Wolves in Paradise on Idaho PBS. Anybody see this?

I found this today on the blog 43rd State Blues.

Apparently the documentary soon turned to the “experts” — whining ranchers — our Idaho feudal landlords.

There was a link to PBS. At the link it read:

“WOLVES IN PARADISE is a tale of survival in the soaring mountains and majestic valleys of southwest Montana, as ranchers face the challenge of living with Yellowstone’s roaming wolf packs while encroaching development threatens their way of life. The film contrasts the experience of two ranchers with completely different backgrounds and resources, while it documents the growth of a surprising alliance between traditional enemies – livestock growers and conservationists – who find common ground in the need to protect open space from developers. [boldface mine]

I take this back. I’ve seen the documentary. It’s OK. I thought it must be about Idaho wolves, but it is about the Paradise and Madison Valleys. I dislike the cows versus condos argument. It’s more likely to be cows and condos. Anyway, right now the prospect of condos is fading due to the bad economy. RM

The big lie, told once again, by the fawning media.



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    You’re too kind Ralph. Rather than “fawning,” I would have used “gutless.”

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I did a little more digging. Here’s a longer description of the “documentary,” and includes email addresses of the producers. Have at it:



    – A Tale of Survival in Southwest Montana As Ranchers Learn to Live With Yellowstone’s Wolves –

    While the federal government, the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park and environmental groups battle in court over whether to continue protecting the gray wolf as an endangered species, WOLVES IN PARADISE gets to the heart of the matter by exploring the lives of the ranchers who live and work in wolf country. The film airs in December 2008 (check local listings ) on PBS.

    In 1995, ranchers in southwest Montana lost a long battle to keep the government from reintroducing the gray wolf — a species that had been exterminated to protect livestock — to Yellowstone. As these new, growing packs moved north, out of the park, ranchers and wildlife experts struggled to keep the wolves from killing cattle and sheep without violating the Endangered Species Act that protected the predator.

    Set in the soaring mountains and majestic valleys of southwest Montana, WOLVES IN PARADISE is a tale of survival. The film documents the challenges that ranchers face while living with wolves in the decade after the top predator was restored to Yellowstone National Park. From his home base in Livingston, Montana, at the foot of Paradise Valley, video journalist William Campbell spent more than six years documenting the relationship between ranchers, wolves and conservationists.

    WOLVES IN PARADISE follows two different ranching operations through a grazing season in wolf country. The relatively small ranch run by Martin Davis is a family business. Davis clings to tradition in a valley that is quickly turning from rangeland to vacation homes and subdivisions. In the past, wolves have picked off a couple of Davis’ heifers and harassed the cattle so badly that they failed to gain weight. Another such attack could ruin Davis, and he approaches the summer with some apprehension. “How can we have both the rancher and the wolf together?” Davis asks. “That’s the part we need to get figured out.”

    In nearby Madison Valley, conservation rancher and California-born multimillionaire Roger Lang says he welcomes both wolves and cattle on his 18,000-acre spread. “We look at the Sun Ranch as one big experiment,” says Lang.

    At the beginning of the summer, Sun Ranch managers discover that they are grazing 1,500 head of cattle in “wolf central,” where the Wedge pack has chosen to den and raise pups. Lang and his team hope they can work with these wolves, teaching them not to prey on cattle, while using their presence to deter other packs from settling on the ranch. As the days grow shorter, the experiment becomes more interesting and more deadly to both cows and wolves.

    As Campbell follows both ranchers through the changing seasons, he documents the growing alliance among conservationists, government agencies and ranchers who seek creative solutions to allow livestock and wolves to coexist in Montana.

    Underwriters: ITVS/CPB, Montana Committee for Humanities and Greater Montana Foundation. Co-producers: KUSM Montana PBS, ITVS and Homefire Productions, Inc. Producer/director/editor: William Campbell. Writer: Maryanne Vollers. Format: CC Stereo. Online: pbs.org

    – PBS –

    CONTACT: William Campbell, Homefire Productions, Inc., Tel.: 406-581-8035; campbell@homefire.com

    Randall Cole, ITVS, Tel.: 415-356-8383, x254; Fax: 415-356-8391; randall_cole@itvs.org

  3. April Clauson Avatar
    April Clauson

    Looks like it is on Friday Dec 5th at 4:00 PM in Arizona, my day off and my birthday, so I know what I will be watching or taping at 4. May go to the rim with my dog that day and so some hiking. Thanks for the post, sounds interesting. Sun Ranch is or was at one time really trying to work with the wolves…

  4. SAP Avatar

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on the taglines & ranching=open space narrative. The film (which came out last October) is worth watching for its accurate depiction of the challenges of ranching with wolves.

    For what it’s worth, grazing on the Sun Ranch is almost entirely on private ground. And the wolves killed by cattle in the film were all killed on private land.

    I’m not sure, but I think the other rancher — Martin Davis — in the film runs cattle mostly on private land, too.

    There are some really good moments in the film. My favorite is when Davis’ son talks about his future in ranching, and how they’ll probably just accept wolves as part of the environment by the time he takes over the ranch.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    See my updated note on this post

  6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I’m not sure what your point is that wolves and cows depicted in the film are on private land. So what? That says nothing about the inherent incompatibility of wolves and livestock, or more accurately, wolf conservation and livestock management.

    Ranching is economically non-viable for a lot of reasons, and the damage it’s done to land and wildlife cannot be rectified by any means. Why do people continue to supply life support for a terminal patient?

    That’s a rhetorical question, unfortunately.


  7. Layton Avatar

    This is a real contrast,

    On this blog, Ralph says “The big lie, told once again, by the fawning media”. Robert agrees, but says “You’re too kind Ralph. Rather than “fawning,” I would have used “gutless.”

    OTOH, on another website – oriented toward hunters, this is the comment – same video, different people watching.

    ““Wolves in Paradise” aired last evening 12/2/08 on Idaho Public TV. Needless to say this movie series is decidedly pro-wolf and is “over the top” in its pro-wolf agenda. What struck me was not only is this movie series decidedly pro-wolf, that a significant portion of it is dedicated to villianizing hunters”

    What we have here seems to be a “falure to communicate”

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Actually, what we have is a failure to understand.

  9. timz Avatar

    There were back to back wolf specials on last night. The first one was wolves in the Baltics. Was good but you saw some ruthless killing. The second was Wolves in Paradise, AKA; Let’s see how many Montana ranchers we can find to whine about wolves and how tough their lives are.

  10. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    and you said you were not buddies with saveelk…..

  11. Layton Avatar


    You know what I think of the guy — or don’t you remember — I guess I’ve only told you about 4 or 5 times now, maybe you don’t quite understand yet.

    You quoted him on the “comments by major groups” thread, does that mean he’s hanging out with you at recess now??

    Why don’t you go back to the playground?? The adults are trying to have a conversation now. You can come in for cake and ice cream later.

  12. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    good one layton

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    My beef has always been with the livestock industry, so it is just plain frustrating to have a fair numbers of hunters getting in the way of their own interests on this issue and others.

  14. timz Avatar

    “My beef has always been with the livestock industry”
    Pun intended??
    – — – –

    😉 rm

  15. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    Layton are you having a bad day or are you always this obnoxious? Want a diaper change or something?

  16. JB Avatar

    “…it is just plain frustrating to have a fair numbers of hunters getting in the way of their own interests on this issue and others.”

    The predator issue (i.e. to kill or not to kill) has become a wedge of sorts, polarizing hunters into the “more game for us” and “let ’em be” groups. This is disconcerting, as it comes at a time when conservationists should present a unified front. Hunters need to understand that the game-first approach to wildlife management that has dominated for past 3/4 of a century is on its way out. Groups like SFW give sportsmen a bad name. They make hunters appear as greedy, bloodthirsty killers–a stereotype the non-hunting environmentalists generally find all too easy to embrace. Consequently, their grandstanding on the predator issue will only serve to increase opposition to hunting, and ultimately, hurt the conservation cause.

  17. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    At one time, I was heavily involved in hunter issues, but became disillusioned with hunters when it became apparent that not only were hunters, as a whole, completely uninterested in the larger issues of ecology and land conservation, they weren’t even interested in the basics of game management, a field that has been around for over 80 years and isn’t that hard to understand if you put your mind to it.

    As far as I can tell, hunters are mainly interested in racks, easy access, ATVs, whining about predators, and spending as little time in the field as necessary to make the kill and get back to Monday night football. This is not the kind of hunting I grew up with, but it’s what I see now.

    I’ve hunted for over 40 years–I’m now 54 years old–and although I love hunting and will continue to hunt for as long as I am physically able, I don’t see a future for it, so I’m not working for it any more.


  18. jburnham Avatar

    Fawning? Gutless? Wow, I thought I was cynical.

    The movie’s description is fluff, and the idea that these ranchers are in some kind of “alliance” with wolves is twisted. But I think it did a decent job covering the controversy surrounding wolves and livestock. Ranchers and wolf supporters each got to make their arguments in their own words. I don’t think the film endorsed any position.

    Robert, I’d be interested in reading your comments to the producers if you care to share them. Is your complaint that “the inherent incompatibility of wolves and livestock” wasn’t addressed?

  19. Layton Avatar

    John d

    Obnoxious?? this is my politically correct persona. I’m just responding in kind. You’ll know when I’m pissed.

    As for the diaper change — if you’re really into that, I think you’re on the wrong blog!!!

  20. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    Swing and a miss, Layton.

  21. vickif Avatar

    Thole whole thing makes me wonder why we still have shows around, or highlight them, when they have an us vs. them attitude. we need more stuff out there that asks or high lights solutions and creative problm solving.

    There were a few featuring noise use to disuade wolves, but not much else since.

    How about a documentary showing an economic summit focussing on saving habitat and predators, and how to use funds to best aid in concervation, transistion of ranching and public land use, and clean energy alternatives for individuals.

    We have to have a way to forge into the future, not losing ranchers -just reshaping what is considered politically and socially correct in the practices of ranching. We need to use money to protect lands that support all wildlife, the more public land the less protection will be needed. We need to think about helping ranchers and everyone else, to choose tools, appliances and disposal sources that are lower impact, convert waste to something useful (on a small scale-from our own yards.)

    The show is fine, but it highlighs the polarity of ranchers and conservationists (losing that most people who love wolves are neither) and loses the need for solutions that don’t involve an all or nothing answer.

  22. Salle Avatar

    I saw this piece about two weeks ago, realizing early on that it wasn’t recent.

    I agree with the idea that it misses the opening to solutions and consensus building possibilities. It was almost suggested though.

    I was glad to see that the “Range Riders” program was mentioned. I would like to have seen more about how that program is working out over time. My beef with the whole issue is the brief nod it gets, in order to be covered and broadcast at all, but short shrifted when it comes to substance beyond the sensationalism that can be played on.

    And I don’t see where the ranchers re really following through with their techniques… how often does that one guy go out and watch outlying pastures and for how long?

    It seems to me that whenever I see reports of ranchers losing livestock to predators they are actually absent. “I came back today and seen that my cow was dead, had been for a couple days…” By then everything has likely been feeding on it and the wolves, especially in Idaho, simply get blamed and the fire of hatred is fanned once again.

    I argue that the livestock producers should be working a little harder at protecting their livestock, the taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing their businesses by sending out the WS “hit squad” to handle their challenges for them. I especially feel that when grazing on public land, one should accept loses to predation is a given and a cost of doing business.

    WS should be worrying about what happens with other animals that are on the interface of humans and wildlife in largely populated areas, not roaming the wilderness (or buzzing it with aircraft) and killing our wildlife-like keystone species.

    Yes, the film covered some main points but failed to actually say anything else. That might have taken more depth of thought…

  23. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Many livestock operators want to pass their operation costs onto the public and the environment — pollution, overgrazing, lack of herding, fencing in disrepair, killing of wildlife (paid for by the government).

    IMO, they need to bear their full costs of production. To do otherwise is unfair. If that doesn’t bother you, it is also economically inefficient to allow some economic enterprises to produce below their true cost of production.

  24. Salle Avatar

    And do the actually PAY any taxes?

  25. Layton Avatar


    Please bear in mind here that I’m not arguing — just asking , because I didn’t see the piece.

    “I saw this piece about two weeks ago, realizing early on that it wasn’t recent.”

    My son was talking to me about it (the video) yesterday, and he thought it was done fairly recently because it mentioned Judge Malloy’s injunction after the short-lived de-listing.

    Are you saying that “recent” would be newer than that – or was he mistaken and heard an add-on or something??

  26. Salle Avatar


    Actually, I think that mention of Malloy’s decision was an add-on as there were many portions of the film that included really old stuff. It may have been for historical recognition of non-lethal tools and their development-like the part with Val Asher, that was OLD. I think that much of the ranching info was a little older, like a couple years ago. The Sun Ranch parts didn’t mention the events of the summer before last (2007) when a Sun Ranch employee ran down and continued to run over the Alpha female of the pack on an ATV because he didn’t want her to get away. She was shot days, maybe a week, beforehand and was wounded. details disclosed showed that he had her pinned down but felt the need to kill her like that instead of gettiong assistance, like walking or making a phone call on his cell phone or other communication devise. if the animal was immobilized, was it too much work to get off the vehicle and walk a little ways to accommodate a humane end for the wolf? (Producers probably agreed to avoid that event for cooperation in filming-especially if this is more recently composed, in which case I would be uncomfortable with the possibility that the timeline was jumbled intentionally for that reason.)

    It didn’t really show all of the story at Sun Ranch and I would imagine that they only told a little more of the story with the ranch in Paradise Valley. Sun Ranch is to the west of Yellowstone along the Madison River.

    The film may be more recent than I think but I couldn’t be absolutely sure since they kind of “mixed it up” with the time frame they wanted to present. It didn’t think it was really clear, I felt that it wasn’t all that new overall.

  27. SAP Avatar

    Salle –
    Filmmaker Bill Campbell was filming on the Sun Ranch in 2006, and the film was already edited and ready to go before the infamous ATV kill occurred in 2007.

    If you read the FWP investigations, you’ll see that the employee actually radioed for assistance very early on; he was not carrying a firearm and so called for another employee to bring one out. It was an illegal act, it was a very bad thing to do to a wolf, but don’t make it sound even worse than it was.

    That same person helped conservationists deploy and maintain turbo fladry around pastures on the Sun Ranch in 2008 — the ranch finished this grazing season with no conflicts, even with a wolf pack denned on the ranch.

    I suppose Bill Campbell could have made a far longer, more detailed documentary that answered a lot more questions about both ranches, and about methods of deterring wolf-livestock conflicts.

    The “range rider” program mentioned in the film has been somewhat effective, but note also that there were Wildlife Services-implemented lethal removals in the area where they operate in 2008.

    Also, I see that you make a distinction about the demands that can be effectively made of ranchers on private land vs public land:

    “I especially feel that when grazing on public land, one should accept loses to predation is a given and a cost of doing business.”

    To answer Robert Hoskins’ earlier question, then, THAT was my point in mentioning that the wolf predations on cattle on Sun Ranch in 2006 were all on private land: a lot of people make that distinction. I wanted people to be aware of that fact so the discussion about the events covered in the film would not veer off into the usual about public lands ranching.

  28. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Maybe Bill Campbell could make a documentary about the persecution of the bison?

  29. Salle Avatar

    And maybe there could be more attentive ranchers even on their own private property when placing their exotic species in the area. They still don’t do enough to tend to them in pasture, regardless of whether it’s on public land or private.

    It seems that they conveniently forget the reasons wolves were extirpated from the west in the first place~ to encourage ranching in a place where it really isn’t a profitable endeavor due to the acreage required/cow to forage vs the quality of grazing flora in the lower elevations in the east.

    All that has led to this ugly situation where the ecological health of the region has to continue to suffer degradation because they are “too big to fail” like some banking industry components. Hmmm.

    Sorry, poor business decisions that have gone awry because they were poor decisions in the first place but glorified for romantic ideals and, therefore, perpetuated at all cost get little sympathy from this corner of the ring.

    And as Ralph says in his post above…


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan