Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act in a rare bi-partisan effort. The bill is meant to speed the development of lifesaving treatments, but critics warn it may also allow ineffective or even harmful drugs onto the market.
From 1990 to 1996, Jim and Jamie Dutcher lived among a pack of gray wolves just outside Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness. During these years of observation, the Dutchers say they found these often misunderstood animals to be highly social, communicating and bonding with family in a way humans could easily understand. Their new book, accompanied by Jim’s photography, documents their findings and argues that the gray wolf should not have been removed from the endangered species list.
- Jamie Dutcher co-author and co-producer, "The Hidden Life of Wolves." Jamie worked in the animal hospital of the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
- Jim Dutcher author and photographer, "The Hidden Life of Wolves." Jim is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer.
Jim And Jamie Dutcher’s Wolf Photography
Published with permission of the National Geographic Society from the book The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher. Copyright ©2013 Jim Dutcher and Jamie Dutcher. All rights reserved.
Watch The Hidden Life Of Wolves
Read An Excerpt
Published with permission of the National Geographic Society from the book The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher. Copyright ©2013 Jim Dutcher and Jamie Dutcher. All rights reserved.
MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR sitting in today for Diane Rehm. Diane is on a station visit at WLRN in Miami. For six years, Jim and Jamie Dutcher lived among a pack of wolves at the edge of the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. During that time, they observed the birth of pups and the death of adult wolves. They saw how wolves mourn. And they came to understand how wolves select their leaders.
MR. TOM GJELTENTheir experience living with wolves resulted in three documentary films and a brand new book "The Hidden Lives of Wolves." Jim and Jamie Dutcher join me in the studio to discuss their book, the reintroduction of wolves to the northwest, and the wolves' removal from the endangered species list. Jim and Jamie Dutcher, welcome so much to "The Diane Rehm Show."
MR. JIM DUTCHERThank you for having us.
MS. JAMIE DUTCHERThanks, Tom. We're thrilled to be here.
GJELTENThis is going to be fascinating hour. And I'm sure you'll all want to be a part of it. Our number is 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook or Twitter. So, Jim and Jamie, for me and I think virtually every kid in America, what we learned about wolves we learned from "Little Red Riding Hood" and the "Three Little Pigs." Evil, evil animals. How did wolves get that reputation?
GJELTENAnd it is so at variance with what you write early in your book, "Wolves are curious, caring and intelligent. Sharing strong social bonds, wolves watch over each other, nurture their injured and raise their pups among their family groups." How do they get this reputation of being so mean and evil?
DUTCHERWell, I think what happened is we have to remember that wolves and humans have basically evolved together. You can watch wolves and see how early man, Native Americans really honed their hunting and social skills by watching wolves. And it's thought that wolves and humans, early human -- hunter-gatherer humans followed each other, you know, on their hunts and took advantage of each other's skills. That led to the development and domestication of the wolf into the dog, which gave us the ability to domesticate other animals into your livestock.
DUTCHERI think what happened is that as humans became more pastoral and more agricultural, they started looking at wolves as competition and a threat, rather as a partner. And that really started us down the road. And also with the early development of religion. And that's not knocking religion in any way, but, you know, you have the image of the pastoral flock and the evil devil wolf. And you can imagine in Europe, especially during, you know, the big wars and the black plagues, you know, a lot of people were dying, people were buried in very shallow graves, and wolves besides being carnivores are also opportunists.
DUTCHERSo they would uncover some of these bodies and start feeding. So you've got this image of this vicious animal snarling and growling over a carcass, where, you know, the snarling and the growling is just a language. But to have that embedded into your mind, you know, really set the stage for the "Three Little Pigs" and "Little Red Riding Hood." And they've been getting a bad rap ever since.
GJELTENThey've been getting a bad rap because what you describe in your book and what I'm sure is shown in your films, Jim Dutcher, is actually -- I mean, I use the word pack to describe the social group of wolves that you lived with, but actually you seem to prefer the word family. And what's really emphasized in your storytelling here about the life of wolves is that they are a family, very family oriented animals.
DUTCHERRight. They're mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters. They all hang together. And it's very difficult for another wolf to enter that group, but they do. And wolves disperse from this family. They go off and form other packs. And as dispersers there could be an alpha, a wannabe alpha, that already there's an established alpha in the group. And this bothers me, this headset.
GJELTENYou can take your headphone out. It's okay. When we get to the callers, you'll put it back on.
DUTCHEROkay. Anyway, so dispersers go out and they start another pack. But normally the group of wolves hang together as a family and they care a lot about each other.
GJELTENWell, one of the things that's so marvelous about your book is that individual -- well, you tell the stories of individual wolves. All of them have names. They have roles. It's really a great family story. And I want to get into that, but first tell me how you ended up -- give me a little bit of the background of how you ended up living with these wolves.
DUTCHERWell, wolves are very weary animals. They're afraid to -- they're afraid of people. And when they see a person observing them, they change their natural behavior. And we wanted to get into the social life of lives. And so what we did was we formed a pack by bottle feeding puppies from the moment they opened their eyes and we gained their trust. And this way we were able to see things that normally you couldn't see in the wild.
DUTCHERAnother reason for doing it the way we did, back when we started this project, the wolf was an endangered species. And if you were able to over time habituate a pack of wolves to your camera and to your presence, well, the next time they saw someone, it may not be a photographer. It'd probably be a hunter. And we would be taking away what those wolves needed more than anything, and that's their fear of humans.
GJELTENSo does that mean that you had reservations about doing what you were doing?
DUTCHERWe were cautious about how we went about this, because we were going to be living with these wolves, we didn't want them to be perceived as pets. And they weren't. They wouldn't come to us if we wanted them to. Everything was on their terms.
DUTCHERAnd we released them into a very large enclosure.
GJELTENSo, Jamie, you begin by bottle -- you just had pups in the beginning.
GJELTENThere were no adult wolves there.
DUTCHERWell, in the very beginning of the project we did have two adult wolves that were given to us from private individuals. And the hope was that they would become the alphas and take in the pups. But it turned out that even though those wolves -- those adult wolves were habituated to people, they were not familiar enough with us, so they were still, you know, very wary and a little uncomfortable. So really the project did start with the pups. The one pup, Kamatz (sp?), really from the onset showed very alpha qualities, and really overshadowed the other adult and took over as alpha. So the two adults were sent back to where they came from. And the original pups were the core of the project.
GJELTENAnd briefly explain the project.
DUTCHEROh, go ahead.
DUTCHERWell, we lived with these wolves for six years. We didn't plan to do that. It was supposed to be...
GJELTENBut you were able to -- you were able to get the Forest Service to let you use...
DUTCHERTo give us a special use permit. And we leased this land. And over the years as the project went on, we extended our permit. Until at the end we couldn't extend it anymore. And so the Nez Perce Tribe of Northern Idaho came forward, and they were going to be involved in wolf reintroduction, so they took the pack and put them on their land, set up another enclosure similar to ours as a wolf education and research center.
DUTCHERYeah, and what's important to know is that all behavior studies that have been done on wolves have been done in captivity, and usually in enclosures of one to three acres, because you just can't see this behavior with spotting scopes. We had the largest enclosure in the world. It was 25 acres. So it really allowed us to really observe these wolves and how they lived their lives. We knew, you know, they couldn't travel long distances or take down large prey in this project, but we were focusing on their social lives.
DUTCHERAnd we could see this unique relationship that each wolf had with each other. There was the puppy sitter. There were the leaders. There was a scapegoat. There were the clowns.
DUTCHEREvery wolf had a different personality.
GJELTENThat's what's fascinating about your story. Now, do you consider these wolves that you lived with wild wolves or do you consider them tame wolves?
DUTCHERThey're captive wolves. They were captive wolves. And we explain that in all our books and all our films. But you really couldn't see this...
DUTCHER...sort of behavior in the wild.
GJELTENYeah. Well, let's talk about the family aspect and the roles that you saw develop. You were saying, Jamie, that Kamatz -- and the names that you gave these wolves came from the Indian language.
DUTCHERBlack -- yeah, Blackfoot and Nez Perce.
GJELTENBlackfoot and then Nez Perce. That Kamatz emerged very early as a self confident, assertive wolf that had all these kind of leadership qualities that alpha wolves, the leader wolf in the pack, exhibit, or need to exhibit.
GJELTENNow, how do you explain that? Was that wolf just born that way? Was this a genetic thing? How do -- what did you learn about how alpha wolves emerge?
DUTCHERI really think they're born that way. It's very similar to watching children on a playground, you know, the kids playing. You've got the one child who seems to be organizing the kids and, you know, getting the games together. And then you've got, you know, the omega, the child that, you know, kind of hangs back, is a little bit shy, picked on. It seems to emerge that way. And that's not to say that there isn't competition for that spot. There certain is. But there seems to be just something that they're born with that starts it off.
GJELTENMm-hmm. Now, one of the things I found interesting in your book is that you did not portray the alpha wolf as being necessarily mean or aggressive. In fact, to the contrary, he seems to be very respected by the other wolves and I don't know if gentle is the right word, but not the meanest wolf in the family by any means.
DUTCHEROh, no, no. He was very benevolent leader. And one thing we did notice is that the alphas always were the first to respond to any perceived danger. They would hear a sound in the forest. They would stand up and put themselves forward.
GJELTENAnd one of the other things that's interesting is that Kamatz, the alpha, and Lakota, the omega wolf, were actually -- even though they're at opposite ends of the hierarchy, were actually quite close.
DUTCHERYes. And the omega, the bottom of the pack, he was actually bigger than his brother, the alpha.
GJELTENJamie Dutcher is the -- well, that's Jim Dutcher. Jim Dutcher, you -- Jim and Jamie, that's quite a pair of names. But Jim is the author of "The Hidden Lives of Wolves." He's an Emmy award winning filmmaker. And Jamie Dutcher is the coauthor of "The Hidden Lives of Wolves." She worked at the animal hospital of Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo. Their new book is "The Hidden Lives of Wolves." It's a fascinating story. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten, sitting in today for Diane Rehm. And my guests here in the studio are Jim Dutcher and Jamie Dutcher. They are the co-authors of "The Hidden Life of Wolves." It's a wonderful book that's based on six years of living among wolves in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains and observing them. They have produced films and they have this new book. And we were talking just before the break, Jamie, of the family of wolves that you lived with.
GJELTENAnd family is definitely the right word to describe this group. Let's go through the cast of characters. We've already met Kamatz who is the alpha wolf, the leader of the pack.
GJELTENAnd his brother, Lakota, who is the omega wolf. What are some of the other characters in this family that you lived with?
DUTCHERWell, we have Shamook, who grew to be the alpha female, which was actually quite surprised us. She was a very shy pup. She was picked up on by the other puppies and we thought she was definitely destined to be an omega female.
GJELTENExcuse me. So the alpha female, that's -- Kamatz has chosen her to be his mate, is that what you mean?
GJELTENAnd that makes her the alpha female? So she didn't -- she had that thrust upon her.
DUTCHERWell, actually she pretty much made that decision. We had -- at the time, we had two female pups in the pack. And she was very, very shy, where the other one was quite gregarious. And she -- it seemed like a light went off in her head, I better do something about this position. And she just started becoming a little bit more assertive, a little bit more aggressive. And she actually came into (word?) first. And then really asserted herself and pretty much threw herself at Kamatz. It was quite comical.
GJELTENYou know, that raises a sensitive point. Actually I have an email here from Sam who says: Does the alpha male in a wolf pack mate with only the alpha female or will it also mate with his siblings and daughter? If the latter, how does the pack maintain genetic diversity? Also, please note that the ancient Romans had a favorable opinion on wolves. Well, we'll get back to that later. But how about this issue of meeting and breeding.
GJELTENBecause I also saw on your book, you write: On very rare occasions, if conditions are right and there is an abundance of prey, others in the pack will be allowed to breed. Explain what's going on here? How can you -- we don't decide among us who is allowed to breed or not. Everybody, you know, wants to breed. But how does it work in the wolf world?
DUTCHERIt's a little complicated. Generally, only the alpha female and male will breed. But if conditions are really right, the alpha male may breed with a beta female or may allow a beta male to breed.
GJELTENWhat do you mean allow?
DUTCHERHe spends a lot of time keeping the other wolves away from each other. It's a little bit exhausting. And frequently, what will happen with the alpha female is she will make it very uncomfortable for the other females to be able to breed. She'll do a lot of snapping and biting and they sort of kind of all figure out their place. So it's sort of like where you, you know, on the plains of Africa where you've got, you know, a male antelope running around crazily stopping the others from doing, from breeding.
DUTCHERSo, but -- and actually, yeah, if conditions are poor, if there's not a lot of game around, they may not breed in a year. They seem to know that they can't take care of their numbers. They really do take care of their populations.
GJELTENJim Dutcher, let's talk a little bit about this social hierarchy here, because you make the point that this fairly rigid hierarchy serves a ecological or evolutionary purpose or serve some kind of purpose. What is it?
DUTCHERWell, as Jamie is pointing out that the wolves won't breed if there's not very much food around. And so, having this hierarchy really keeps a balance. If there's lots of prey, they'll go out and be able to bring down other animals and feed on them. But wolves don't kill for sport. That's one of the new myths. You know, there's a lot of myths about wolves that they go -- that they're supersized and the ones that were brought back from Canada and reintroduced are bigger than the wolves that used to live here and that they kill for sport.
DUTCHERWell, sometimes people find carcasses of elk and deer that haven't been finished. Well, wolves are very shy and elusive animals and they're easily driven off their prey, but they will go back to that prey and finish it off. It's very -- it's an important resource for the cold winters.
GJELTENSo, the idea of having an alpha wolf and an omega wolf and others in between, it sort of maintains order.
DUTCHERYes. It's stabilizing.
DUTCHERYeah. It's organizational. They work together as a family, you know, and as a team. You know, to bring down prey. They're not just randomly all scattered around. They really have a system that keeps them working. It's sort of watching -- like watching a football game.
GJELTENOkay. So you mentioned before, Jamie, before I interrupted you, you mentioned Shamook, who was the alpha female, and who are some of the other wolves in your family.
DUTCHERWe had, of course, Lakota, who was the omega. And he, interestingly, although he was picked on and forced to eat less, he really was the instigator of play.
GJELTENAnd explain why he was.
DUTCHERIt seemed to diffuse pack tension. He would be the one to kind of get the other wolves to lighten their mood and sort of play a game of tag. But at the same time, if he really got them riled up, he would be the one that would get picked on. So it was a double-edged sword for him.
GJELTENSo it's in his interest that there not be tension in the family.
DUTCHERExactly, exactly. And another important member of the pack is the beta wolf. And in our pack, the wolf was named Matsi.
GJELTENAnd explain what the beta wolf is.
DUTCHERThe beta wolf seems to be second in command. But that doesn't necessarily mean that if the alpha were -- if something were to happen to the alpha, that that wolf would assume the alpha position. But what was really quite interesting in our pack is that the beta wolf really developed quite a friendship with Lakota, the omega. And he would make sure things didn't get too out of hand for the omega.
DUTCHERAnd what I mean is if the mid-ranking wolves were picking on him, Matsi would actually get into the disagreement and just break things up, change the subject and Lakota could kind of slink away. And they would also spend time together, you know, separately which was kind of nice.
GJELTENOkay. Jim, Jamie just used the word friendship to describe the relationship between these two wolves. Has anyone ever sort of asked you or wondered if you're maybe not anthropomorphizing a little bit, you know, the -- I mean, is that really friendship? Is that really the right kind of word to describe the relationship between these two wild animals?
DUTCHERWell, we're humans and we use human terms. And that's the best term that we can come up with with what they had. They...
GJELTENAnd you felt it's accurate, in a sense?
DUTCHERYeah. They were colleagues. In our project, there was another omega at the very beginning of the project. She also would instigate play but was picked upon, shunned, not allowed to eat with the rest of the wolves and would go off by herself and be alone in a remote of this territory. And at one occasion, a mountain lion got into our project and killed this omega wolf. Now, what really surprised us about all this is how the rest of the wolves responded to this.
DUTCHERThey stopped playing. They would play every day and for some reason they lost the spirit to play. Their howling changed. They used to howl as a group and trying to celebrating their solidarity. There's a lot of excitement in a howl, the yips and whines. After that, they would howl separately and by themselves. And they seemed to really miss this wolf. And when we'd walk through the area where this incident took place, they were visibly impacted by it.
DUTCHERYou know, their tails would be down. Their, you know, their ears would be down.
GJELTENSo you mentioned the howling that the -- and was almost a sign mourning or distress. Of course, howls have a lot of other functions in other places in the wolf lives, right?
DUTCHERThat's right. Yeah.
GJELTENI want to talk a little bit about howling because this is, of course, something that is very much also in the popular mythology. We have a recording here that you made of Kamatz, the alpha, howling. Let's take a listen.
DUTCHERJamie did this.
GJELTENThat's really amazing. What is going on there, Jamie?
DUTCHERWell, that was a day when..
GJELTENThat was Kamatz.
DUTCHERThat was Kamatz.
GJELTENAnd then he was joined by?
DUTCHERThen he was joined by, actually, Lakota. And then I think Matsi comes in there. It was a day that it was particularly quiet and they had just fed and they were feeling pretty good. And so they just started up this wonderful howl. And it really feels good to hear it again.
GJELTENSo that was -- you say it's a wonderful howl. So we already heard about wolves howling when they're in mourning but they also howl just when they're feeling good and, you know...
DUTCHEROh, yeah. They howl for so many reasons. They're feeling good. They're looking for each other. You know, I'm here. I'm fine. You know, or to see who's out there. You know, they...
GJELTENTo wait to see who answers?
GJELTENAnd do they -- obviously, they must be able to recognize each other's howls. They know who they're -- when they hear a howl, they know whose it is.
DUTCHERI'm sure, because I was able to figure out who was howling, so I'm sure they knew much sooner than I did.
DUTCHEROn the cover of the book there's a wolf called Wahatz (sp?) that means likes to howl. And this wolf, for some reason, always like to camp out right where our camp was. It was just on the other side of where we are sleeping. And when the other wolves, often the four, would howl back and forth to each other, as Jamie was talking about, sort of saying hello. Wahatz would join them and launches right of bed. It was just -- the tent would actually almost shiver with the sound of his howl. It was beautiful but it was startling.
GJELTENSo I imagine you miss living with these wolves. Do you listen to the howling sounds once in a while just to bring you back, in a sense?
DUTCHEROh, yeah. Yeah, we do miss them.
GJELTENLet's listen to another recording that you made, Jamie. This is, I understand, a group howl.
GJELTENOkay. So there are some sort of whimpering and yelping mixed in there with the howls. What's the -- do you remember the occasion?
DUTCHERYes. Actually I do. You had the adults starting to howl and then we had the pups, which were the higher howls and whines. Kind of coming in and trying to solicit the adult wolves to regurgitate food for them. That's what they do to young pups. But these older pups were kind of like, hey, do you have anything for me and kind of whining and trying to see if they could get a little something extra even though they still, you know, were feeding on the carcass.
GJELTENOkay. Jamie Dutcher is the co-author of "The Hidden Life of Wolves." I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So let's talk about pups because, again, this is another aspect of the story that really captured my imagination and fascination. You write, Jim and Jamie, you write that wolves, adult wolves not just take care of their pups, but fawn over them and treat them with great indulgence.
DUTCHERYes, they do. Wolves love pups, whether they're related to them or not, they nurture them, they take care of them. They just -- and the pups follow the adult wolves and mimic everything that they're doing, you know, they sniff every flower. And that's how the wolves pass on their knowledge. The little ones follow and watch everything the adults do. And this knowledge is stored with the alphas of the pack.
DUTCHERThey know where to cross the rivers, they know how to bring down the large moose. And so if you lose the leadership in the pack, then you have a rather dysfunctional pack of wolves.
GJELTENJamie, one of the most poignant stories in your book is when you talk about Shamook giving birth to a liter of pups and the way the other wolves waited around her den and sort of greeted the birth of the pups with joy, celebration, you said it was.
DUTCHERYes. It was really an exciting moment for all of us. Weeks before the birth of the pups, Shamook would go off and she was trying to find the right place for her den and she would dig in a little spot and then move off to another one until she found the right area. Well, this got all the other wolves going as well. They would dig these haphazard dens that were kind of nothing, but they were getting quite excited about it.
DUTCHERAnd then she quietly slipped away and we noticed that she was gone. And then suddenly all the other wolves were gone. And we went up to where she had dug her den site under a fallen log about six feet down into the ground. And all the wolves were standing there very excitedly. And one thing that we didn't write about in the book is that I went down the den to just kind of check on the pups and see what was going on.
DUTCHERAnd I had a pretty close relationship with the alpha female, but I kind of felt, well, you know, okay, if I do get bit for doing this, I deserve it.
GJELTENShe might be protective, yeah.
DUTCHERSo she came out of the den and I was sitting there. She just looked at me. And I thought, well, okay, maybe this is a sign to go in. And I crawled all the way down and just checked on the pups. There were three and I had a little flashlight. And then I backed out. And she was still sitting there. And she gave me a lick on the nose and then she went back down. And it was a very exciting moment. But it was interesting because she wouldn't let any other wolf down there.
GJELTENShe trusted you more than she did her family.
DUTCHERYeah, I guess so.
GJELTENAnd you mentioned, Jim, that wolves care for pups even when they're not their own and even when they're not from their own family.
GJELTENBecause you introduced some wolves, some pups into that family and they were immediately accepted. Right?
DUTCHERYeah, exactly. That's how the project started. There was a woman up in Montana who adopted a pack of wolves. The US Navy was experimenting with them. Experiments were over but they had the sedation drugs that they were using on them and they were going to euthanize the entire pack. And she'd inherited them or took them on. And she had seen a film about mountain lions that I had and thought I could do some good for wolves. So she contacted us and offered us puppies.
GJELTENOkay. I'm going to have to read you this email and I think that you'll understand why I'm reading it. This is from Marie and she says, "These are nice stories being shared about nice wolf families. University researchers have proof that when wolves kill cattle, for example, they start eating them while their hearts are still beating. Wolves in new areas cause some problems." So we have some listeners that, you know, aren't entirely comfortable with this portrayal of wolves as being cuddly little creatures.
DUTCHERWell, you know, wolves are carnivores. They have to kill to sustain themselves. And, unfortunately, all they have are their, you know, their speed, their brains and their teeth. They can't kill as gracefully as a bear or a lion. So, yes, they do feed on animals while they're still alive. But that's part of nature. I mean, it happens on the African plains all the time and, you know, livestock, that is a real issue.
DUTCHERIt's something that we deal with all the time. Livestock loss, as it turned out, to be far less than anyone has ever predicted. Less than 2 percent of all livestock predation is attributed to wolves.
GJELTENJamie Dutcher is co-author of "The Hidden Lives of Wolves." And when we come back after this short break, we are going to be talking about some of these practical issues and why wolves were on the endangered species list and are no more. Stay with us.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten sitting in today for Diane Rehm. And we're talking about the hidden life of wolves. That’s the title of a brand new book by Jim and Jamie Dutcher, who actually lived with a family of wolves in Idaho back in the beginning of 1996. And we have a ton of emails and listeners anxious to comment on them. So let's jump right in. We have, first of all, a couple of emailers from Michigan who are worried about a new law that will allow wolf hunting -- a wolf hunt in Michigan. Do you know the background of this?
DUTCHERI don't know all of the details on that, but I do know that, you know, since the western states have been hunting wolves, that Michigan and some of the other Great Lake states have been pushing for it. What's interesting is that if -- I think I'm correct in saying this. They have not had any problems with predation on livestock. And, in fact, their deer population is still quite out of control. So even though that area has a pretty substantial population of wolves, I think, you know, around the 3,000 numbers. They're not really affecting anything.
DUTCHERAnd I think by hunting these wolves they're going to start having other problems because as we've talked about how the alphas really carry the knowledge and stand up to perceived dangers. If you've got hunters and they have the opportunity to take, perhaps, the larger, bigger alpha wolves you're then left with maybe some young kids that don't really know how to take care of themselves. And that's when they'll start getting into trouble.
GJELTENNow, of course, as we said at the beginning, there was a time when there were virtually no wolves in the lower 48. Is there a danger that taking wolves off the endangered species list will return us to that situation?
DUTCHERNo. Wolves regulate their own populations. We had about 174 wolves in Yellowstone and that population crashed with diseases and such down to in the 90's. So they won't overpopulate. I mean, elk and deer and wolves have lived together for decades and decades and they've balanced themselves.
GJELTENNo, but I mean, what's in the opposite? If you allow hunting of wolves -- if you take wolves off the endangered species list, is there a danger that once again the population...
DUTCHEROh, yeah, yeah.
DUTCHEROh, and that's happening now. Wolves are off the endangered species list.
DUTCHERAnd just in the last 17 months when wolf hunting season started in the three western states the population has gone from 1,700 wolves, which is not a lot, to less than 1,000. So it's decimating the wolf populations. In fact, in Idaho just before we left there was a proposal to allow trappers to use the carcasses of wolves and dead pups to bait their traps, which then, you know, uses what wolves really have against them their family -- their family caring, their family bond to kill more wolves. Montana -- this has just happened in the legislature -- is proposing using silencers to shoot wolves and also stop the -- not allow for a buffer zone outside the national park. It's really become -- it's not hunting. It's an absolute slaughter.
GJELTENOkay. Let's go now to Alicia who's calling us from Pittsburgh, Pa. good morning.
ALICIAGood morning. I wanted to share with you a wonderful moment that I spent with a wolf. I'm a professional photographer and another photographer from another town came to take some pictures of some wolves. They had arranged for this meeting and we were at a lake. It was early in the morning, foggy. And I was really scared. So I kept my distance from the wolves. And there was one that was six months old, a white wolf, beautiful. Her name was Angel and she approached me when evidently she saw that I was -- I respected her territory and started playing with me. Six months later that photographer came back to town and we went to the place where the wolves were and the wolves recognized me.
GJELTENThat's amazing. You know, and one of the things -- what strikes me about Alicia's comment is that she was a stranger and you said before the wolves instinctively fear humans, but another...
DUTCHERBut there's a curiosity.
GJELTENBut there is a curiosity.
DUTCHERYeah, they are curious.
GJELTENSomebody writes from Twitter, there's no name here. "I was curious if your guests have ever had a hostile encounter with wolves in your study?
DUTCHERNo. We've never had -- and there's never been a hostile encounter with wolves since wolves have been reintroduced. There's not one incident in the areas of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. And over the past 100 years there's only two cases where a wolf reportedly killed a human being in North America. And when you contrast that with bears...
DUTCHER...both grizzlies and black bears they've killed 35 people in the last 12 years.
GJELTENLet's go now to Nancy who's on the line from Cincinnati, Ohio good morning, Nancy, thanks for calling.
NANCYGood morning. Thank you for taking my call. Back in 1999 I took myself out to northern Arizona to work with some people I had heard about who were calling themselves wolf rescuers. And there were three different people who had wolves. And I ended up working with a man, who I do believe his heart was in the right place, but I have two questions based on my experience.
NANCYAs I continued to work with him and the wolves -- I just want to interject were the most wonderful creatures and, indeed, even though I was a stranger to them they were so friendly and curious toward me all the time. And it was the most wonderful experience, but as I continued to work with them, I became concerned that maybe just having one's heart in the right place wasn't enough. And that these wolves were not being taken care of optimally.
NANCYAnd what I saw, and this is my question for you, is one day I went up and pups had been born over the previous couple of weeks. And I drove up and there was a very young little teeny tiny pup just days old and its mother was cleaning it. And then it started crying and crying more loudly and loudly and I was concerned. And I actually witnessed to my horror this female wolf eat her pup. And when I got to the house of the man who ran this sanctuary and told him and he kind of just shrugged his shoulders and said well, they do that sometimes.
NANCYAnd to me, I just thought this is a bad, bad sign. I don't know what of. I was very ignorant of the whole thing, but I just thought, you know, they don't have enough room or they're afraid they don't have enough food or something. So I want to know if, indeed, that was a very bad or, at least, a bad sign that they were not being taken care of optimally.
NANCYAnd, secondly, kind of going into my second question, I used to ask well, how did you -- where did these wolves come from. And he would just kind of romantically say, well, I went up to Canada. They're Canadian tundra wolves. I went up to Canada and got them, you know, whatever, seven, eight years ago. And so I never understood exactly how a regular citizen -- he was very uneducated, again a very nice man, but how he came to have them. So those are my questions, how did he come to have them and then...
GJELTENRight. So you're suspecting, Nancy, that those wolves that there might have been something amiss in their lives.
NANCYIn their care, yeah.
NANCYEven though he meant well.
GJELTENYeah, let's that to Jamie.
DUTCHERYeah, I -- you know, without seeing and then knowing the situation, I can't exactly speak to what was going on there, what kind of set up it was. I do know that there are, you know, a lot of good hearted people that like to have captive wolves and they allow them to breed. And they really don't have the room for them. And really, you know, wolves are meant to be wild. You know, we shouldn't have them as pets. We shouldn't keep them in small enclosures.
DUTCHERYou know, we were doing a social study. We had the largest enclosure in the world.
GJELTENBut you kept your distance from them.
DUTCHERWe -- and yeah. I mean, the wolves would come to us if they chose to. We wouldn't go to them. So, you know, I can't speak to your exact situation. As far as the female eating the pup, again, I don't know, but a lot of animals in the wild, if there's something wrong with a newborn, you know, pup, kitten, whatever, they will get rid of it. And there have been reports in other species where, you know, they'll get consumed. So, you know, so I can't exactly speak to that, but -- and without knowing. But I do feel for your concern.
GJELTENOn the other hand, you have another interesting story in your book of a wolf who was injured. I think a moose kicked him in the jaw or something like that.
GJELTENAnd he wasn't able to eat. I guess it wasn't one of your wolves, but you heard about it.
GJELTENAnd the other wolves actually did not reject him, but sort of tried to...
GJELTEN...tried to help him, take care of him and even feed him.
DUTCHERRight. We were up in Alaska filming and a fish and wildlife biologist showed us the skull of an average sized age wolf and it had broken -- had a broken jawbone. And yet the wolf lived on for years and years and that jawbone healed. And this could only have happened if the pack brought food to it. You know, this wolf injured like that couldn't have pulled food off a carcass, couldn't make a kill. And they probably -- it probably was fed by the other members of the pack regurgitating food.
GJELTENThat's an amazing story. We have some listeners that want to talk about literature and the importance of wolves literature. And that's something we mentioned at the beginning of the show. Ruth writes, "Please comment on the accuracy or plausibility of the wolf's behavior in "Julie of the Wolves," "The Jungle Book," by Rudyard Kipling, the Disney Jungle Book movie. Are there real life examples of wolves taking care of humans, children or adults? Also I think we've had a number of listeners wanting to know your thoughts on the accuracy of "Never Cry Wolf," the book by Farley Mowat and the movie based on the book. Do you have any comments on the accuracy of some of the wolf stories that have been popularized in these books?
DUTCHERWell, as far as, you know, wolves taking in children...
DUTCHER...besides Romulus and Remus I don't really know of any recently, but, you know, wolves are incredible caring animals. So I certainly wouldn't say never about that. As far as "Julie of the Wolves," it's been quite a long time since I've read that book so I can't quite remember that one.
GJELTENI can't remember it either.
DUTCHERBut Farley Mowat's book, "Never Cry Wolf," it's an excellent, excellent book. And it was an excellent film. I love it. I know that he was criticized because people thought that, you know, he made some things up. And I have to tell you reading that book actually very carefully if he made things up he did a really great job because..
GJELTENAnd that sounded right to you.
DUTCHER...it sounded right. I mean, he observed things that we have observed. We know other people have observed. So I really feel he got that right.
GJELTENJamie Dutcher is co-author of "The Hidden Life of Wolves." I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I do want to read one more email from someone who's concerned about livestock. "Wolves are beautiful" -- this is Louise who wrote this. "Wolves are beautiful intelligent animals, but the reality is they do threaten the livelihoods of western ranch families that keep cattle and other herd animals. Putting limitations on wolf ranges are legitimate. For example, wolves that were introduced to Yellowstone National Park can be found threatening herds as far as South Dakota, attacking calves, leaving them to die and frightening herds." Do the -- this came up earlier. Do you have any...
GJELTEN...thoughts on this?
DUTCHERThere are about five million cattle on the open range in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. And last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said wolves were responsible for 180 of them. That's like one out of every 33,000. It really isn't that -- such a big problem. With sheep National Geographic figures from the USDA 31,000 sheep were killed by coyotes and wolves killed 1,300. It's quite blown out of proportion.
GJELTENOkay. Elaine is on the line now from Middleburg, Va. I know you've been waiting a long time, Elaine. Thank for calling.
ELAINEThank you so much. This is the most important program that I've heard in a long time. I have in front of me the beautiful pictorial book, "The Sawtooth Wolves," which I think came out of a few years ago. And I always wondered what happened to that group of wolves, but also what I would hope you'll be talking about how the wolves were moved from the endangered species act not by any scientific reason, but by a very sneaky rider. And the whole thing was political.
ELAINEAnd ever since then they have been under attack from all -- you mentioned the Michigan wolves. The governor has signed a law now -- I think there was petition against it -- for bounty hunters. Wyoming it's trapping gas. It's appalling and there has been complete silence on all sides about it. So I'm very happy that this program has come on and I hope it gets a lot of publicity. My question is there's a new minister of the interior -- a woman called Sandra Jewell (sp?) who is going to replace (word?) . Do you think there's any hope that the federal government will be able to do something because the fish and game simply are not and they are in the hands of the ranchers and the hunters.
GJELTENWell, Jim, to what extent is federal policy relevant here? I mean, we've heard a couple of the examples of state laws being passed. And this one in Michigan, Kelly, who I'm not going to get a chance to get to, is also -- she's calling from Michigan. She's very concerned about that law, as well, in Michigan. Is there any role here for the federal government?
DUTCHERYes, there is. And this all happened about a year and a half ago as Elaine said. Wolves were taken off the endangered species list in a budget bill. It was buried as a rider. There was no discussion about wolves. Both houses had to vote for the budget and it passed. And what happened is the management of wolves was turned over to the states. And they opened up a hunting season and, as Jamie pointed out, we've -- out of the 1,700 wolves we had about 17 months ago we are -- we've lost about 1,000.
DUTCHERThis is not about hunting and killing animals for their fur or putting trophies on the wall. A hunter can kill as many as 16. This is about getting rid of the species. And it's really sad. And this does not reflect the average American. Americans really wanted to see wolves come back. The citizens of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming really -- the majority don't feel this way either. But it's a very hostile group of people that are hunting with hate and anger.
GJELTENMargie, who's on the line from Zionsville, I'm not going to get a chance to get to Margie. But she asks, Jamie, what can average citizens do to help stop wolf hunts, especially since they've been removed from the endangered species list?
DUTCHERI think people just need to be incredibly vocal and much, much more aware. Since management has been turned over to the states rather than the federal government it's really out of the national press. And we really have to be loud. I highly recommend -- you can go to our website livingwithwolves.org. We have a nonprofit and there you can find the list of your state representatives and write, call, email. Be angry. Be very angry.
GJELTENAnd I should point out that you can see a slideshow of Jim and Jamie's photos on our website as well as a video of the Dutchers' time with the Sawtooth Pack in Idaho. And before we go I want to point out that we got several emails and Tweets from people who say that when we played the wolf calls their dogs started howling along. I'm sure that that doesn't come as a surprise to you. My guests today have been Jim Dutcher and Jamie Dutcher. They are the authors of a wonderful new book, "The Hidden Life of Wolves," and also of films and videos about their time with the wolf family in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. Thank you so much for listening.
DUTCHERThank you, Tom.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman and Lisa Dunn. The engineer is Erin Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones.
Most Recent Shows
Secretly-recorded videos have reopened the fight over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. We examine new hurdles for the organization, the political response and the latest in the battle over abortion rights in the U.S.
A novel about Vivian, a young Irish girl sent by rail from a New York City tenement to Minnesota in the early 1900s. She was one of thousands of abandoned children sent to live with rural families for a better life. But not all ended up in loving homes.
An estimated 11 million Americans could see their disability benefits slashed next year if Congress fails to take action. The White House and Republican lawmakers have opposing solutions. Social Security's disability fund and how to keep the program solvent.