A Yellowstone wolf watches biologists after being tranquilized and fitted with a radio collar during wolf collaring operations in Yellowstone National Park, January 2003.

Wolves In Paradise

First Aired Sunday, November 16, 2008

Southwest Montana as ranchers face the challenge of living with roaming wolf packs.

Ranchers and Wolves in the New West

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. As the growing packs moved north from Yellowstone 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 as ranchers face the challenge of living with wolves in the decade after the top predator was restored to Yellowstone National Park. Videojournalist William Campbell spent more than six years documenting the relationship between ranchers, wolves and conservationists from his home base in Livingston, Montana, at the foot of Paradise Valley. 

"Wolves in Paradise" follows two very different ranching operations through a grazing season in wolf country. The relatively small Davis ranch is a family business, clinging 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’s heifers, and harassed the cattle so badly that they didn’t gain weight.  Another attack like that could wipe Davis out, 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.

But in nearby Madison Valley, a California-born multimillionaire conservation rancher named 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, ranch managers discover that they are grazing 1500 head of cattle right 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 then more deadly to both cows and wolves.

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

William Campbell/Mary Motley Kalergis

Wolves In Paradise

Wolves in Paradise A co-production: Homefire Productions The Independent Television Service (ITVS) and KUSM-TV/MontanaPBS.
Produced, photographed, and edited by William Campbell
Co-producer, Aaron Pruitt, KUSM-TV/MontanaPBS
Written by Maryanne Vollers
Narrator, Tom Rush
Original Music by Sean Devine, Kevin Toll, and William Campbell
Online editor, Scott Sterling, Montana PBS
Online Supervisor, Rob King
Sound Design, Michael Perricone, C.A.S. Threshold Sound+Vision
Voice Over Recording, Dom Camardella, Santa Barbara Sound
Music Recording, Dave Goodwin, Big Sky High
Advisors, J Clements, Patrick Markey, Stuart Knapp
Executive Producer for ITVS, Sally Jo Fifer