In February 2021 WDNR was forced by a conservative advocacy group, Hunter Nation Inc, lawsuit to hold a wolf hunt. Needless to say it was disaster for gray wolves in the midst of mating season. I’ve been keeping a close eye on WDNR wolf depredations after the hunt. I was reading through the WDNR Wolf Depredations Report 2021 and wanted clarification on two of the counties, Bayfield & Marquette. Specifically, I wanted to find out if these depredations were due to losing pack members in the February 2021 wolf hunt. In Bayfield county there were 2 confirmed wolf depredations of beef calves on two separate dates post hunt (2-22-21) and (3-08-21). Then in Marquette county one calf on 3-23-21. I contacted Randy Johnson The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Large Carnavore Specialist to ask him about depredations in these two counties and was it tied to packs losing members in the wolf hunt.
He said, “In both cases, I see no reason to believe these conflicts were triggered by the harvest season.”
The following is Johnson’s email response regarding confirmed wolf depredations in the two counties.
There are no (Wildlife Services) WS efforts underway in Marquette County. There were 7 harvested in the south-west part of the county in Feb., including a collared adult female, but the depredation is in the north-west part of the county and well beyond the range of the collared female. The livestock producer is being issued a wolf removal permit which allows the individual to take a number of wolves (I’m not sure the #, often it’s 2 wolves) but this is a much less effective route than WS targeted removal efforts.
There are recent (Wildlife Services) WS removal efforts underway in northern Bayfield County. These are in response to 6 verified conflicts on 3 farms, some of which occurred well prior to the Feb season. WS attempted similar removal in January but were unsuccessful. There were 10 wolves harvested in Bayfield, 9 of which were in the southern part of the county (away from the conflict) and one in the north.
In both counties the depredations occurred after the February 2021 wolf hunt. Marquette county depredations were not in the area were hunters took a collared female wolf. Depredations happened in the north-west part of Marquette county from a different wolf pack. Along with the two depredations Bayfield county that have been occurring prior to the February wolf hunt.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shut down Wisconsin’s February 2021 wolf hunt after only three days. Licensed hunters had killed 216 wolves, 82 percent more than the 119 quota, in three days. The DNR rules allowed hunters to employ bait in trapping, to hunt at night, and to use dogs to pursue the wolves. Trappers could utilize cable restraints and foot-hold traps. Since the timing of the hunt was during the wolves’ breeding season, and with hunters wiping out 20 percent of the population, wolves may end up on the endangered list again.
Rob is one of the continent’s leading experts on wolf-livestock interactions. His pioneering research on wolves and livestock in eastern Washington found that lethal control of wolves was in fact increasing livestock depredations, and that ranchers who took part in his cooperative program employing nonlethal measures experienced minimal livestock mortality due to wolves.
Due to political pressure placed upon the administration of the Washington State University, the College of Agriculture placed limits on the speech of Dr. Wielgus and his Large Carnivore Research Laboratory concerning wolves, removed grant funding from Dr. Wielgus, and subjected him to a series of wrongful disciplinary actions as a means of forcing silence on lethal control issues, oftentimes at the behest of a local Republican legislator.
Dr. Wielgus contacted PEER, and his First Amendment academic freedom case resulted in a settlement enabling him to retire from the university.
A leading wolf researcher has agreed to leave Washington State University at the end of the spring term in return for $300,000 to settle a suit he brought over infringement of his academic freedom.
Robert Wielgus, director of the Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, pioneered research of wolf behavior in cattle country as the predators began their return to Washington.
Wielgus tracked the behavior of wolves and cattle and learned that the state’s policy of killing wolves that had preyed on cattle was likely to lead to more cattle predation, not less, because it destabilized the structure of wolf packs.
The research was unpopular with ranchers, who complained to lawmakers in the Washington State Legislature, who, in turn,
Wielgus filed a lawsuit this past year with the assistance of PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, alleging the university had silenced and punished him for his research findings to placate politicians beholden to ranchers.
Emails obtained by The Seattle Times under a public-disclosure request revealed that WSU administrators were worried funding for a new medical school was in jeopardy unless controversy in the Legislature and among ranchers over Wielgus was quelled.
“ … Highly ranked senators have said that the medical school and wolves are linked. If wolves continue to go poorly, there won’t be a new medical school,” Dan Coyne, lobbyist for WSU, wrote his colleague, Jim Jesernig, another WSU lobbyist, two days after the paper’s publication. Read full Seattle Times Story here
…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.
Changing the paradigm from killing to compassionate conservation is a major shift in thinking…
“Let me first briefly note what compassionate conservation is not. The easiest way to summarize this topic is to say that compassionate conservation isn’t “welfarism gone wrong.”” Marc Bekoff from: Compassionate Conservation Matures and Comes of Age.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SEAN CRANE, MINDEN PICTURES
More from Compassionate Conservation Matures and Comes of Age by Marc Bekoff Traditional conservation science is ethically challenged and conservation has had a very bloody past and continues to do so. Of course, this does not mean that conservation biologists are cold-blooded killers who don’t care about the well-being of animals, but rather that the problems that are faced throughout the world, most brought on by human intervention in the lives of other animals, are challenging to the point of being daunting. Often, it seems as if the only and easiest solution is to kill the “problem animals” and move on to the next situation, in a never-ending series of conflicts. However, killing simply does not work in the long run. And, of course, as numerous people have pointed out, it is ethically indefensible.
Compassionate conservation also doesn’t allow for people to play what I call the “numbers game.” Claims that go something like, “There are so many members of a given species it’s okay to kill other members of the same species” are not acceptable. With its focus on the value of the life of each and every individual, no single animal is disposable because there are many more like them.
“Killing to save: We really don’t want to kill others animals but…Compassionate conservation also is not concerned with finding and using the “most humane” ways of killing other animals, so killing animals “softly” is not an option, because it’s inarguable that killing individuals in the name of conservation remains incredibly inhumane on a global scale.” Marc Bekoff
What is Compassionate Conservation?
Populations of animals are not homogenous, abstract entities, but comprise unique individuals – in the case of sentient animals, each with its own desires and needs and a capacity to suffer.
Animal welfare as a science and a concern, with its focus on the individual animal, and conservation biology and practice, which has historically focussed on populations and species, have tended to be considered as distinct. However, it is becoming clear that knowledge and techniques from animal welfare science can inform and refine conservation practice, and that consideration of animal welfare in a conservation context can lead to better conservation outcomes, while engendering increased stakeholder support. From Compassionate Conservation website
Changing the paradigm from killing to compassionate conservation is a major shift in thinking. How can we begin to change from killing to compassionate conservation? It begins locally, in local communities, by opening the conversations at public meetings. More to come on this topic…
If the people want the state to manage wolves then there must be full transparency of that process. Until then we must work to keep wolves listed on the Endangered Species Act.
The state has a law on the books that calls for a mandatory wolf hunt if they are delisted. Wisconsin is the only state that allows the barbaric use of dogs to hunt wolves with no regulations in place; The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, charged with overseeing the wolf hunt, has no rules in place that require hound handlers to report dogs injured or killed in the pursuit of wolves during a hunt. In fact, there is no monitoring or certification program whatsoever in place for the use of dogs in the wolf hunt; thus the state has little ability to hold hound hunters accountable for training or hunting violations or to prevent deadly and inhumane wolf-dog confrontations (e.g., hunters allowing dogs to overtake and kill rifle-shot wolves). These circumstances explain why Wisconsin stands alone: using dogs to hunt wolves is no better than state-sponsored dog fighting. Source
Several politicians want state control of wolves. Two Wisconsin state republican legislators are in favor of state management of wolves; Rep Adam Jarchow and senator Tom Tiffany along with US republican Senators Reid Ribble and Ron Johnson are pushing to delist wolves. Senator Tiffany stated in a recent news strory:
“A state Senator is renewing his focus on delisting the wolf from the endangered species classification. State Senator Tom Tiffany wants U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin to advocate for the change, and end what he calls “ping ponging” litigation over the issue.” Source
State senator Tom Tiffany stated in a news story:
“Tiffany and state Representative Representative Adam Jarchow – both Republicans – think Baldwin, a Democrat, could make a difference. “If some of her colleagues saw a Democrat like she is taking the lead on this issue, they would probably follow along,” Tiffany said.” Source
US senator Tammy Baldwin a democrat is in agreement of delisting wolves and in a recent statement said:
“I have heard the voices of Wisconsinites who have real concerns about the increasing threat of our state’s growing wolf population. Farmers have found livestock injured and killed by wolves that are straying closer to their herds than in previous years. Families have lost pets. Parents have decided it’s no longer safe to let their kids play where they normally do. These concerns, and the expertise of wildlife science, tell us we should take on the gray wolf problem in our state by acting again to delist the wolf from the Endangered Species List and pass management of the wolf back to the State of Wisconsin.” Source
If the people want the state to manage wolves then there must be full transparency of that process.
The push for state management comes after 37 hunting dogs were killed by wolves while in pursuit of bear. These politicians believe that Wisconsins growing wolf population is the cause of these conflicts. Yet there are some that question if wolves are the cause of bear hunting dog deaths.
Adrian Wydeven, retired WI DNR wolf biologist, wrote in an opinion editorial:
“Do wolf numbers correlate with wolves killing hounds? The evidence suggests this might not necessarily be the case. In 2012, only seven dogs were killed and yet there were nearly as many wolves in 2012 as there were in 2016 (815 wolves in late winter 2012). In other words, the wolf populations in 2012 and 2016 were similar, yet these two years represent the highest and the lowest numbers of hounds killed by wolves in the last 13 years. Obviously, there is more to this story than just more wolves killing more hounds.” Source
What could be the cause behind all the wolf depredations of hound hunting dogs if it is not due to an increases in wolf population?
Every summer hound hunting dogs lose there lives in pursuit of bear. This decades old conflict between bear hunters and wolves continues today with no end in sight. Watch the following Wisconsin Public Television show that aired in 2010:
Wolves are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy. Recovery of wolves in the state began in the late 1970s.
In 2015 there was a change made in bear hunting regulations and could this be the cause of the increase in wolf depredations of dogs in pursuit of bear? In his recent opinion editorial Wydeven states:
“Could a change in bear hunting policy be a factor? Wisconsin is a major destination for bear hunting and training — with some of the highest bear densities and bear harvest success rates in the nation. Prior to July 2015, people putting out bait and handling hounds used to train on bears were required to buy a Class B Bear Permit. The permit cost residents $14 and nonresidents $110. The permit and fees were eliminated in 2015 and now anyone can freely bait for bears, and train their dogs on bears. This may have increased baiting and training of dogs on bears in Wisconsin, putting more bear hunters and hounds in the hunt, especially from out-of-state residents with the license fee no longer a barrier. ” Source
It’s no secret that there has been a few instances of wolf depredations on livestock, pets and bear hunting dogs. Wisconsin has a wolf depredation compensation program in place to compensate for these loses. For instance; there is a $2500.00 compensation payment to bear hunters that lose dogs to wolves while pursuing bears. There are programs in place to aide livestock owners as well. Watch the following video from the WI DNR wildlife depredations specialist:
In the west wolf advocates and ranchers have been coming together to work for non lethal ways to manage wolf depredation.
“The group’s nonlethal experiment, known as the Wood River Wolf Project, is a collaboration with Blaine County officials in central Idaho, the United States Forest Service, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and some local partners who support alternative ways of protecting wolves in historic sheep-grazing country. The project covers 1,200 square miles, or around half of Blaine County, up from 120 at the program’s inception in 2008.” Source
I believe we must help Wisconsin livestock producers learn how to live with wolves and so I am working with Ian Whalan, inventor and Fauna Tomlinson, distributer of Foxlights a nighttime predator deterrent that is making news all over the world, “Saving Lives with Lights.” Foxlights donated Five solar lights to the Red Cliff Reservation in northern Wisconsin, and I delivered the lights to the Red Cliff Biologist Jeremy St.Arnold. To learn more about Foxlights click HERE.
The recent national and state elections have tipped the scales of power towards one party control. What’s next for Wisconsin’s wild wolves?
US Senator Ron Johnson is preparing to introduce a wolf delisting bill in congress with democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin on board; could mean that other senate democrats will follow her lead, and sign onto Senator Johnson’s wolf delisting bill. Please keep calling your senate representatives and ask them not sign onto any wolf delisting bills or riders.
And, everyone is awaiting the decision on The USFW had a hearing to challenge a Judge putting wolves back on ESL on U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C. Who ruled in 2014 that the removal “was arbitrary and capricious and violated the federal Endangered Species Act.” That was held on October 18, 2016.
“Led by the Humane Society of the United States, environmentalists challenged the rule, arguing that FWS couldn’t designate a population segment under the Endangered Species Act just to turn around and remove protections. They also charged that FWS couldn’t show that wolves would be adequately protected from disease and human harm across a “significant portion” of their range without federal protections.” Source: HSUS
If management of wolves is returned back into the state’s hands things must change about how they manage them.
Senator Tammy Baldwin said in her statement:
“Delisting the wolf should not mean removing it from the landscape, but restoring a greater balance in rural communities. Many Wisconsinites have deeply felt beliefs about how the wolf population should be managed, and the health of the wolf population is of unique significance to Native American Tribes. I believe those debates deserve thoughtful and careful consideration by state and tribal wildlife experts, following a federal delisting.” Source
Please keep up the “positive” calls to Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office. It’s not to late to change the Senator’s mind about delisting the wolf.
If the people want the state to manage wolves then there must be full transparency of that process. Wisconsinites must work together in the wolf management process. First things first; The state has a law on the books that calls for a mandatory wolf hunt if they are delisted and this law must be removed.
2011 Wisconsin Act 169 states: If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.
The Wisconsin public must be fully vested in the process of wolf management. When wolves were delisted in 2011 the Wisconsin legislature rushed in to create a wolf hunt. It’s no secret that the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association’s hands were all over the wolf hunt legislation.
After removing the wolf hunt bill, act 169, Wisconsinites can begin the discussion or debates as to how best to manage wolves. This means listening to scientific evidence and leaving political rhetoric out of the debate on wolf management. We must find ways to live with wolves. A wolf hunt is not a way to manage an endangered species such as the iconic wolf.
First of all, stay positive & work to keep wolves listed on the Endangered Species Act. Stay in contact with your state and federal representatives.
Wolves have a positive impact on Wisconsin’s landscape. During the Wisconsin premiere of the award winning documentary “Medicine of the Wolf” Q&A panel discussion panel member Randy Jurewicz answered an audience question about wolf’s impact on CWD, watch the following video:
Stay positive & please continue taking action for wolves:
Keep writing letters to the editor, keep calling your state and federal legislators, and call President Obama and ask him to veto extinction and to stop the attacks on the Endangered Species Act. Click here for ways to contact the White House
Wildlife officials in Wisconsin are experimenting with a new tool called Foxlights to help farmers and producers keep wolves away from livestock.
They were invented by an Australian sheep farmer to keep away foxes. Rachel Tilseth is founder of the advocacy website Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin and a distributor of the lights. Tilseth sold 25 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS-Wildlife Services in northern Wisconsin and said they deter wolves from coming near livestock.
“It can be seen from a mile away,” she explained. “It operates with a six volt battery giving up to 12 months of nonstop protection. A light sensor automatically turns it on when it’s at dusk and turns it off during the day.”
Tilseth said the lights are relatively inexpensive at $85 on up. Wisconsin Wildlife Services installed the lights recently on a Douglas County farm experiencing wolf problems. David Ruid, supervisory wildlife biologist with Wildlife Services, said he’s optimistic about their effectiveness, but cautions that lights haven’t always kept wolves away from livestock.
“Some of these wolf packs that are living in human fragmented environments, they’re exposed to a tremendous amount of light pollution in their environment to begin with,” he said.
Ruid added that cost may also be a factor for producers interested in nonlethal methods to deter wolves.
“When you start talking about the spatial area of some of these farms that we’re trying to protect, which are hundreds of acres and miles of fence line – to have enough of these on hand is financially challenging,” he said.
Individual farmers experiencing wolf problems can receive the equipment from the department on a short-term loan.
Tilseth said the lights are just one of the nonlethal method farmers can use to coexist with wolves, adding that a wolf hunt is not the answer to conflicts between producers and wolves.
Wisconsin ended its wolf hunt after a federal judge ruled in December 2014 to place the gray wolf back on the Endangered Species List in the western Great Lakes region. Since then, wildlife managers have not been able to kill problem wolves except in extreme cases. The number of Wisconsin farms affected by wolf depredations has grown since then from 22 in 2014 to 32 last year, according to Ruid. Tilseth said the number of farms affected is small when compared to the number of operations within the state.
Some congressional lawmakers, and state and federal agencies would like the gray wolf removed from the endangered species list, saying their numbers have more than recovered since the wolf’s decline. People opposed to delisting wolves say they play a significant role in the balance of the ecosystem, tribal culture and haven’t recovered to their historic range.
“National and international laws protect particularly the wolves as they are a species that was cruelly persecuted and decimated by men in the past. They are slowly regaining their space now, but they are not yet out of danger on our territories because of some persistent threats such as the cross-breeding with dogs, the poaching, the collision with vehicles and some illnesses like the distemper.
The draft of the “Plan of conservation and management of the wolf in Italy” provides for some derogations from the prohibition to remove wolves from their natural habitat and for the possibility of licensing the legal killing of 5% of the Italian estimated wolf population.
If the current version of the plan is approved, 60 wolves could be legally killed every year, in a context where hundreds of wolves are already killed by poachers using rifles, poison baits or traps. Poachers kill at least 300 wolves every year. If we add the wolves killed accidentally by vehicles, in Italy human beings cause an estimated mortality rate between the 15 – 20 % of the wolves population. The estimated Italian population is about 1200/1500 wolves, including those living in the Apennines and in the Alps.”
Of course a great debate has been taking place on the internet between those who are for and those who are against this plan and its contents. Among several of those in favor of wolves are scientists. There is a detailed and interesting study on the reasons why killing wolves doesn’t reduce the conflict with the livestock breeders, or the poaching. It’s included in a document titled “Discrediting seven prejudices against wolves” by the WWFALPI, the European Alps Program of WWF to defend the wolf. The national WWF organizations of Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France and Italy are part of this program and their objective is to collaborate all together in order to preserve the animal and floral biodiversity of the Alpine region. I sette pregiudizi sul lupo da sfatare
Here is my translation of an abstract:
“Why killing wolves doesn’t reduce either the conflict with the livestock breeders, or the poaching.
A lot of politicians, and some environmentalist too, argue that giving an incentive to livestock producers because they don’t want wolves in their territories could reduce the conflict and prevent poaching. Unfortunately it’s not true, as any psychologist would be able to explain. When the authority downgrades a species from “particularly protected” to “possibly hunted” as it is considered harmful, it gets a negative connotation. Therefore, the public opinion assumes automatically the wrong belief that this species is dangerous. And the conflict rises more.
Killing a quota of wolves is ethically questionable, but, most of all, it’s scientifically useless. Making some selected killings (the difficulty of a real and serious selection apart), doesn’t help to reduce the damages. This is confirmed by the clear data of several Italian and foreign studies.
There is a basic ethological reason. The pack is a hierarchical and organized group that hunts successfully when every member cooperates and there is a skilled alpha couple that leads the pack. So they are able to hunt wild animals, preferably ungulates. Selected killings of wolves often destructures the pack, especially when the alpha male, or female, is killed, but this is not the only bad result.
When the pack scatters, the wolves become lone individuals; they are often young and without experience, without a leader, they prefer to hunt an easier prey, such as sheep, even if it represents a greater risk. A lot of researches demonstrate that the damages to the livestock even increase after the so-called selected killings of wolves.” Why do wolves eat livestock? Click HERE for the link
This is the English abstract of an article issued by Researchgate.net, written by a team of researchers and scientists coming from several professional fields:
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e dell’Ambiente, Università di Pavia
Laboratorio di Genetica, Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA),
Parco dell’Antola, La Torriglietta, Genove
Department of Environmental Engineering, Aalborg University, Denmark.
It explains what Italian wolves usually eat and why they sometimes hunt and eat livestock
“Thanks to protection by law and increasing habitat restoration, wolves (Canis lupus) are currently re-colonizing Europe from the surviving populations of Russia, the Balkan countries, Spain and Italy, raising the need to update conservation strategies. A major conservation issue is to restore connections and gene flow among fragmented populations, thus contrasting the deleterious consequences of isolation. Wolves in Italy are expanding from the Apennines towards the Alps, crossing the Ligurian Mountains (northern Italy) and establishing connections with the Dinaric populations. Wolf expansion is threatened by poaching and incidental killings, mainly due to livestock depredations and conflicts with shepherds, which could limit the establishment of stable populations. Aiming to find out the factors affecting the use of livestock by wolves, in this study we determined the composition of wolf diet in Liguria. We examined 1457 scats collected from 2008 to 2013. Individual scats were geno-typed using a non-invasive genetic procedure, and their content was determined using microscopical analyses. Wolves in Liguria consumed mainly wild ungulates (64.4%; in particular wild boar Sus scrofa and roe deer Capreolus capreolus) and, to a lesser extent, livestock (26.3%; in particular goats Capra hircus). We modeled the consumption of livestock using environmental features, wild ungulate community diversity, husbandry characteristics and wolf social organization (stable packs or dispersing individuals). Wolf diet varied according to years and seasons with an overall decrease of livestock and an increase of wild ungulate consumption, but also between packs and dispersing individuals with greater livestock consumption for the latter. The presence of stable packs, instead of dispersing wolves, the adoption of prevention measures on pastures, roe deer abundance, and the percentage of deciduous woods, reduced predation on livestock. Thus, we suggest promoting wild ungulate expansion, the use of prevention tools in pastures, and supporting wolf pack establishment, avoiding lethal control and poaching, to mitigate conflicts between wolf conservation and husbandry.”
Directed by Alessandro Abba Legnazzi and Andrea Deaglio
“Wolves are back. Someone has heard about, someone swears to have seen them moving about in the woods, someone else has heard them howling in the night. The shepherds show the remains of animals eaten with the sign of two canines under the throat. The photographers venturing into the mountains to spot them. Park rangers follow footprints in the snow and place their photo-traps. Resurface stories from the past and the inhabitants of the mountain villages are wondering about their future. Loved, hated, idealized. The wolves are back on the Alps.”
by Brunella Pernigotti
Brunella: What urged you to investigate the return of wolves to our country and their relative problems? In other words, how did your documentary come to be?
Andrea and Alessandro: We are both townspeople and have viewed the wolf through fables. We had never seen a wolf in the wild. The wolf reminds us of a free spirit and that has always charmed us.
So, when we learned that wolves were back living in the west Alpine arc and that their presence had provoked a conflict between their defenders and those who consider them a problem, we decided it was time to meet them… to go where they live. In that way, we could tell what coexistence meant for the people who live and share the same mountain places as the wolves.
From the first on-the-spot investigations, we soon figured out that the core of our story should not be only about the wolves, but also about their indivisible connection with people.
Brunella: Could you tell us in few words what this documentary has meant to you and if there is something that has particularly impressed you during its making?
Andrea and Alessandro: This film made us think about the town – mountain relations and the conflicts that often arise between people who live in the mountains and the people who see the mountains only from a city point of view. It made us concentrate on how living in the mountains is a good thing, but it is also difficult nevitably, it led us to reflect on ourselves, on the places where we live, on what we are, and on our often neglected relationship with nature. Of course there were several things that impressed us. Especially the sensations we felt through the eyes of the people and of the wolves. If we think back on our work, the first memories we have are: the carcasses of the prey; the worn-out, but dignified eyes of the shepherds; the marvelous and happy veterinarians of C.A.N.C. (a center of wild animal recovery) when they rescued and successfully healed the female wolf, Hope; how Hope appeared while she was kept in a cage, the words of the forester who said that “wolf matters” exist but they shouldn’t be faced with a medieval mind.
Brunella: As you already told me, your approach is clearly anthropological and your images convey very well both the passion of the natural photographers who track the wolves in our mountains and also, the understandable concerns of the livestock breeders. However, in your narration, there isn’t a voiceover which could affect the viewer’s opinion. I guess that was a deliberate choice…
Andrea and Alessandro: Yes, indeed, it was. The matter of the return of
the wolves and, in general, of a great predator in the Alps, basically divided people into two important factions: those who are for and those who are against. There aren’t many halfway measures on the subject. That’s why we preferred not to take sides and to remain neutral. We tried to observe several situations without giving our opinion, so we allowed the protagonists to tell us of their relationship with the wolves. Our goal was to present a mosaic of varied voices that would explain the “wolf matters” only by means of their direct experience with these animals.
Brunella: The running time of this documentary is about one hour and fifteen minutes. But how long did it take you to make it?
Andrea and Alessandro: We worked on it over three and a half years; during that time we did research and went to the western Alps to meet the protagonists of our stories. The footage is considerable: it covers more than a hundred hours of shooting, and the people we met are much more than those who are represented in the film. This kind of work requires hard choices, and so we couldn’t tell all the stories we had heard. However, as we’d like to give voice to everybody, we opened a special web site (www.storiedilupi.it) where you can find a lot more information, photos and stories.
Brunella: In Italy, these days, there is a debate on the possibility of programmed killings of wolves – maybe 60 individuals a year. This proposal has been presented in the National Operations Plan for the species [Piano Nazionale d’Azione per la Specie], which is up for passage as a law. Would you comment on it?
Andrea and Alessandro: We are against any kind of programmed killing. It’s not the answer to the question of how to redefine the “balance” To be honest, we don’t know the right answer. Thanks to the limited experience we gained through this project, we can say that the “wolf matters” have become a big political question where considerable economic interests are involved. As it usually happens, where there are interests of this kind, chaos and confusion follow and conflicts are deliberately brought on, so that everyone has a lot to gain from it. Yes, everyone, except the shepherds and the wolves, are the real victims of someone else’s desire for profit.
We think that the programmed killing is just a political means suited to assure a kind of social cohesion. This politicians’ line of reasoning could be simplified this way:
We (politicians) will convince you (people that live in the mountains) that wolves are your biggest problem. We will hide behind this lie, our carelessness and our faults and you will forget that we have left you to your own devices. And then we will urge you to complain, to demonstrate, to rise up against the scapegoat that we deliberately created. Then we will show you that we are on your side and that we want to help you by proposing to kill some wolves, but just those that are killing your sheep. We will tell you that you must rely on us, even if you don’t trust us completely. You will be quiet for a while… you will. This programmed killing has no use; it’s just a farce – a misleading solution!
Brunella: The recent documentary Medicine of the Wolf made in Minnesota, tells about the fears and problems that wolves have always aroused, just like Storie di uomine e lupi (Stories of Men and Wolves) does. Do you think it’s a coincidence that now so many people and governments are dealing with the same issues?
Andrea and Alessandro: No, we don’t think so. And in fact, it’s not a coincidence that it’s happening now. In the western tradition, the wolf has always been represented as a villain or a frightfully wild beast. For human beings, the wolf has always been synonymous with fear, so men tried to attach every type of evil on it. The wolf frightens men like the unknown, and like every different and strange thing. We also think it’s not a coincidence that wolves have appeared again in a world where social values are in a crisis and have been degraded. It’s almost like a coincidence: when men are more lost, the wolves return.
Brunella: Who should watch your documentary? In other words, is there a kind of person it’s particularly meant for? Why?
Andrea and Alessandro: This film is for everyone who knows little or nothing about wolves and wants to find out what they really represent. It’s time for the wolves’ story to be told, not only as a fable or through imaginary characters. They really exist, they live in our mountains and maybe, sometimes, we can also meet them. It’s time to start saying that wolves are not only a problem, but also an important resource.
Year 2015 Duration 75 ‘ Format 16: 9 / HD / Color Directed by Alessandro Abba Legnazzi and Andrea Deaglio With video and photographic contributions by Stefano Polliotto, Michele Corti, Lidia Ellena, Stephen and Stephanie Unterthiner, Imperia Provincial Police, Nicola Sordello Produced by BabyDoc Film (Turin) Quartier Latin Media (France) With the support of Film Commission Torino Piemonte and Film Commission Vallée d’Aoste executive production of Andrea Parena, Michel Noll B Alessandro Abba Legnazzi, Ivan Augello Francesca Frigo, Andrea Deaglio Mounting Isabelle Collin Sound in direct Niccolo Bosio
Brunella Pernigotti lives in Turin, Italy. She is a teacher, a writer and a photographer. She published a novel and a book of tales and has to her credit about ten one-man exhibitions of photos. She is member of the board of a non-profit association of Turin, “Tribù del Badnightcafè”, that organizes cultural and artistic events.