Medicine of the Wolf

Synopsis: After 40 years of protection, Grey wolves were recently de-listed federally from endangered species act and their fate was handed over to state legislatures. What ensued was a 'push to hunt' in wolf country across the United States. Filmmaker Julia Huffman travels to Minnesota and into wolf country to pursue the deep and intrinsic value of brother wolf and our forgotten promise to him. The film stars Minnesota Native Jim Brandenburg and his film, White Wolf, that premiered at Sundance almost 30 years ago-in 1986. This National Geographic film is the documentary of an exceptional journey, by Jim who was determined to enlighten the world about the true nature of this planets most misunderstood carnivorous mammal.
74 min


There is a place up north, far north.

A place called Wolf country.

When I heard that

wolves had been removed

from the endangered species list,

after 40 years of protection,

I was surprised.

As I knew we only had

a few thousand wolves

left in the country.

And it troubled me that we were still

so divided in our thinking

about this highly intelligent species.

So I decided to travel to places

where they still could be found

and talk to people who knew

and studied them,

and somehow try to understand why

there were those who still

feared and misunderstood them.

Wow, it's a beautiful day.

And we're headed up

to northern Minnesota

to go see Jim Brandenburg.

Jim Brandenburg has been photographing

and writing about wolves

for over 45 years.

He's known all over the world

for his study of wolves.

This is a really unique area

that we're going to.

It's... it's actually

called wolf country,

and where Jim lives, it borders on

the boundary waters canoe area,

which has a million

acres of pure wilderness.

Being out here, it's very

different from where I grew up.

You can see all kinds of wildlife.

You can see eagles,

and if you're lucky,

you might even see a wolf.

This is northern Minnesota.

It definitely takes

a unique and hearty person

to live out here.

Everybody's up here

for a different reason.

My reason was to be close to the

wilderness and to photograph wolves.

Or to see wolves, I didn't

have to photograph them,

I just want to be around them.

And it evolved, it took me years,

many, many years to get

some decent photographs,

so it wasn't a practical consideration,

it wasn't a job, or a career move

to come up here and photograph wolves,

and do posters and do

books and do movies.

It was just an intuitive

fire inside of me.

I got into photographing

wolves and telling their story

because I thought they were the most

persecuted animal in the world.

More than lions, more than tigers,

I really believe the wolf...

the wolf's reputation

is worst, misplaced reputation

of any animal in the world.

And I thought, there's a story.


about a mile from here, I

was walking with my camera,

Nikon F manual exposure

with a 300-millimeter lens,

snowshoes, on lake Juan

at the end of the Fernwood

trail, which is right here,

I saw a wolf before it saw me.

I fell down onto the ice and the snow,

crouching, thinking maybe, maybe

I can sneak up on this wolf,

maybe the wolf won't see me.

The wolf kept coming, the wolf saw me,

and it said,

"ah, is that food, is that a beaver?"

"Is that a dead moose?

Is that a dead deer,

is it... what is that thing?"

The wolf started stalking me,

you think I was excited?

That's one of my first

encounters with a wolf,

and I was stalked by a wolf.

I have photographs to prove it.

Not just a story.

I cherish those photographs,

but you should see the look

in that wolf's face

when it finally decided

that I was a human.

That's when I knew that

wolves were slightly

different than what I thought they were.

I could see all the embarrassment

condensed in one expression,

and walking away,

like, "well you fooled me for a second,

but don't tell anybody."

That whole...

the series of photographs is precious,

I never even published it.

Steve Piragis and his wife

have lived up on the edge of

the boundary waters canoe area

for over 35 years,

outside of a town called Ely, Minnesota,

which is the closest town

to wolf country,

with a population of 3,500 people.

They came and fell in love

with the wilderness

and decided to make it

their permanent home.

Now it's their backyard.

They have an outfitting company,

Piragis northwoods company,

where they lead canoe excursions,

including howling for wolves canoe trip.

You know, I mean,

we enjoy that we live in a place

that's wild enough that

we have wild wolves

in our neighborhood,

and we hear 'em howling,

and I mean, I had a great

experience with wolves, myself,

oh, just a half... oh, about

a mile actually, from here,

when I was out on a run,

very unusual opportunity

to see wolves close up.

There was, uh... two adults

and two... two very young pups.

Uh, it was in may, so it was probably...

they were probably

six or eight weeks old,

and they were down in kind

of a hollow in a clear cut,

so I could... as I ran along the road,

I could see these four wolves,

two adults, two pups.

And, uh... they saw me,

and the mom, I assume the mom,

kind of a large Grey wolf,

and the other one's a very dark wolf,

much smaller, um,

the mom kind of scurried

up into the woods

and made a high-pitched caw, a very

high-pitched screaming kind of caw,

and everybody followed her up into

the woods. The babies stopped,

they were just rolling over each other

like two little pups having fun,

and the mom started,

you know, alerting them,

and they walked up into

the woods together.

So I go around the backside of the hill,

and I imitated this little sound,

this... this high-pitched

call that the mom was doing,

and lo and behold, out of the

woods come the two pups.

Like right to me,

right within four feet of me.

And... they... you know, they thought

I was the mom calling to them.

So, uh, I said, wow, this is...

this is pretty neat,

and, uh... within seconds later,

the trees kind of

start shaking down the hill,

and down the hill comes the mom,

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Julia Huffman

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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