Cou­ple who raised wolves dis­cov­ered a close-knit fam­ily

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODPOSTER - JULIET EILPERIN

WOLVES have a bad rep­u­ta­tion. They’re the vil­lain in fairy tales, and not ev­ery­one is happy that the num­ber of wolves in the wild is grow­ing in the West­ern US.

Many peo­ple see a group of wolves as a threat­en­ing mob, but Jim and Jamie Dutcher, who lived with a pack of wolves in Idaho be­tween 1991 and 1996, know bet­ter. They see a group of wolves as a close fam­ily, they ex­plained in an in­ter­view.

Con­sider the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Lakota, the wolf who ranked low­est in the Idaho pack, and Matsi, the sec­ond- high­es­trank­ing wolf. Lakota and Matsi are brothers, and when other wolves would pick on Lakota, Matsi would come to his de­fence.

“Matsi really kept a spe­cial eye on Lakota,” ex­plained Jamie, who wrote the new book, The Hid­den Life of Wolves, with Jim, her hus­band.

The Dutch­ers, who are pho­tog­ra­phers and who make movies based on real events (doc­u­men­taries), got per­mis­sion from government of­fi­cials to keep 11 wolves in a ( 10ha) camp, the largest such en­clo­sure in the world. They raised the pups by hand, es­tab­lish­ing a re­la­tion­ship with them that al­lowed them to see how wolves live.

The Dutch­ers waited for the wolves to come to them each morn­ing, af­ter which the an­i­mals would sprint away in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.

At one point dur­ing their time with the wolves, a moun­tain lion killed a fe­male wolf named Mo­taki. The wolves stopped play­ing for six weeks as they mourned her loss.

“They moped around. They were vis­i­bly up­set,” Jim said.

Wolves used to be com­mon in the West­ern US. But as peo­ple moved west, their ac­tions brought wolves close to ex­tinc­tion. By 1973, only a few hun­dred grey wolves were left in the con­ti­nen­tal US (the 48 states not in­clud­ing Alaska and Hawaii). Wolves were listed as en­dan­gered.

Since then, wolves have re­bounded. There are about 6 000 in the con­ti­nen­tal US and an­other 7 700 to 11 200 in Alaska.

Only two small wolf groups – Mex­i­can grey wolves in New Mex­ico and Ari­zona, and red wolves in North Carolina – are still en­dan­gered.

But that doesn’t mean wolves are safe. The Dutch­ers, who gave their wolves to the Nez Perce In­dian Reser­va­tion, now spend much of their time work­ing to pro­tect wolves through their group Liv­ing With Wolves.

Some ranch­ers and farm­ers worry be­cause wolves at­tack their live­stock, and some peo­ple like to hunt wolves for sport; at least 1 500 wolves have been killed in the past two years.

Kids are among the an­i­mals’ most passionate ad­vo­cates: Ban­nock­burn School in Lake For­est, Illi­nois, holds an an­nual dance called Wolf­s­tock to raise money for wolf con­ser­va­tion.

“A lot of adults, you can’t change their minds,” Jamie said.

“But chil­dren really are open-minded, and they can go fur­ther in chang­ing their par­ents’ minds.” – The Washington Post

PIC­TURES: JIM AND JAMIE DUTCHER

AD­VO­CATES: Jim and Jamie Dutcher lived with a pack of wolves in Idaho be­tween 1991 and 1996.

Hid­den Life of Wolves. The

UN­FAIR RAP: Jim and Jamie Dutcher pub­lished the book

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