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Powerhouse Science Center features ‘Living With Wolves’

Artists’ exhibit seeks to educate public about benefits wolves bring to Colorado landscapes
“Living With Wolves” at the Powerhouse Science Center features 20 large-format photographs with educational caption boards and 14 vertical information panels. The exhibit was created by filmmakers Jim and Jaimie Dutcher, who spent seven years with the Sawtooth Pack of wolves in Idaho. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

“Living With Wolves,” an educational photography exhibit at the Powerhouse Science Center, features the artwork of photographers and filmmakers Jim and Jaimie Dutcher, who lived among and documented the Idaho Sawtooth Pack of wolves over seven years.

The filmmakers donated their photo exhibit to the Colorado Sierra Club, created a film for National Geographic titled “Running With Wolves: Our Story of Life With the Sawtooth Pack” and published a book, “The Hidden Life of Wolves.”

Colorado Sierra Club volunteer wildlife chair and ecologist Delia Malone said the message of the exhibit is that there are “tremendous” benefits to having wolves be a part of the Colorado landscape and that humans and wolves can coexist without adverse effects to livestock populations.

The photo exhibit consists of 20 large-format photographs with caption boards and 14 vertical information panels.

Guest speakers will appear in January through March, as well as the artists Jim and Jaimie Dutcher.

Matt Barnes, a range scientist and owner of Shining Horizons Land Management, is scheduled to give a talk on Jan. 28 called “Ranching With Wolves: Lessons from the Northern Rockies.”

Malone said Barnes’ presentation will focus on conflict avoidance and livestock-carnivore conflict avoidance strategies.

In February, Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and Western Watersheds Project executive director, will give a presentation about “the dysfunctional approaches of industries and agencies to wolf ‘management.’”

Jim and Jaimie Dutcher are scheduled to appear March 11 to discuss their backgrounds and work.

Then, on March 25, Center for Biological Diversity Senior Conservation Advocate Michael J. Robinson is scheduled to talk. Robinson is the author of “Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West.”

Malone said stories about gray wolf reintroduction, a topic that gained recent ground starting in 2020 with Colorado Proposition 114’s Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative, often focus on the conflict between ranchers and wolves.

But the focus on conflict has the potential to focus on the benefits that wolves can bring to ecosystems, she said.

“With elk and deer, they (wolves) can be hugely beneficial to improving the health of the herd,” she said.

She referenced chronic wasting disease and its presence in mule deer herds in Southwest Colorado. She said wolves, like many carnivores, prioritize sick and weak prey over strong and healthy prey.

“The evidence to support that is overwhelming – decades and decades,” Malone said. “Hunters aren’t going to kill a sick deer, that’s not what they’re looking for. They’re not going to kill a sick elk, that’s not what they’re looking for.”

Wolves will kill a sick deer or elk because that’s exactly what they are looking for, an easy meal, she said.

To coexist peacefully with wolves, Colorado ranchers must make some changes to how they manage their livestock, she said. But those adaptations come with their own environmental and livestock benefits, as well.

Malone said those changes include herding cattle across a range, which allows for more cattle to be kept by the ranchers and also allows rangeland to improve faster.

“It’s not just that you don’t lose your livestock to grizzly bears and wolves, but also, you get a healthier rangeland,” she said.

Malone hopes wolf supporters and enthusiasts are not the only ones to check out the “Living With Wolves” exhibit at the Powerhouse Science Center. She encourages people skeptical about the possibility of coexisting with wolves to visit the exhibit and attend some of the featured presentations. She said she would love to meet and hear from them.

“Living With Wolves” premiered Dec. 18 and is open through March 27.


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