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The Science and History Behind 'The Fable of the Wolf'

“The Fable of the Wolf,” a new animated short film produced by Earthjustice, offers the wolf a rebuttal to the fairy tales and celebrates the wild nature of this deeply misunderstood species.

“The Fable of the Wolf,” a new animated short film produced by Earthjustice, offers the wolf a rebuttal to the fairy tales and celebrates the wild nature of this deeply misunderstood species.

Illustration by Daniel Egnéus

Wolves have some of the worst PR in the animal world. From the Big Bad Wolf to the one in sheep’s clothing, mankind has turned the wolf into a monster, viewed with suspicion and hostility.

“The Fable of the Wolf,” a new animated short film produced by Earthjustice, offers the wolf a rebuttal to the fairy tales and celebrates the wild nature of this deeply misunderstood species. The film gives an abbreviated history of the relationship between wolves and people—from the  wolf’s perspective—beginning at a time when the two coexisted but giving way to a future where people began to fear and exterminate wolves.  

Though the film is a parable, it is based on science and history. The film opens in a winter scene where man and wolf join to hunt a mammoth together. The scene is based on recent research that shows wolves and humans worked together to survive as long as 33,000 years ago. The wolves aided Homo sapiens in hunting by sniffing out and giving chase to large animals until they tired, allowing humans to move in for the kill. This early symbiotic relationship gave rise to the domestication of some of the wolves who became “man’s best friends,” dogs.

But over time, as humans continued their drive to control and harness the natural world, the wolves that retained their wild nature were met with hatred and fear. Jumping ahead in time, the film alludes to the decades of American government-sanctioned extermination of wolves in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The film also references the biological importance of top predators in maintaining the health of ecosystems. For example, without wolves to keep their numbers in check, elk populations in Yellowstone National Park swelled, leading to overgrazing of trees and shrubs which then impacted beavers, birds and other species that relied on these plants for food or shelter. 

The return of wolves to the Northern Rocky Mountains has been called one of the greatest triumphs of the Endangered Species Act and signals that society is beginning to embrace the idea that we should insure a future not just for us, but for all species. But Congress is considering legislation that would remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in several states, even though a recent nation-wide poll shows 90 percent of Americans support the Endangered Species Act. This video demonstrates the importance of combating these legislative attacks on wolves and other vulnerable species.

The film ends with a call to “Join the Pack,” encouraging viewers to sound the alarm about the political threats to wolves. Share this short film to help us spread the message that wolves are to be celebrated, not feared.

About this series

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the reintroduction of gray wolves to the northern Rockies, and since that time wolves have been under nearly constant threat of losing their protections. The Weekly Howl provides insights and education about the gray wolf and updates on the status of its protections while celebrating the iconic species as a vital part of a functioning, healthy ecosystem. Posts will appear every Wednesday starting June 17 and running through the summer.

Don’t miss last week’s post: What's All The Howling About?

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