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 publicised 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 Obama administration's decision to de-list 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 cross-hairs 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 polarised debate. While the battle rages in media headlines and Washington lawsuits, we are off to meet the people who quietly live and labour alongside wolves in Montana today.
Our journey will take us from the sweeping vistas of wintery Yellowstone 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 demonised wolves, and for the people struggling to live with them.
The Link TV/Ecologist film on wolves will broadcast on 10th March at linktv.org