Native Milkweed for Monarch Conservation

Diane Jones, owner of Draggin’ Wing High Desert Nursery

and Jeanne Dodds, ESC Creative Engagement Director

Growing up in Idaho, I recall late afternoons watching Monarch butterflies winging through the garden, their orange patterning matching the striking summer light as they flew through the yard. It was thrilling and awe inspiring to observe a tiny part of their long journey. I knew that Monarchs were the state insect of Idaho and connected with these beautiful butterflies as a symbol of home. Over the years, visits by Monarchs grew fewer and fewer until, in past seasons, people in Idaho and other Western states describe whole summers passing by without seeing a single Monarch. 

Swallowtail butterflies on A.speciosa Image credit Jeanne Dodds

We know that Western Monarchs are in a state of crisis. Recent studies including those reflected in Xerces Society Western Monarch Call to Action indicate that since the 1980’s, Western Monarch populations have declined precipitously, falling by over 99%. Among the factors contributing to Monarch declines are the loss of milkweed habitat and the planting of non-native, tropical milkweed.  Monarchs are an iconic species and a beneficial pollinator; urgent actions are required to ensure the survival of this species.

Monarch egg milkweed leaf Draggin Wing High Desert Nursery Image credit Jeanne Dodds

The Endangered Species Coalition’s Pollinator Protectors project emphasizes the use of native milkweed and native nectaring plants for planting projects across the United States. We focus on partnering with local native plant nurseries to source plant materials providing the greatest benefit to Monarchs and other pollinators. One native plant nursery, Draggin’ Wing High Desert Nursery in Boise Idaho, has partnered with ESC since 2016 to provide plant material for habitat restoration at water catchment sites managed by the Ada County Highway District. I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Diane Jones, owner of Draggin’ Wing High Desert Nursery to explore the significance of native plants for Monarch conservation.

Jeanne Dodds Why is propagating and planting native plants important?

Diane Jones One important reason is to help stop the decline of insect populations by creating habitat that supports the native insects which have co-evolved with these plants over millennia. Beyond that, I think that working with native plants can be an educational experience that heightens our appreciation for the natural landscape of our region. When people understand and appreciate the environment they are more likely to protect it.

Beetle at nursery Image Credit Jeanne Dodds

JD How does the process of wild milkweed seed collection and propagation benefit Monarch butterflies and other species? 

DJ Monarch butterflies co-evolved with Milkweed to the point that their caterpillars are entirely dependent on the leaves of Milkweed plants for food as they grow. Monarchs lay their eggs only on Milkweeds. But in addition, the flowers of Milkweed plants provide nectar and pollen for a wide variety of bees, butterflies and other insects, so their ecological benefits go well beyond supporting Monarchs.

Asclepias seeds image credit Diane Jones

JD How does your nursery raise the profile of native plants and encourage people to grow native species for pollinator conservation? 

DJ We plant out all of our native species in display gardens so that people can see for themselves what these plants look like and how they can function in a home landscape. Our hope is that these gardens can serve as an inspiration for folks to re-imagine what a home garden can be. As our gardens have matured over the years they have become a haven for a wide variety of pollinators and visitors can see this. We also offer encouragement and advice based on our years of experience working with native plants. 

Asclepias fascicularis Image credit Diane Jones

JD Do you have any observations to share regarding the presence or absence of Monarchs in Idaho?

DJ It has been very discouraging lately, as Monarch sightings in our area are few and far between. At the same time, more and more people are planting Milkweeds, so there is some hope that if Monarchs start to return, they will be able to find places to lay their eggs. 

To learn more about Draggin’ Wing High Desert Nursery, including native plants and resources for pollinator conservation, visit

Interested in becoming a participating planting site for the Endangered Species Coalition’s Pollinator Protectors Project? Contact Jeanne Dodds, ESC Creative Engagement Director

Help ESC plant native milkweed and native nectaring plants for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators by making a donation.

Poisoned: New Report Highlights 10 Species Threatened by Pesticides

Contact: Leda Huta,, (202) 320-6467
Derek Goldman,, (406) 721-3218

Washington, D.C. – Chemical pesticides applied to lawns, gardens, and industrial agriculture operations are a major threat to imperiled wildlife, according to a new report released today. “Poisoned: 10 American Species Imperiled by Pesticides” details how domestic and commercial pesticides—including herbicides, insecticides, and rodenticides—are contributing to the decline of many common and lesser known species of wildlife.

“Pesticides are toxic chemicals that persist for days, months and even years in our environment—poisoning all life forms, from bees and fish to mammals—and they are linked to a range of serious illnesses and diseases in humans,” said Dr. Jan Randall, Coalition board member and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee. “We owe it to future generations to protect our air, water and wildlife from these poisonous chemicals.”

In the U.S. alone, we spend nearly $9 billion annually on pesticides, toxic chemicals that end up contaminating the drinking water for as many as 50 million people, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A 2017 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that just two commonly used pesticides (malathion and chlorpyrifos) were so toxic that they jeopardize more than 1,200 endangered species. That report, however, was blocked by political appointees at the Department of Interior, including Secretary David Bernhardt, who now oversees the department. The Trump Administration then overruled Environmental Protection Agency experts and rejected a ban on chlorpyrifos, which is also linked to brain damage in children.

With their continued widespread use, pesticide impacts are felt across the web of life—from insects to mammals. The monarch butterfly, for instance, has declined by nearly 80 percent in the last two decades, largely due to eradication by herbicides of milkweed—the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Similarly, the Crotch’s bumblebee has paralleled the decline of many other native bees as a result of the use of neonicotinoids—a widely used but highly toxic insecticide. Native bees are important pollinators, not only for wild plants, but for agricultural crops, as well.

“Southern Resident killer whales are apex predators and therefore they are ingesting high levels of toxicants in their prey, primarily Chinook salmon,” said Dr. Deborah Giles, resident scientist at the University of Washington. “We must do everything possible to stop toxicants from entering the food web and ensure abundant high quality Chinook for the whales.”

Poisoned: 10 American Species Imperiled by Pesticides:

California red-legged frog Monarch butterfly
Indiana bat Northern spotted owl
Pink mucket pearly mussel Streaked horned lark
San Joaquin kit fox Salado salamander
Chinook salmon Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Staff Pick)
Crotch’s bumble bee  

Endangered Species Coalition’s member groups nominated species for the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations and chose the finalists. The full report, along with photos can be viewed and downloaded at The Endangered Species Coalition produces a Top 10 report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.


Background info:


The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House, and signed by President Richard Nixon 45 years ago on December 28. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a success rate of more than 90 percent, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.

Although the Administration and some members of Congress have been seeking to weaken the Act, public opinion research indicates that the law continues to maintain broad, bipartisan, public support. A 2015 poll conducted by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of American voters across all political, regional and demographic lines support the Endangered Species Act.

Statement on Bills to Block Trump ESA Rollback:

Today, leaders in the U.S House and Senate introduced bills to block the Trump Administration’s recent rules weakening the Endangered Species Act – our most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. The bill. H.R. 4348, is called the ‘‘Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation  Act of 2019’’ or the ‘PAW and FIN Conservation Act of 2019 (H.R. 4348)’’ (House cosponsors and Senate cosponsors).  Here is our statement supporting these critical efforts by Congressional leaders: 

“The ‘Trump Extinction Plan’ issued last month makes it harder to protect our nation’s imperiled wildlife, such as the monarch butterfly, sea turtles, and wolverines,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “We know Americans strongly support wildlife and the Endangered Species Act, and we are heartened to see that support reflected in the bills introduced today by Representative Grijalva and Senator Udall and co-sponsored by 29 additional Members of Congress.” 


On August 27th, the Trump Administration published its final Endangered Species Act regulations, which have been widely condemned by conservationists and scientists in the United States. Approved by embattled Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, these regulations will have real-world negative impacts for the country’s most imperiled plants and wildlife, such as the monarch butterfly, sea turtles, manatees, wolverines, and hundreds more. 

The new regulations will make it more difficult to protect wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction, while weakening critical habitat protections for species designated as “threatened.” The regulations were finalized despite the overwhelming opposition of American citizens–more than 866,000 submitted comments opposing the new regulations. A decade of polling has consistently shown that the American public strongly supports the Endangered Species Act–90 percent in the most recent poll. And in 2017, more than 420 conservation organizations signed a letter to Congress opposing any weakening of the Endangered Species Act.

The Act has a 99% success rate. Species such as bald eagles, American alligator, humpback whale, Santa Cruz island fox, Tennessee purple coneflower and many more have recovered thanks to the Act. Hundreds more species have seen an  incredible resurgence including the grey wolf, Grizzly bear, black-footed ferret, and Whooping crane.

The Endangered Species Act was a landmark conservation law that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support: 92-0 in the Senate, and 394-4 in the House. In 2017, more than 400 organizations signed a letter to members of Congress opposing efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act, noting the law has a 99 percent success rate, including some of the country’s most exciting wildlife recoveries, like the bald eagles, humpback whales, American alligators, Channel Island foxes, Tennessee purple coneflowers, and more.

Will you see wildlife crossings on your vacation?

This is a guest post from Trisha White from the National Wildlife Federation. This originally appeared on their blog.


It is now officially summer and that means many Americans are packing up the family truckster like the Griswolds and taking the tribe cross country. Whether you’re on your way to America’s favorite family fun park or a national park, staying in a motel or sleeping under the stars, you may be seeing wildlife in their native habitat. And if you keep your eyes open, you might see a special part of our built environment  a wildlife crossing. 

What is a wildlife crossing?


Credit: Trisha White

Wildlife crossings are clever, man-made structures built over or under highways that allow animals to cross the roadway without having to enter the right of way, preventing deadly accidents. In addition to preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions, they reconnect habitat that has been carved up by roads, allowing animals to move safely around their habitat. 

Unless you know where to look, you might not even notice them. Crossings may seem like a regular overpass or underpass from the road, but they have vegetation and other habitat features to make them more inviting for animals. 

Which wildlife species use wildlife crossings?

Wildlife crossings help many different species, from muskrats to mountain lions ─ and yes, even Marty Moose! (The moosiest moose we know…)

Since animals can be picky about what kinds of structures they will use, crossings are specifically designed to fit snugly into the landscape around them, and are custom made for the species that will use them. Some critters that are more adaptable, like coyote and deer, will take to crossings right away, while others may take longer to get used to them. After all, the crossings are a new experience for them and can be scary at first. 

Biologists believe each species’ preferences are based on their environment and how they evolved. For example, ungulates with antlers (deer, elk, moose) prefer open structures like an overpass. Smaller animals that are used to more cover are more comfortable in small crossings like a culvert. Eventually mother animals teach their young to use them, passing along the intergenerational knowledge just like other behaviors.

Where can we see a wildlife crossing?

Although wildlife crossings are relatively new to the United States, we have them from coast to coast. Here are just a few examples you might see this summer near popular destinations:

MOUNTAINS: Are you motoring through the many mountains of Montana? Drive U.S. Highway 93 across the Flathead Indian Reservation to see the most extensive wildlife-sensitive highway design effort in the United States to date. A whopping 81 wildlife crossing structures were built over a 76-mile stretch of highway, keeping 25 species safe, such as elk, mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, grizzlies and black bears. 

The Montana 93 overpass. Credit: Kylie Paul

EASTERN SHORE: On your way to the beach, you may choose the 18-mile Intercounty Connector (ICC). Opened in 2011, the ICC has ten underpasses providing safe passage for deer, foxes, raccoons, groundhogs, skunks, snakes, and great blue herons. 

Credit: Maryland State Highway Administration

HOLLYWOOD: Wildlife in La-La Land? You bet! While you’re stuck in traffic on the 405, wildlife will be cruising along the 31-mile stretch of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife corridor. Along the way, they will pass through the Harbor Boulevard Wildlife Underpass, connecting 4,600 acres of protected habitat to the west with 14,000 acres to the east. Built in 2006, the underpass serves mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels, opossum, raccoons, and jackrabbits. Without it, many of these species would have been trapped on the west side of Harbor Boulevard and possibly extirpated. 

Credit: Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority

So after you drop off Aunt Edna in Phoenix, skip the house of mud and learn more about keeping wildlife on the move while you’re waiting in line at the world’s second largest ball of twine. Have a great summer!

Like what you read? Please RT the following to spread the word!

Wildlife crossings photo credit Julia Kintsch

Rep Seth Moulton: “I’d undo all of these rules that have undermined a historic and bipartisan Act.”

Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts was, until very recently, running for President. On Saturday, August 17th he was asked at the Iowa State Fair after his stump speech on the famous soap box, before the media and public, about the biodiversity crisis and the Endangered Species Act. Here was his response.

Speak up for Northern Right Whale Conservation

By Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Executive Director, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Jeanne Dodds, Creative Engagement Director, Endangered Species Coalition, and Janice Kasper, Visual Artist


There are fewer than 400 North Atlantic right whales left. Without action, we will lose this unique species forever.  The biggest threats faced by right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear- both of which are accidental, and preventable.  The US National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing new rules to reduce the accidental entanglement of right whales in US fishing gear, which received unanimous support by representatives of the lobster industry and right whale scientists during a meeting of the Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team last April.  However, before any new measures are put in place, the National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking input from the public.  

There are two important and valuable ways you can participate in this process. One: attend a scheduled scoping hearings and give your comments in person. Find the scoping meeting nearest you here. 

Before attending, you can preview the presentation NOAA is giving at the scoping meetings to help you prepare to speak. 

Slide 38 in particular provides guidance on giving comments (including tips such as you will be limited to 3 minutes, be respectful and polite, and more). To connect with others participating in the meetings, you can join in the scoping meeting Facebook group.

Two: Download, print and mail a postcard to share your comments about the importance of right whale conservation with the National Marine Fisheries Service by September 16th. Personalized, mailed comments are especially important and impactful. When you send your postcard asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to support North Atlantic right whale recovery be sure to include requests such as: reduce the amount of vertical line now used in fisheries; increase survey effort in US waters to identify right whale habitats; create a protected area for right whales south of Nantucket; and invest in research to develop alternative types of fishing gear which will not entangle whales. See links at the bottom of this post for a supporting journal article for more information on economic data.  

The downloadable postcard features a painting of a North Atlantic right whale, created and contributed by visual artist Janice Kasper.  She explains, “Artists can use their work as a form of communication.  I feel that, for me, it is the best way to express my feelings and concerns about an issue. There are too few right whales and we must do everything possible to protect our fellow creatures.”

If it’s not possible for you to attend a meeting in person or send a postcard, please take action supporting North Atlantic Right Whale conservation by submitting a comment online following the instructions on this page.

Thank you for taking one or more of these actions for North Atlantic right whale conservation!

Additional resources

1.Read this 2019 study to see more information and data indicating that trap reductions would not necessarily cause an economic impact on the fishing community, opening up opportunities for reducing risk to northern right whales at no cost to the industry:

Meyers et al. 2007, Univ. of Plymouth. 2019)

2. Conservation Law Foundation is providing a sign up for those attending the scoping meetings.  By signing up, you’ll receive talking points for the meetings and support feeling comfortable attending and speaking.

3. If you are not able to sign up in advance, representatives from the right whale conservation community will be present at all of the scoping hearings and can provide in person support. All meetings run from 6:00-9:00 pm ET. For the complete list of meeting dates and locations, please visit

Hundreds of activists to tell the Senate to protect endangered species during the Stop Extinction Challenge

The Endangered Species Coalition is organizing the fourth-consecutive Stop Extinction Challenge this August when activists around the country will show up at their local Senate offices to speak out about their reasons for supporting endangered species protections.

This year’s Stop Extinction Challenge comes shortly after the release of the 2019 IPBES report showing that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.

There is hope, however. Legislation like the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act and CECIL Act could be a lifeline to struggling species like elephants, tigers, and migratory birds and animals.

Last year, events were held in 23 states with 31 Senate offices. This year, we anticipate at least as many meetings.


You can be a part of the #StopExtinction Challenge by finding a meeting near you or sending your senators an email or tweet to tell them to protect the Endangered Species Act.


Senator Gillibrand promises to prioritize endangered species if elected

Joe Wilkinson from Iowa Wildlife Federation spoke with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand when she was campaigning in Iowa this summer. The senator promised that, if elected president, her administration will fully fund the Endangered Species Act and also increase the funding.

Senator Gillibrand added that in her role as a U.S. Senator she has fought very hard for the gray wolf, saying, “the truth is they haven’t recovered fully and they need more protection.”

Listen to the entire statement below.

ESC is a bipartisan organization. We do not advocate for candidates. We will post any official candidate position statements related to endangered species on our blog.

Photo credit Flickr user personaldemocracy

1.8 Million Americans Speak Out Against Stripping Federal Protections from Wolves 

Contact: Leda Huta, Endangered Species Coalition, (202) 320-6467
Diane Summers, Humane Society of the United States, (301) 258-1456
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 519-8449
Lindsay Larris, WildEarth Guardians, (310) 923-1465
Daniela Arellano, Natural Resources Defense Council, 310-434-2304
Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 446-2128
Emily Samsel, League of Conservation Voters, 202-454-4573
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084

Federal Proposal Would Halt Wolf Recovery, Allow More Wolf Killing 

WASHINGTON, DC— Almost two million Americans stated their opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves in a comment period that closed today. This is one of the largest numbers of comments ever submitted on a federal decision involving endangered species and reflects broad dissatisfaction with the Trump administration’s politically driven move to turn wolf management over to state agencies across most of the lower 48 states. 

In addition to the 1.8 million comments submitted by the public, 86 members of Congress (House and Senate letters), 100 scientists, 230 businesses, and 367 veterinary professionals all submitted letters to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opposing the wolf delisting plan. Even the scientific peer reviews written at the behest of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s state that the agency’s proposal contains numerous errors and appears to come to a predetermined conclusion, not even supported by its own science, to remove federal protections for wolves. 

“The incredible volume of comments give voice to a sad fact: the delisting proposal is a radical departure from the optimism and courage we need to promote endangered species recovery in this country. The comments show that Americans believe the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal falls well short of the conservation ideals this country stood for 45 years ago when the Endangered Species Act was signed,” said Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark. 

“The restoration of the gray wolf could be one of the great American wildlife conservation success stories if Secretary Bernhardt would just finish the job,” Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition said. 

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of restoring wolves to their rightful places in prime wilderness around the country — as it did for bald eagles — the agency wants to abandon wolf recovery before the job is done,” said Drew Caputo, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife, Oceans. “Today 1.8 million people in America told the Trump Administration to go back to work and protect our wolves.” 

Scientists estimate that there were once hundreds of thousands of wolves in the lower 48 states, but the animals had been driven to near-extinction by the early 1900s. After passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and subsequent federal protection of the wolf, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Today roughly 5,500 wolves currently live in the continental United States — a fraction of the species’ historic numbers. 

The Trump administration’s proposal would remove existing protections for gray wolves everywhere in the lower 48 states except Arizona and New Mexico, where the Mexican wolf is struggling to survive with an estimated population of just 131 wolves. This proposal would abandon protections for wolves in places where wolf recovery is just in its infancy, such as California, Oregon and Washington, and would prevent wolves from recovering in other places where good wolf habitat has been identified, including the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast. 

“By delisting the gray wolf, Secretary Bernhardt is providing a massive giveaway to the oil and gas industry he once lobbied for,” said Josh Nelson, Co-Director of CREDO Action. “Big Oil has spent years lobbying against ESA protections and sees gray wolves – as well as the entire ESA – as a huge barrier in its pursuit to exploit natural resources and increase profits. If Bernhardt’s extinction plan is enacted, it would be a death sentence for the gray wolf.” 

“Trump cannot ignore almost two million voices calling for the protection of wolves,” said Sylvia Fallon, Senior Director of the Nature Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Science should determine how species are protected, not politics or special interests,” Fallon added. “Wolves need continued protections to recover and the American public agrees.” 

Nicole Paquette, chief programs and policy officer for the Humane Society of the United States said: “Anti-wolf sentiments nearly led to the extermination of America’s wolves, and just when populations are starting to bounce back, the federal government is considering a plan that could place them in jeopardy. Rather than catering to interests from trophy hunters and fear mongering, we hope the federal government rejects this proposal and works toward the recovery of this species.” 

“American wolves deserve better than the FWS’s reckless delisting proposal,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “As an apex predator and keystone species, these national icons provide innumerable ecological benefits and are vital for local economies that rely on wolf-watching tourism.” 

“Americans are outraged and hundreds of thousands are saying it loudly and clearly; the job of wolf recovery is not done,” said John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is not only wrong on the science of wolf recovery but also wildly out of step with the desires of most Americans who want to see federal protections for wolves maintained.” 

“The American public has overwhelmingly weighed in: We must not prematurely delist wolves, but instead give them the time they need to truly and fully recover,” said Lena Moffit, director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “Secretary Bernhardt must abandon plans to remove vital protections for still-recovering gray wolves, which remain absent from much of their historic range. Instead of persecuting wolves, we should put more effort into coexistence and appreciate the critical role wolves play in maintaining the natural balance.” 

“This attempt to eliminate crucial protections for gray wolves demonstrates an anti-predator bias that continues to influence wolf management decisions. The undeserved hostility toward wolves is not based on principles of sound scientific management. These apex predators play a vital role in ecosystems, contribute to a multibillion-dollar outdoor tourism industry, and are an iconic symbol of our beloved native wildlife,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute 

“Removing protections for an at-risk species like the gray wolf would be yet another in a long line of harmful policies by the most anti-environment administration in history,” said Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director at the League of Conservation Voters. “President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt should stop doing favors like this for the oil and gas industry and instead protect our public lands and endangered species for the benefit of the people of this country.” 

According to Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA, “The American people have firmly rebuked the Trump administration’s attempt to remove critical federal protections from the gray wolf, flooding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a record 1.8 million public comments. We urge the agency to give full consideration to this incredibly strong response, as well as to the best available science, which concludes that this keystone species has not yet fully recovered and merits further protection under the Endangered Species Act.” 

“From California and Nevada to Colorado, vast stretches of public land are perfectly suited to wolf recovery, yet the howl of the wolf remains tragically absent from most of the West,” Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and executive director with Western Watersheds Project, said. “The nationwide de-listing rule represents an extinction plan on behalf of a handful of public land profiteers, at the expense of restoring healthy native ecosystems that will benefit all Americans.” 



Nowheres Wolf: A Call Not Answered

Interview with Suzanne Moulton, Director, Lead Fabricator, and Workshop Presenter Nowheres Wolf

Recently, the Endangered Species Coalition had the honor of interviewing Suzanne Moulton, Director of Nowheres Wolf, a stop-motion animation with the goal of shifting perceptions of wolves. The film, currently under production, demonstrates the sentience of wolves and reveals caring relationships within wolf families. To learn more about this incredible project, visit:


Jeanne Dodds, Endangered Species Coalition, Creative Engagement Director: What inspires and ignites your work integrating animation, textile sculpture, and species conservation?

Suzanne Moulton, Director, Lead Fabricator, and Workshop Presenter Nowheres Wolf: Stop-motion animation is a great way for kids to learn about animals and nature. Textiles and natural fibers are materials everyone can recognize; nearly everyone has had a favorite stuffed toy. What’s special about stop-motion animation is that puppets are created to make the animation. The use of common materials makes this art form accessible to children and excites them to get involved and express themselves. Children are already enthusiastic about cartoon characters. Inspiring them about a real creature through animation perfectly blends art and advocacy. Reaching kids is important, as they have the ability to impact and change the hearts and minds of their families. Once they find something they really love, kids are the most powerful advocates out there.

Suzanne Moulton blocking out action for pup scene. Photo by Leila Chieko.

JD: Can you talk a bit about the Nowheres Wolf project: what is it about? Where did the idea/inspiration for the project originate? And what are the project goals?

SM:Our Nowheres Wolf film is inspired by a specific wolf, OR-7, now known as Journey. I began following OR-7 back when he entered California. I was living in California and witnessed the excitement that he brought to communities, regardless of their backgrounds. It was amazing how so many people were celebrating the return of this iconic keystone species. I wanted to continue keeping that excitement alive here in Oregon. Our project has already reached hundreds of people who weren’t aware of OR-7’s story. It’s such a fun story to share as he’s still living, and it’s one of the few wildlife stories with a happy outcome.

Our film shows just a piece of Journey’s life. It’s extrapolated from eyewitness accounts, documentaries, books and information about where he was located. From all this data, we filmmakers saw the story of a wolf longing to belong and searching for family, something we can all relate to. One of our main goals is for people to start seeing wolves as a family creature, a very caring and loyal creature, one that is far different than the rabid animal that is commonly portrayed by Hollywood. I also was inspired by moms worriedly posting, wondering for their kids safety in wolf reintroduction areas and I really wanted them to have a positive resource to share as a family. We want to create some beautiful art that is inclusive to all communities, resonates with their hearts, and helps everyone feel included in figuring out successful coexistence with wolves in our modern world and be proud to say, “Now Here’s Wolf!”

Nowheres Wolf short film

JD: Why, in your view, do you think that there are so many misconceptions about wolves? What role does art/creative practices such as animation have in reframing inaccurate perceptions and beliefs?

SM: In understanding the issues facing wolves, I began seeing how much misinformation about wolves is out there. There are a lot of negative portrayals of wolves in Hollywood films.  It’s really sensationalized information. As creators of culture, artists have a lot of responsibility. With so many artists out there who love and are inspired by wolves, they are already powerful allies for wildlife advocacy and have the ability to create an emotional message to move people into action.

A lot of the time the public’s only interaction with wild animals is when a big film about them comes out. These films fundamentally form people’s perceptions of that animal. In the majority of films out there with wolves in them, wolves are shown as the villain. In very few films is the wolf depicted as the loyal protector. I think a lot of our fears of wolves go back to lore and fairy tales. We keep sharing those tall tales like the Big Bad Wolf, Red Riding Hood and werewolves. And then when we look at the real creatures, we’re looking at them through this lens of lore. In my research, I found that many of these fairy tales originated back in the Dark Ages, where not only were humans facing epic plagues but so were animals. Europeans had encounters with wolves experiencing rabies and I think those views carried over into the Americas with colonization. These perceptions continues to shape our views when we hear about reports of wolf predation on livestock. We seem to forget that healthy wolves target the sick and weak. Little reporting is done on the ranchers who embrace this as a cost of doing business which benefits the overall health of their herd. Now, with Yellowstone as a clear picture of a working ecosystem that requires wolves, we’re seeing how much wolves really contribute to the management of resources we all depend on like aquifers and drinking water. Many of these connections between the role of wildlife maintaining the natural resources that we depend on just don’t make it to headlines in local papers.

Needle-felted mini wolf workshop

 JD: Alternatively, why do you think so many people connect so deeply and profoundly with wolves? What is it about this animal that resonates, in a very powerful and personal way, with humans?

SM:They are a powerful animal who shares a lot of the good sides of human nature, from being loyal and sharing to adopting orphaned young ones; wolves reflect that. I think many of us love the freedom and wildness the wolf represents. When you look into a calm wolf’s eyes, you can see the origins of everything we love about our best friends, the domesticated dog. We can see unconditional love, untamed and wild. New studies have revealed that wolves are even more sharing than any dog breed. What is really impressive is the more we learn about wolf social behavior, the more we can help our family dogs find their own identities, heal from traumas and relearn how to socialize with other dogs.


JD: What do you hope that the audience for the stop-motion animation takes away from seeing the film?

SM:I hope when audiences, especially kids, see our stop-motion film they will get excited about a real-life wolf, feel a deep connection with Journey emotionally and understand that wolves are complicated creatures who much more vulnerable and kind than audiences thought before. We hope our film will be a conversation starter and help more people on a path to better understand real wolf behavior, replacing fear with respect and giving more visibility to science based programs like Wolf Ways.1 

Wolf pup OR-7 and siblings about to eat blackberries. Photo by Leila Chieko.

JD: Broadly, what do you see as the unique value of art in communicating about biodiversity and species conservation?

SM:Art stirs people’s emotions and thoughts with much more immediacy—it’s the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Art can bring clear and simple understanding to a very complicated issue. It can illustrate something that might be very “science-y” and dry and stir emotions, inspiring people to act.


JD: How can people become involved with supporting this stop-motion animation project?

SM: We’ve just recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Seed&Spark, a site designed to help filmmakers like us. We have really cool rewards for our supporters there, including a very special package of an animation tutorial using our wolf pup puppets and getting guided by some of the industry’s top animators that are working on our project!

To watch the Trailer and Behind-The-Scenes Videos:

Nowheres Wolf Film Crowdfunding Campaign