Wolves were once federally protected but now can be hunted again, making the fate and future of the wolf more controversial than ever. UK journalist Jim Wickens reports from Wyoming and Montana to provide his unique insight into the wolf wars of the West. His blog accompanies the exclusive Earth Focus report, Shades of Gray: Living with Wolves, now online!
A foot of snow and a frosted dawn greets us on our first day in Montana. We are in Big Sky Country, a state with big wolf problems to match.
Nowhere else, perhaps, is there such a publicized animosity between carnivores and the people that live alongside them, or at least that's what the mainstream media would have us believe.
Following the de-listing of wolves from the Endangered Species Act in 2011, the battle over the place of wolves in America has once again erupted. It's a political act that has generated outrage from wolf advocates, but has been greeted with opportunistic glee by frustrated ranchers, keen to dust down their wolf traps and legally line-up the critters in the crosshairs of their hunting rifles.
Billed as wolf lovers vs. wolf haters, hysterical rants and explosive sound-bytes from both sides of the debate have been feeding frenzied news headlines around the world since wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone 16 years ago. Now a decade-long battle looks set to ignite into an all out war. Or does it?
Where do the truths really lie in this debate, and where are the voices of ordinary people on the ground in the heated discussions that revolve around human-wolf interactions, voices all too often ignored in the mainstream media?
Link TV and Britain's Ecologist Film Unit have teamed up to journey into this complex and polarized debate. While the battle rages in media headlines and Washington lawsuits, we are off to meet the people who quietly live and labor alongside wolves in Montana today. Our journey will take us from the sweeping vistas of wintery Yellowstone and its scientists, through to the chemical confines of taxidermist workshops, meeting welcoming ranchers, outraged diners at cafes on the roadside, constructive conservationists and cautious bow-hunters, even an outspoken departing governor.
We want to gauge the views of people from all backgrounds, to explore the nature of wolves and the wild; the unspoken shades of gray. Complex middle grounds of hard truths, bitter pills and innovative solutions, voices of integrity that may yet offer a glimmer of hope for America's demonized wolves, and for the people struggling to live with them.
Jim Wickens is one of Britain's leading investigative journalists and the co-founder of both the Ecologist Film Unit and also Ecostorm, the environmental media agency. Jim has spend the last decade documenting unreported issues around the world, including exposing illicit whale-meat smuggling networks in Japan, filming the brutal Namibian seal hunt, documenting soya-related murders and poisoning in Argentina, breaking the story of fracking problems in the US, and filming illegal trawlers far out to sea on the Burmese border.