Leaders of the pack

The challenge of sharing our world with wolves

Jamie Dutcher puts a disc in the CD player, and you freeze. The sound is composed of ice and blood and hot breath, beautiful and terrifying. When you hear a pack of wolves calling, you don't pay attention to anything else.

"Wolf packs frighten people," Jamie says. "They don't realize the pack is just a family."

Jamie and her husband, Jim ― filmmakers from Ketchum, Idaho ― know wolves. What the producers of MTV's Real World are to human 20-somethings, the Dutchers are to wolves. Their latest book, Living with Wolves (which contains that CD of wolf calls), and their film of the same name inspire difficult questions about 21st-century life in the West. How much of our world do we want to share with the animals ― particularly the predatory animals ― who were here before us?

"I've always been interested in animals that are hard to film," says Jim, who has been making animal documentaries for three decades. In the wild, it's impossible to film wolves' social behavior up close, so the Dutchers put together their own wolf pack, acquiring captive pups in Montana, then relocating them to a 25-acre compound in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

The species the Dutchers chose to film has perhaps the scariest rep in the animal kingdom. "It's the whole darn Little Red Riding Hood thing," says Jamie. Never mind that, in the United States, recorded wild wolf attacks on human beings are almost nonexistent; wolves terrify us.

 

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