If today's broadcast schedule continues as planned, The PBS NewsHour will air a piece I helped Miles O'Brien shoot in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho about the return of wolf hunting for sport in the American West. Some of it, I must tell you, we shot on horseback.
As Miles reports in the story, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park some 16 years ago, after being completely wiped out in an extinction campaign. The wolves have come back in numbers better than anticipated, and ranchers have lobbied for a return of sport hunting, to keep the wolf population numbers down and minimize "depredation"—that's cow-country jargon for "killing cattle."
As you might imagine, there is intense controversy over the science, politics, and resources involved. Pro-wolf advocates say the number of hunting tags issued will bring the wolf numbers back to extinction status; ranchers argue that without some intervention, it is the American rancher who will become extinct.
Miles speaks to pro- and anti-wolf ranchers, cowboys, environmentalists, biologists, and amateur wolf-lovers who wake up every morning before dawn to go out and observe the wolves in their natural habitat. In the process of shooting this piece, we joined the "wolf nerds of Yellowstone," and saw the wolves out in the wild. That, for me, was a once-in-a-lifetime wonder. Wolves are amazing creatures.
Above, a snuggle in the back seat of a rancher's truck as we drove to a higher-altitude summer pasture in search of some wandering cows. Kit is a working dog on the Flying Diamond ranch, run by Martin Davis (who you'll meet in the NewsHour piece). I realize I may be breaching ethics rules by falling in love with the doggie talent, but ethics be damned. PBS NewsHour's Jenny Marder shot the snap, and produced the "Wolves" story.
Search for your local PBS affiliate that carries NewsHour here. I'll post video here later when it's available online.
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