Medicine of the Wolf, Produced and Directed by Julia Huffman featuring renowned NG Photographer Jim Brandenburg. Medicine of the Wolf takes you into wolf country to pursue the intrinsic value of brother wolf and our forgotten promise to him. The film features captivating footage and testimony from world renowned wildlife photographer, Jim Brandenburg.
The film is 75 minutes and will be followed by discussion with Peter David and Patricia McConnell.
The film is 75 minutes and will be followed by discussion with Peter David and Patricia McConnell.
Peter David is a wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. He has written a chapter in Recovery of Gray Wolves in the Great Lakes Region of the United States on “Ma’iingan and the Ojibwe” in which he explores the significance of wolf recovery in the western Great Lakes region to one group of people—those known to others as the Ojibwe or Chippewa, and to themselves as the Anishinabe. He will discuss the implications of this relationship on wolf policy in Wisconsin.
Patricia McConnell, PhD, is an internationally known zoologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who has treated behavior problems in dogs for over twenty-five years. She speaks around the world about canine behavior and training, and is the author of fourteen books, including the critically acclaimed The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do around Dogs. Her memoir, The Education of Will: a Mutual Memoir of a Woman and Her Dog was released in February 2017. She lives with her dogs and husband on a small farm near Madison, Wisconsin and has worked with others for several years toward the inclusion of science and soul in policy decisions regarding the management of wolves.
Medicine of the Wolf featuring captivating footage and testimony from world renown wildlife photographer, Jim Brandenburg, a filmmaker travels into wolf country to pursue the intrinsic value of brother wolf and its forgotten promise to him. Produced and directed by Julia Huffman.
The Humane Society of the United States, (HSUS), and Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin present in celebration of Wolf Awareness Week the Wisconsin premiere of the award-winning documentary film “Medicine of the Wolf.”
Produced and directed by Julia Huffman, the showing will take place on Wednesday October 19, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI, 53704.
In 1991 Governor Tommy Thompson proclaimed this week – Sunday October 16th through Saturday October 22nd – as Timber Wolf Awareness Week in Wisconsin.
Reserve your tickets Tickets are $10.00 advance/$12.00 day of show.
After the screening there will be a panel discussion and Q&A with:
HSUS Wisconsin State Director Melissa Tedrowe; certified animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.; Robert Mann, Ho-Chunk Nation Elder; Woodsman, environmentalist and author,Barry Babcock (who appears in the film); Randy Jurewicz, retired Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wolf Program Administrator, and emcee Carl Anderson.
250 Commemorative posters will be given away at the screening
This is the official commemorative poster for the Wisconsin premiere screening of Medicine of the Wolf taking place in Madison Wisconsin. These masterfully designed commemorative posters by artist Ned Gannon http://bit.ly/2aDsrRO Commemorative posters will be given away at the event by our donor Timothy Jon Coburn.
About the film
In this beautiful and important documentary, filmmaker Julia Huffman travels to Minnesota and into wolf country to pursue the deep intrinsic value of perhaps the most unjustly maligned animal on the face of the planet. Medicine of the Wolf focuses on these extraordinary sentient creatures and the remarkable, world-renowned National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg who has photographed and studied wolves for 45 years—longer than anyone in history. As our guide, Brandenburg enables us to see the world of the wolf as we have never seen it before. Documented with stunning cinematography of the Northern Minnesota landscape “wolf country”, Medicine of the Wolf tugs at the emotions while presenting the complexities and highly charged politics now surrounding an animal being pushed towards extinction.
The following is what Dr. Jane Goodall has to say about the film ‘Medicine of the Wolf’ “The sound of wolves howling under the stars is for me one of the most haunting and beautiful of nature’s voices. Native Americans revered wolves for their wildness, courage, and loyalty. Today science respects them for the important role they play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. And countless numbers of the general public are fascinated by them. Yet the myth of fierce and dangerous beasts, handed down from early white settlers, informs much of the horrific and unjustified cruelty and persecution that wolves faces today. Medicine of the Wolf explores the facts. It is powerful, informative and moving, and as I watched I was first enchanted and then enraged. I urge you to watch this compelling and courageous film and tell everyone you know to watch it as well. Thank you, Julia Huffman for making it.” Review by Dr. Jane Goodall
Let’s send a clear message that; wolves are part of Wisconsin’s wild heritage! Wolf advocates join us on October 19th for the Wisconsin premiere of Medicine of the wolf. Get tickets here: http://bit.ly/24FDUkL
By Brunellas Pernigotti – Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin Italian reporter
“At a certain point of my existential way, I discovered the tracks of the wolves and, following them, I happened to go along some unknown and unpredictable paths, until, through different phases, I reached the present moment. At the beginning it was a simple and romantic infatuation for these animals, so elusive, fascinating and mysterious, then it became a passion that made me feel the need to defend wolves against the human destructive force; but, even if I’m not an expert, the more I study the wolf’s behavior and habitat, the more I am aware of the realistic problems related to it. Yet, although I don’t have a scientific preparation that supports me, my love for Nature makes me keep on dreaming: I dream of a peaceful and well-balanced coexistence between men and these big predators, based on the due respect both for the ecosystem and for the human work. This is what I was thinking about, while my life-companion was driving me to the Maritime Alps, through woods and little villages that compete for the scarce habitable space with the mountains. I was looking at the numerous peaks, that originate a natural high and thick border between Piedmont and the Mediterranean Sea, and I noticed that they are very rich in vegetation and offer an ideal shelter: that’s why the wolves, going up from the Apennines to the North in the 90s, wolves settled there and put an end to their depopulation caused by persecution and indiscriminate hunting during the past centuries. In winter it snows abundantly because of the mild air coming from the sea that encounters the cold air coming from the north; in summer the mountain pastures are luxuriant, so many shepherds lead their cattle there.
Leaving from the plain of Turin, our crowded and hot city, it took us about two hours to get to Chiusa Pesio, where there is the administrative seat of the Natural Park of Marguareis, which has been recently combined with the Maritime Alps Park to create a single, great organization that is one of the 12 partners of the Life WolfAlps Project [“WOLF IN THE ALPS: IMPLEMENTATION OF COORDINATED WOLF CONSERVATION ACTIONS IN CORE AREAS AND BEYOND” http://www.lifewolfalps.eu/il-progetto-in-breve/%5D. It was a short journey but to me it meant the attainment of a goal after a long way that had started many years ago and during which I had met many people who work with passion and devote their life to the wolves, such as the people of the WolfAlps Project. When we arrived and took off our helmets, we felt the fresh air that was fragrant with the scent of fresh cut hay. Looking at the building, seat of the park, where Erika and Mattia were waiting for us I realized that it was like a mountain hut. In its offices, very different from the ones full of modernity and cement of the cities, there was the scent of wood and of love for Nature: pictures of wild plants and animals hanging on the walls, silence and peace surrounding.
LWA (Life WolfAlps) is a European project that was born in 2013; it’s mission is aimed to the implementation of coordinated actions to conserve and manage the wolves living in the Alps. It is co-financed by European Union, in the field of a more large-scale project devoted to the preservation of natural biodiversity in Europe. Its members are about ten partners, among them there are many organizations that manage the several natural parks situated along the arc of the Alps, from west to east, and, across the border, in Slovenia. They all work together to create strategies aimed, above all, to reduce the conflicts and to make wolves and traditional human activities live together.
Erika and Mattia gave us a friendly welcome and soon we started that kind of open and warm relation that joins people who have common points of view. We sat down at a table and in an informal way we started our conversation. I introduced myself by saying that my questions originated from my curiosity and desire to know better what kind of work there is behind the LWA, that I was interested in knowing the people who work actively on the field, what resources and point of view they have, so that I could tell all these things to the people who live on the other side of the world.
First of all, after the introductions, they wanted to denounce the most important problem about wolves in Italy that is the lack of correct and full information. Sometimes, they said, all the researchers’ careful and scientific work is vanished by a news that media spreads with imprudence. After a while the news turns out to be false, but at that point the damage is done. A classic example is the rumor going about those valleys that wolves have been reintroduced into the Alps by animal-rights supporters. Of course it’s completely false. On this point LWA people who work in “Communication and didactics” are making a very good job.”
And now let’s go to the recorded interview:
Brunella – May I ask you both a short personal introduction?
My name is Mattia Colombo I am a researcher and, as I like to say, a wolf biologist. I work as the coordinator of the wolves monitoring actions carried on by all the operators in charge in the province of Cuneo, such as game wardens, park rangers, corps of forest rangers, etc. Besides, I personally carry out field research. I started as a volunteer in 2001, right here in Valle Pesio, where, since 1999, one of the first three Alpine packs of wolves had come back (about the other 2: one had settled in France, in the Mercantour area, the other in the Alps of the Turin province). Then I wrote my doctoral thesis on wolves with the collaboration of Dott. Marucco. I completed my studies with a master’s degree on the Scandinavian wolves in Sweden.
My name is Erika Chiecchio – I’m a naturalist. I work, above all, in environmental education and didactics. I’m one of the 53 staff members of this organization, where I deal also with tourism, events and web graphic design. As for the didactics and divulgation about wolves, this year I’ve organized with my colleagues many workshops and met about 1500 students of junior secondary and high schools. We always try to provide them with general information, playing and experimenting with them and telling them how and what the field researches are about. We also provide high school students with a scientific and theoretic part. Moreover we read and analyze with them some articles of the main newspapers to find out the fake news and the spoof stories about wolves. On this point next September we’ll organize also a formative workshop for journalists, in order to give them the correct information and prevent them being mistaken, and believing and writing according to the wrong cliché of the “bad wolf”. Of course I’m sure that our didactical activity is to be developed particularly with children: the rising generations can originate a new culture of sustainability and promote a long term and peaceful coexistence between the wolves and the human beings of this area.
Brunella – How does bureaucracy, with its delays and complications concerning the allocation of funds, hamper the Project activities and running programs?
Mattia – The Establishment requires our scientific studies and exact data collections, in one word we have to work with efficiency and accuracy, but sometimes we are not able to do it because we are in need of a continuous and systematic monitoring, which, as a matter of fact, implies some expensive state-of-the-art technologies such as the DNA analysis and researches in laboratory, in office and on the field. All these activities need not only significant funds, but also studies and competences on the newest technologies that we must keep constantly up to date and that LWA only partly implements.
Brunella – ln Italy there is a great alarm because the new “Conservation and management plan of wolf in Italy “, prepared by the Italian Zoological Union, is about to be approved. It would provide for the killing of the 5% of wolves each year, of all hybrids and stray dogs, even those beyond the control of their owners. In these days, the State – Regions Conference is preparing the final version, after which the plan should be fully operative. What do you think about it?
Mattia – As LWA researchers, we are in contact with the Ministry of the Environment but we are not involved in the decisional process. We try to carry out our scientific and technic job in the best possible way, but the final decision will be a political one. At the moment there is a great confusion and nobody is in a position to explain how it will really work. All the national professional associations have been involved in the first draft of this Plan, together with the Italian Zoological Union. This strategic Plan is the result of the awareness that a general regulation of the endangered species management is required in Italy. It is composed of many items and the one about the controlled killing of wolves is just one of them. And we must say that the others are equally important: they provide Regions and every environmental organization with all the needed coordination actions that should be undertaken. However the final document of the Plan is not yet available. In any case it’s important to know that the killings won’t be allowed indiscriminately, but the decision on how and why the killing of some wolves is needed will be a very complex problem, also because the EU laws will ask us for a justification of the killing on scientific basis. I know that in North America there are similar plans. In conclusion, we should also consider that maybe, at a certain moment in the future, wolves could be delisted as endangered species according to the IUCN Red List.
Brunella – It seems to me that things like these are happening also in the Yellowstone Park, where hunters complain about the rising number of wolf packs, which leave them without enough prey to trophy-hunt…
Mattia – Italian hunters complain too and the problem is that we are not able to refute them with scientific data, as in Piedmont we are not able to standardize the monitoring of ungulates. On the contrary, as regards the farmers’ complaints, we took a census of about 98% of the alpine farms in Piedmont, so now we are able to provide them with livestock protection dogs and with the chance to keep a sustainable level of conflict in this area.
Brunella – On the point of the relation with breeders, is it possible a didactic, cultural approach also with them? I mean, is it possible to provide them with the correct information?
Erika – Of course we cannot hope that breeders love wolves, but it’s our job to provide them with the help needed to coexist, especially on long term. But to get it, we need a constant commitment on the regional and national policy part. As far as we are concerned, LWA provides the breeders with the right information. This year we have arranged 10 guided tours to the mountain pastures in order to awaken breeders and tourists to this kind of problems. After those tours we had different answers from the breeders: some of them told us that wolves are not a problem for them, as they use electrified fences and have protection dogs; but others of them still complained about some predations.
Mattia – Of course the return of the wolf in this area is really traumatic for the breeders because they must turn upside down the routine of their firm management. I confess that when I used to go to the mountain pastures to help them to use the new deterrent methods, sometimes I almost felt ashamed of being a wolf biologist, particularly when I saw them crying for the losses and damages they had suffered after a predation. However, in LWA we believe in our project which has also the aim to support their work so that, wolves and working activities can be safeguarded. After all, it depends on us, who do field researches and are involved in the project of wolf conservation, to keep the strong awareness that this is the only practicable way.
Brunella – So, what must we expect from this Management Plan, which now is at a standstill?
Erika – At an official level we can’t say anything yet.
Mattia – On my opinion we need in any case an action plan that gives us rules to follow with strong and really scientific grounds. Personally I trust in the professionals who are following at a scientific level the procedure of this Plan, as they are researchers with also a serious past experience in law-making in the European Union. On the other hand, I’m also convinced that the final decisions will be political, so probably they will disappoint everyone, because they will result from the attempt to make the opposite hunters’ and animal-supporters’ demands meet on one and only point. I hope that all the people involved, politicians included, gather in-depth information because the risk is that there won’t be the technical grounding to come to the final decisions. They must read the scientific reports, they must attend the technical meetings, and they must study and consult with specialists and scientists. For instance, they don’t have enough consideration for the fact that we, LWA researchers, together with our French colleagues, are studying one of the three most important populations of wolves in Europe (the other 2 are the German and the Swedish ones). Politicians must listen to the researchers in order to make mindful choices, because they too have to take on their responsibilities.
Brunella – Does this Management Plan consider also the poaching and the illegal killing by traps and poison baits?
Erika – Yes, of course. Should anthropic killings of wolves be found, the poachers are punished, but it is also necessary to deduct the number of victims from the possible annual amount of “controlled” killings provided for by the Plan. Therefore, as long as the findings of illegally killed wolves are so many, the “controlled” killings provided for by the Plan can’t be applied.
Brunella – An Italian serious wolf management plan should provide also for the problem of crossbreeds, I think.
Mattia – Of course! How should we manage them from a legal point of view? They are not yet here in Piedmont: we know it thanks to the DNA tests made by the Institute ISPRA in Bologna, where we send the traces we find and pick up. But in Tuscany and in general in the Apennines they are a serious problem. First of all it’s very difficult to distinguish a wolf from a crossbreed and sometimes it’s possible only by means of a DNA test, then at a legal level, the dogs or wolves management is very different.
Brunella – So, the hybrids don’t constitute only a risk of losing the wolf genetic inheritance, but they are also a problem for the wolf management! For instance, what about a predation that is reported as from wolves and then it is proved it was from hybrids? …
Mattia – In general there is a compensation for damages caused by “Canids”, that is by dogs and by wolves, without distinction. But in the past years a similar event happened in an Italian Region that had a protocol providing a compensation for damages caused only by wolves, so it was difficult for the breeder to get a compensation.
Brunella – In this connection, what are the differences of the wolf management in the Alps and in the Apennines?
Mattia – First of all, we must say that we live and work in the Alps, where the wolves have gradually settled again and we have had the time to get organized. So, the first difference is that in Piedmont, with the LWA Project, we are trying to have a coordination at a regional and interregional level, whilst in the Apennines the management is more complex and diversified, depending on the areas. Then in the Alps, in general, there is more snow, so in winter it’s easier to track the wolves. Other differences are the orography and the possibility, at an institutional level, to raise funds and resources. The Apennines are certainly more extended and obviously there is a different approach. Probably in the National Park of Abruzzi and in the Majella area there is a little more tolerance, but generally, even if in the Apennines the wolves never extinguished completely, the breeders of those territories are not well disposed to them. For instance in Tuscany some wolves were recently found killed and with their heads cut: these are real acts of retaliation.
Brunella – Well, let’s approach the wolves from a more cultural and traditional point of view, now. How are they regarded around here?
Erika – My job is also to show the wolves tracks to the children, to explain them how the food chain works and why they have come back to these valleys. We often meet with different responses. The children that come from the city have no prejudices: they are like white sheets of paper on which it’s possible to write. So when we tell them the life in a pack, they compare it to the life in their family, and when we explain the dispersal of the young wolves, or when we reappraise with them the Little Red Riding Hood tale, we immediately realize that we have a strong hold over them and meet with positive responses. Whilst, those who come from these valleys are not so tolerant. Of course during our meetings we never try to convince them to love the wolves, but only to let them understand that the wolves have come back in a natural way, deflating the false news and rumors that say that wolves have been reintroduced by men. Then we explain that wolves are very useful big predators of wild animals and that they keep wild herds in good health by killing only the old or weak or suffering preys. Right then, when the children understand that the wolf presence is important and that the wolves will never invade this area in hundreds, we are rewarded with positive feedback that we can verify when we receive from their schools the drawings and the stories invented by the children after our meetings. I remember also a particular event we organized with the students of the Agricultural Institute, whom we had a different approach with. We wanted to speak with them not about wolves, but about the breeders’ problems and the possible deterrent methods to be used. We brought also the antivenin dogs and showed them some newspaper articles with spoof stories. We had a very positive feedback. Precisely, at the beginning of our meeting, we had given out to each of them a first card with the writing: “On my opinion the wolf is…” that they had completed with negative comments. But when we gave out the same cards again, at the end of the meeting and after our explanations, the comments had changed and become positive. This made us understand that the problem is always a lack of correct information.
Brunella – According to what is said in the USA award winning documentary film: “Medicine of the Wolf”, the wolves are the medicine that can save mankind, as they act like men, are sympathetic and can feel strong emotions. What do you think the wolves can teach us?
Erika –The children show interest when they learn how the social life in a pack is important: the mutual assistance, the parental care, the territoriality. The children compare the wolves to themselves and often they end up by talking about bullying, as in Italian pack and gang are the same word. I never thought that talking with children about wolves could have social and relational implications. We often examine with them the negative behaviors of bullies in a gang/pack in order to compare them with the positive examples of loyalty and solidarity represented by the wolves in their pack. Moreover, our society is full of negative words linked to the wolves. For instance many journalists are used to mention the “bad wolf” symbolism when they talk about crime news. However, there is now a growing tendency to rediscover the wolves and their importance and we are trying to support it by means of our educational activities, especially addressed to the new generations.
Mattia – The wolves taught me particularly to hold out, to never give up! They are incredibly able to survive despite the obstacles and the real difficulties posed by nature and men. Besides I consider them like a bridge that connects us to our mountains: to me the wolf is the symbol of the wild life that doesn’t drive humans away from here, but that makes me understand more deeply these places and that attracts me to live here. The wolves fascinate me but not for some idealistic and sentimental reasons: I’m very realistic and I know that they can be violent and aggressive, for instance when they kill a foreign wolf that comes in their territory. It’s natural. But, no matter how we try to understand them, they remain elusive and inaccessible: even though in my life I’ve been tracking them for hundreds of kilometers, I’ve met them only about fifteen times.
Brunella – Do you have some particular memories?
Mattia – Yes, a lot. For instance, when they hadn’t noticed that I was hiding in a bush: I heard a little noise, I turned and I saw them; they were three, not very far from me; or when they answered for the first time to my wolf howling. But it’s important to say that I love the wolves not only when I meet them, but also when I do my daily job for them: the field research I do and the relations I establish with the people of these mountains.
Brunella – The last question: what kind of non-lethal deterrents are used around this area? Do they work?
Mattia – The use of deterrents brings the problem of inurement. My job is also to test every prevention method. Here the breeders use many of them: the electrified fence, the livestock protection dogs, the fladry fencing, the vocal dissuaders. But the wolves are very clever and after a while they understand that these things are not dangerous, so they don’t fear them anymore and we have to convince the breeders to change method. Moreover every valley or area has local and orographic differences, so, even if we have proved the efficacy of one method in one place, we can’t say that we’ll be able to take it to another place and guarantee the same success: everything is to be adapted again, according to the geography and the habits of the breeders.
All we can say is that we have a valuable experience of 15 years of working and researching: this is a store of knowledge that can be useful to find the right strategies and to contribute to the pacific coexistence between men and wolves in our mountains.
“With these last words, my interview ended. I thanked and said goodbye to my friends. On my way back, while I was thinking to our conversation, I realized that the respect for the creatures that live in these places can originate only from the deep scientific knowledge of the environment around us. I am sure that, from the model activities that LWA is carrying on by informing and popularizing, new interests and passions will be born in the future generations, so that they will improve the ancient relation between humans and big predators. As Jim Brandenburg says in Medicine of the Wolf, it was the wolf that about 14.000 years ago, decided to get closer to men and to let them domesticate it. Now it’s the man that must take the following step and give the wolf the chance to survive, as it is one of the key animals for the ecosystem. The wolf must be able to live in its habitat, and men must coexist with wolves in a sustainable way, as men too are guests, not owners of the natural environment! If humans do not learn to understand that the wolves, like all predators at the top of the food chain, represent our salvation, there won’t be a future for mankind.”
Featured image: “Lupo Ormea_ Centro Faunistico Uomini e Lupi_ photo credit Fulvio Beltrando”
Brunella has joined Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin’s blog and will be writing about the wolves in Italy for our Italian and Europian readers. Watch for the Italian language version of this interview on WODCW -Brunella Pernigotti’s blog out on Monday September 12, 2016.
Teachers in the Forest is a new book written by Barry Babcock about his life experiences living simplistically with and not against nature.
“Nothing has more symbolic meaning for me than the wolf. For thousands of years we have waged a campaign of eradication against the wolf in the worst possible manner.” ~Barry Babcock, ‘Teachers in the Forest’
To purchase a copy of ‘Teachers in the Forest’ by Barry Babcock Click HERE
Babcock lives off the grid in the Mississippi Headwaters Country of northern Minnesota. His lifestyle is one of simple and self-sustaining existence. He gathers what he needs from the land by gardening, hunting, harvesting, and his only electricity is harnessed from the sun, and his water from a well which is pumped daily by hand.
He lives an intimate balance with the natural world. He has pursued a way of life distanced from the economic and consumptive norms which he believes can hinder a persons connection to the natural world. He truly lives on the perimeter of society. With a deep love and respect for the land, he has been active in curbing the transformation of northern Minnesota which has been enacted by extractive industry, motorized recreation, and development.
For over two decades he has been active with the Tri-County Leech Lake Watershed Project, and is the founder of the grassroots organization Jack Pine Coalition. Since the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act, Babcock has been pro-actively fighting to protect this animal. This has included speaking to legislature in conjunction with the non-profit group Howling for Wolves, and assisting with the production of the documentary Medicine of the Wolf.”
Excerpt from book:
“Several winters later while again out on snowshoes with Babsy on the Twin Pines trail; I came across an old deer kill from earlier that winter. All that was left were the rib bones in the middle of the trail bleached white by the winter sun. Babsy was out ahead of me and stopped to sniff the bones with more than her usual interest. As I approached, I notice right away two sets of fresh wolf tracks in the snow and some bright yellow urine on the rib bones that was still wet and unfrozen which meant it happened recently. As I knelt to get a closer look, I noticed Babsy’s attention was focused elsewhere. I stood and looked off to the south side of the trail, and on a small rise in some old tamaracks saw two wolves beautifully yet mysteriously silhouetted against the low sun. They were standing one directly behind the other, appearing to be relaxed and attentively watching us. There was no fear, no hatred, only four living organisms meeting one another, and then they casually turned and disappeared. My only emotion was of contentment that they were here. Nothing has more symbolic meaning for me than the wolf. For thousands of years we have waged a campaign of eradication against the wolf in the worst possible manner.”
Message from the author, Barry Babcock:
It will be released soon. TEACHERS IN THE FOREST discusses my life experiences living simplistically with and not against nature and and how through the teachings of Larry Stillday, Aldo Leopold, and Thoreau, I have learned that by closely observing the natural world around me has taught me, both spiritually and academically, how to live a better life.
My friend Michael Meuers is one of two people (besides the publisher, Daniel Rice of Riverfeet Press) who have read it. This is what Michael Meuers says:
“Barry uses his extraordinary ability for recall to blend his own vast knowledge of living off the grid and the teachings of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Larry Stillday.” ~Michael Meuers
Barry walks the walk. He and his wife Linda own 40 acres living literally “off the grid.” You’ll read stories of that land, about gardening, a hidden lake, three dogs, a gas refrigerator, an outdoor hand pump, with 100% of their electricity generated from solar collectors. The author fishes, hunts with a bow, wild rices, and does sugar bush. There are stories of the earth, about plants for nourishment and medicine. Stories of the winged ones; chickadees, grosbeaks, ruffed grouse, eagles and swans, and there are tales of the four-legged; deer, bear, beaver, and our besieged brother, the wolf.
Barry blends his experience with science and the world-view of our Indigenous cousins. In the end, Barry taught me about the teachers of the forest.
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?
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?
“Medicine of the Wolf,” a documentary examining the treatment of America’s gray wolves, has won the eighth annual Animal Content in Entertainment documentary grant offered by The Humane Society of the United States.
“This feature-length documentary from filmmaker Julia Huffman follows the work of renowned environmentalist and National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg, who has studied wolves in the field for 44 years. The film explores the role wolves have played through American history, including their esteemed place in Minnesota’s Ojibwe tribe, and how their recent de-listing in certain regions from the federal Endangered Species Act could push the animal’s population to the brink of collapse.” -HSU SourcePaula Ficara and Steve Wastell of Apex Protection Projectalong with Jill Fritz of HSUS will be leading a Q&A session after the screening of ‘Medicine of the Wolf’
Watch the following video entitled “What is Apex?”
Photo: Left to right- Paula Ficara, Steve Wastell and Julia Huffman
Yes, I borrowed the title from filmmaker Julia Hoffman’s recent film chronicling this large carnivore and the misunderstandings surrounding them. It was happenstance that I happened to watch the film February 23rd, my birthday, the same day these central forest region animals made an appearance.
The film predominately features interviews with renown photographer Jim Brandenburg from Ely Minnesota. Brandenburg is one of my favorite photographers and his work has captured wolves from across North America, particularly ones near his home in the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota. The narrative from Brandenburg follows his fascination of the animal, beginning with extensive study and photographing in Ellesmere Island in northern Canada to the distressing results of the wolf hunt in northern Minnesota . The latter having a profound effect on him personally as the result of the local pack left in disarray after the killing of the alpha male and poaching.
The film has been greatly supported by wolf advocates as a banner to their cause. I’m sure wolf haters thoroughly dismiss it. The “Big Bad Wolf” side of the story is one most of us have grown up with and for what ever reason, those feelings persist-unfounded in reality. Hoffman delves into the other side-looking at the relationships between man and wolves and the complex social life the animal has.
A month or so ago I’d found a dead whitetail, it was frozen solid, partially buried in snow, cause of death unknown. It was a small yearling doe and few forest creatures had discovered her yet. She would not go to waste. This presented an opportunity. The county and state forests here have many carnivores, animals I’m keenly interested in and more so since starting my work in the Ho-Chunk Nation DNR. I’d been busy this winter doing tracking surveys (as a volunteer) for fox, coyote, bobcat, fisher and of course wolves. A well placed camera trap nearby could possibly capture some images of these fascinating animals.
While coyotes are more than numerous, and bobcats and fishers are not uncommon, it’s very difficult to actually see one in the wild. I can count on one hand the number of cats I’ve ever encountered, yet sign indicates they are around. Wolves are just as difficult to get pictures of and I’d hoped to maybe get images of ones that I’d tracked the past few years. (note: the Wisconsin central forest region consists of roughly 7000 square miles in more than seven counties, and is as detailed a location I’ll share, for obvious reasons). Although I’m not actually pressing a shutter, as a photographer, I still love capturing and looking at pictures, and these could be fantastic subjects if I were lucky.
Being in a rather open area of timber slash, the first visitors were unsurprisingly crows and ravens. I was a little taken aback by the size difference between the two species, but not of the numbers within the murder when they were there.
Other airborne patrons discovered the carcass as well- numerous Bald Eagles and even a rare (to me) Golden Eagle. I’d been aware that golden’s pass through this area but apparently this one lingered for “he” would visit the site daily. I’ve told people I never quite get tired of seeing eagles, actually raptors of any kind and some of the images that follow were thrilling.
As appealing as the bird shots are, and there were hundreds, I was still most interested in carnivores, and it did take some days for them to appear. I’d expected them sooner, although the camera was apparently missing some of the action for during the sequence of images, portions of the deer would be whittled away or moved with no visible culprits.
Canis latrans, Marking “His” kill?
Considering the number of coyotes that I record on tracking surveys, I was a bit surprised at how few actually wandered into the site. One here and there, maybe two, just once, but I suspect they were responsible for the rapid decline of most of the yearling. Disappointingly, no bobcats, fishers or wolves ventured in. I continued to return for camera checks, but quickly the scavengers had reduced the whitetail down to a spine and skull, hide and a couple legs-it was efficiently picked clean.
I returned one last time to possibly remove the camera. I was confident there would be little left to attract repeat customers. Not surprisingly, everything was gone. My first thought was that something large must have consumed the remaining scraps. No tracks indicated that however, in the melting snow. Surveying the area, drag marks into the brush disclosed the remains had been moved. It’s common for the entire animal to be consumed, nothing is wasted- bones, hide and all. Since there was something left, I moved it back to the camera and reset everything for one last try.
The wolf is neither man’s competitor nor his enemy. He is a fellow creature with whom the earth must be shared. L. David Mech
I’d be naive to think most people agree with this view by Mech, especially in the state and area I live. I do, however. Unfortunately, the mentality observed here still remains locked on Little Red Riding Hood or poor (or selfish) assumptions of barstool biologists. That said, I continue to want to understand the species and their complex social structure, which is quite unlike any other large carnivore. Study and observation is required and this opportunity to capture images can only enhance that-for me anyway.
So finally they made an appearance. The SD card had been slipped into the computer and quickly visually astonishing pictures appeared on the screen. No, these were not coyotes, not these animals cautiously appearing in front of the camera. Displaying particular behavior and posturing began to tell their story. Author and wolf biologist Dick Thiel noted nuances in the animals when I shared the pictures which identified them as most likely a breeding pair and a subordinate younger animal. My less educated eye had not deciphered those same clues when I’d first viewed the photographs. Perhaps I was just happy at first to have the quarry in front of the lens.
A mere 24 hours after I’d visited the site the wolves wandered in. Surely, deer scent had not escaped their curiosity and being that it had been a mild winter, a possible free meal would be welcome. As Thiel pointed out, the progression of images displayed a cautious younger wolf, a similarly colored confident animal and a larger light hued thick coated alpha female. In my opinion, beautiful animals. The pictures were not as clear as I’d hoped, but they finally were the evidence I’d anticipated at some point-one gets tired just looking at prints in snow and sand.[Click HERE to view all the trail cam photographs and to read the full blog]
The following is what Dr. Jane Goodall has to say about the film ‘Medicine of the Wolf’
“The sound of wolves howling under the stars is for me one of the most haunting and beautiful of nature’s voices. Native Americans
revered wolves for their wildness, courage, and loyalty. Today science respects them for the important role they play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. And countless numbers of the general public are fascinated by them. Yet the myth of fierce and dangerous beasts, handed down from early white settlers, informs much of the horrific and unjustified cruelty and persecution that wolves faces today. Medicine of the Wolf explores the facts. It is powerful, informative and moving, and as I watched I was first enchanted and then enraged. I urge you to watch this compelling and courageous film and tell everyone you know to watch it as well. Thank you, Julia Huffman for making it.” Review by Dr. Jane Goodall
The Film Society and Minnesota Made presents an outdoor event at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Screening is on September 10, 2015, 8:30 pm
MN Made MSPIFFmovie at sunset, presented by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul The Creative City Market is a free monthly experience in the heart of our downtown that celebrates the act of making. Each month the public is invited to the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza to participate in an evening under the setting sun surrounded by MN made art, wares, and performance.
“The famous “wolf” cover of Never Die Young led James Taylor to a long-standing relationship with environmentalist and National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg. In this video, he talks about making that cover happen. Unfortunately, wolf populations are once again under attack. To find out how you can help, or to provide grassroots funding for Julia Huffman’s movie about the subject, go to Medicine of the Wolf website”
Bonnie Raitt Recommends Medicine of the Wolf
Please check Medicine of the Wolf a film that explores the spiritual, scientific, and ecological value of wolves. The main human subject of the film, Jim Brandenburg is a renowned wildlife photographer and author who has been a powerful wolf advocate for the last 30 years. In 2011, the US government lifted the Gray Wolf’s endangered species status, and since that time, hunters have killed over 1/3 of the population that was recovering since protection brought it back from the brink of extinction in the 1990s. -Bonnie Raitt
A review of Medicine of the Wolf from Jim and Jamie Dutcher
Medicine of the Wolf is an important and deeply moving film—a must-see for anyone with an interest in wolves. It conveys both the beauty and value of the wolf while also educating viewers about the persecutions they continue to face from those who do not yet understand them. Director Julia Huffman demonstrates through example the ways in which people can make a difference for wolves. -Jim and Jamie Dutcher, Award Winning Filmmakers, and founders of the nonprofit group Living With Wolves
“We are happy to announce that Medicine of the Wolf, starring renown Photographer Jim Brandenburg, will be coming back to Minneapolis and screening at its birth home!” Julia Huffman