Ranchers share how reintroduction has affected operations
By SEAN ELLIS
Ranchers are hailing an independent film that documents the impact wolves are having on their industry and game herds, while a prominent wolf advocate said it's an unfair effort to demonize the wolf.
"Crying Wolf: Exposing the Wolf Reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park," was created by independent film producer J.D. King and his brother, Cody King.
The 55-minute film takes a look at the wolf issue, beginning with the reintroduction of the animals in Idaho and Yellowstone park in the mid-1990s.
"It was accurate. He spent a lot of time doing it," said Dean Peterson, who runs a Montana ranch 10 miles from the Idaho border and was featured in the film. "He got it right and people need to hear that ... story."
Cody King said the wolf issue turned out to be much bigger and more complex than either brother imagined when they first set out to make it. They grew up on a ranch in southwest Montana but he said they were shocked at some of the things they discovered.
"As we learned, it's a huge issue that's affecting a lot of people," he said.
The film, which won Best Creation at the 2012 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, makes several hard-hitting claims, including that much of the money used to introduce wolves into the region was taken from the sportsmen's fund, which is an excise tax on firearms and ammunition that is doled back to state agencies to preserve wildlife.
It also takes a look at the impact wolves are having on wild game herds and claims a Yellowstone elk herd has been reduced from 20,000 to 4,500 since wolves were reintroduced.
The Kings also interviewed ranchers who discuss the stress factor wolves have on cattle. One rancher explains how 500 heifers near timber where wolves were present weighed 64 pounds less on average than a similar number of heifers who were lower in the valley.
Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott viewed the trailer for the film and said it appears to be a fairly accurate portrayal of the impact wolves are having on ranchers.
The film's only assertion Wyatt disagrees with is that nothing is being done about the issue.
"The (Idaho) Cattle Association has been at the forefront of this issue since wolves were first introduced on us," he said, and points out that congressional action last year resulted in the animals being taken off the endangered species list in much of the Rocky Mountain region.
Wolf advocate Ralph Maughan of Idaho said the film goes overboard in claiming the wolf is being used as a government ploy to trample private property rights.
"If people really wanted to trample private property rights, using an animal as complicated as the wolf is about the most inefficient thing they could come up with," said Maughan, president of the Wolf Recovery Foundation.
For more information about the film, visit http://cryingwolfmovie.com/store/ or call 406-669-3232.