film…

You can meet Julia Huffman on Saturday August 24th, The Center Theatre for more information go to the Facebook event page by clicking here.

Wolf Spirit Trailer

To purchase a Medicine of the Wolf DVD Click HERE  and buy the documentary on line go to: www.medicineofthewolf.com website.

Where would we be without wolves?