Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weather Channel series gets thrown to the wolves

Ely center criticizes documentary

Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2015
ELY — A recent Weather Channel documentary series on wolves has received low ratings and plenty of criticism from International Wolf Center officials.

Officials of the IWC, located in Ely and with administrative offices in Minneapolis, helped the Weather Channel production team gain access to biologists who are experts on wolf behavior during filming of the wolf segment for the docudrama series, “Natural Born Monsters.”

The result, according to IWC officials, was a show that “manufactures drama from rumors to boost ratings and revenue.” They are particularly upset with how an incident involving a wolf bite of a teenage boy was portrayed.

Center officials said the Weather Channel ignored concerns brought forward by the IWC about the accuracy of content. “It’s sad that the show’s producers left out important facts surrounding situations they highlighted,” said IWC Executive Director Rob Schultz. “Despite published evidence, viewers are misled by suggestions that a mutant wolf may have escaped Isle Royale and attacked a 16-year-old boy.” 

According to the IWC, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources investigated the incident and determined that the teen had been bitten by a yearling wolf, but the injuries were non-life threatening. That wolf was captured and found to have severe facial deformity and brain damage caused by an infection that was likely from an injury suffered as a pup.

DNR officials reported that the yearling was in poor physical condition and they believe it was from a local pack near the the incident scene on Lake Winnibigoshish, which is more than 250 miles from Isle Royale.

IWC officials were also not pleased with the feeding or baiting of wolves as depicted in the documentary. That is an unsafe practice that has caused wild animals to lose their natural fear of humans, they said. “Millions of people turn to the Weather Channel seeking guidance on a collection of data from top scientists on meteorology,” said Nancy Gibson, co-found of the IWC and a two-time Emmy award winner for the family science show, “Newton’s Apple.” 

“That science is now in doubt after this despicable display of sensationalism regarding a predator intricately connected with the wilderness,” she said.

Wolves and the IWC are not new to controversy.

In Minnesota and some other northern tier states opinions are strongly mixed on whether there should be a hunting season on the gray timber wolf, which was previously on the endangered species list, then delisted in 2012, then relisted by a federal judge’s ruling on Dec. 19, 2014.

That decision immediately reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and placed the animals under protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There is now a public effort by those supporting another delisting of the wolf.

Minnesota had wolf hunting seasons in 2013 and 2014, but now it is only legal to kill a wolf in the defense of human life. Only government agents are authorized to take wolves if depredation occurs.