Professor Collaborate on Wolf Documentary
started out as a senior project for one NMU broadcasting student
has turned into a feature television production. “ Michigan’s Gray
Wolf: Ghost of the Big Timber” will premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday,
Dec. 7, on WNMU-TV as part of the station's annual fundraiser.
documentary, about the pros and cons of the wolf recovery in Michigan,
was co-produced by former student Nick Van Court and associate professor
Dwight Brady (CAPS), pictured right and left, respectively.
Court, a native of the Stephenson area, was in his senior year when
he became interested in the wolf program.
was trying to get into wildlife documentary, and this project allowed
me to do just that,” Van Court said.
became involved initially to help Van Court write grants for the
when the money came in, the expectation level started to rise beyond
what could be accomplished in a typical senior project,” said Brady.
“Creating a broadcast-quality documentary of this nature is a major
undertaking, and I knew Nick would need help. Between the two of
us, we have devoted nearly 1,000 man-hours to this project through
grant writing, research, script development, shooting and editing.”
duo spent almost a year creating the film, recapturing the history
and biology of the wolf. Most of the 45-minute documentary focuses
on an overview of the issues surrounding the wolf population in
the Upper Peninsula. They conducted 20 interviews with wolf experts,
sportsmen, farmers and animal rights groups affected by the growing
U.P. wolf population. “We try to give voice to all of those constituents,”
said that some people have negative opinions about wolves and the
film helps to dispel some of the myths. For instance, while Brady
and VanCourt were filming wolves just a few feet away from each
other, the wolves brushed up against their legs.
basically demonstrates that wolves are typically not aggressive
against humans,” Brady said.
could take a very long time to get enough footage of wild wolves
in their natural environment to support a script, so Brady and Van
Court traveled to the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn.,
where they filmed wild wolves in an enclosure.
current wolf population in the U.P. is at 360 according to the 2004
winter count, and the first case of a wolf returning to Lower Michigan
was documented in October, when one of the animals was trapped and
shot near Alpena. Brady said biologists estimate that at one time,
nearly 800 wolves lived in the U.P.
were originally wiped out in the Lower Peninsula by 1910 and all
but extinct in the U.P. by 1960. A reintroduction of four wolves
from Minnesota to the U.P. was attempted in 1974, but all four died
within a year. Biologists say the current population in Michigan
has resulted from wolves naturally dispersing from Minnesota and
Canada into the Upper Peninsula.
TV 13 shows few student-produced films, said Bruce Turner
(WNMU-TV), but the wolf documentary turned into a major
project and it fit the station's effort to show locally produced
programs about and for the Upper Peninsula during the fundraiser.
will be two reruns of the documentary at 10 p.m. Thursday, Dec.
9, and at noon on Friday, Dec.10.