Steve Moore, a former journalist who is now a successful syndicated cartoonist, created the charming concept and story for the recent animated feature film Alpha and Omega. Alpha and Omega features the tale of two young wolves who are relocated from Canada to Idaho to help repopulate a wilderness area bereft of wolves. It’s no coincidence that this story parallels the real reintroduction of wolves into the United States back in 1995 – the start of one of the biggest wildlife success stories in America’s history. That real-life relocation gave Moore the idea that ultimately became Alpha and Omega, he told Defenders in an interview from Boise, Idaho, this week:
How did you come up with the idea that became Alpha and Omega?
“A few years after my family and I moved to Idaho from Los Angeles, I read a newspaper article commemorating the 10th anniversary of the wolf program. There was a story about one of the first wolves in the program, Wolf B1 or Wolf B2, one of those. The story was showing the tracking of the wolf’s radio collar, showing where the wolf went when it was first dropped off in Idaho. It kept heading north, then turning around and coming back, heading north and turning around again, over and over.
“It kind of got my imagination going – maybe he was trying to get back to Canada! So I just imagined what would have happened if the biologists had tried to trap a mated pair, and they messed up and got two wolves that hated each other instead. Alpha and Omega is like the flip side of that old movie The African Queen: instead of two humans who hate each other trying to get through the wilderness back to civilization, this was two wolves who hated each other trying to get through civilization and back to the wilderness.
“I’d suggested from the start that Lionsgate [the studio that produced Alpha and Omega] do a cause-related partnership with someone like Defenders of Wildlife. So I was really glad to see that you’re working with them, that the movie is helping get the word out about wolves. Even though it’s entertainment, it still has a message to send about wolves. For example, I purposely made the alpha wolf a female – there are male alphas too, but a lot of people don’t know that there are female alpha wolves.”
What’s your opinion about the reintroduction of wolves to the Northern Rockies?
“I’d heard that wolves were being reintroduced into the United States, but I wasn’t really familiar with the program until we moved to Idaho. It’s obviously one of the most successful wildlife recoveries ever. I think it worked better than anyone thought it would, including biologists and the Nez Perce tribe, and even the people who didn’t want them here.
“I think it surprised everyone how adaptable the wolves are. But it makes sense, because this was their home at one time. It’s not like they moved them to Florida – they went back to somewhere where they were a native species before they were unfortunately killed and driven off. I’m glad it’s happening.”
I know you live in Idaho today. Have you ever seen real wolves in the wild in your home state?
“I have not seen wolves in the wild, though they are fairly close to me, so that’s a little surprising. I’ve seen tracks when I’ve been out fishing that might be wolves, or they might just be big coyotes, but I’ve never actually seen any wolves.
“Last year or the year before, there were wolf sightings just about two miles from where I live in the foothills above Boise. So they’re finding their way closer to the city.”
Wolves have a lot of fans – but they have a lot of enemies, too. What do you think of wolves personally?
“I understand both sides. I know there are people who would like to see no wolves in the state, ever. I know there are people who don’t want any wolves touched, even when they’re causing problems. I think it’s entirely possible for everyone to coexist. So the best thing is to manage them in the way that’s been successful for other animals, just as grizzly bears, cougars, black bears and other wildlife are managed.
“Have wolves recovered to a point where they can be hunted? I just don’t know. I’d leave that up to the biologists, I think they know better. I don’t have the science to know that. That’s what the biologists do – let them determine that.”
Defenders of Wildlife has been working to restore wolves to the West for more than a decade. How do you think we’re doing?
“I’ve heard about your organization almost from the start, when I first got the idea for [Alpha and Omega]. Just recently, I’ve started to dive in, and I think it’s fantastic, the work you’re doing.
“I think they really need you right now. Sometimes people who are big fans of the wolf reintroduction program think it’s done, it’s worked, it’s over, there’s no more problems. But reading the news every day, you see there’s still those little flare ups, those conflicts between wolves and people. They still need your help.
“Keep up the great work!”