When members of Denver band Lost Walks traveled to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide five years ago, it was to find content for what would eventually be the group's first record, Wolf, Woman, Man.
Upon their arrival, however, singer and harmonium player Jen GaNun stopped by the education center at the animal sanctuary, and the trip would become so much more than just research for a musical project.
“I learned a lot as someone who is already an animal advocate and animal lover,” GaNun says. “[I learned about] what was happening with wolves in western states, how they were hunted out of Colorado, even though they are supposed to exist here. I didn’t know that.”
Ganun says the band's first two shows benefited the wolf sanctuary, and in 2017, the band partnered with Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, which began providing information at Lost Walks shows. This past summer and fall, the band volunteered with Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, an organization working to bring the gray wolf back to Colorado. Bandmembers, both on stage and off, worked to gather signatures to place a proposal on the 2020 ballot that would reintroduce the gray wolf to Colorado and allow the once widespread predator to roam from Canada to Mexico. That work included a ten-town tour of Colorado during which Lost Walks and a crew of interpretive dancers performed a multimedia set and provided wolf education.
“We were some of many, many, many people and many organizations who helped gather signatures from summer into the fall,” says GaNun. “Just last week, they finally delivered more than 200,000 raw signatures to the secretary of state, which pushed us way past our goal.”
Colorado Secretary of State spokeswoman Serena Woods said in an email that the wolf advocates submitted their signatures on December 10, and her office has thirty days to review the signatures.
The proposed law is not without its detractors, including local leaders from twelve Colorado counties who fear the animals will kill livestock and lead to conflicts with people. The state wildlife commission in 2012 also passed a resolution committing the state to oppose wolf reintroduction, the Denver Post reported.
GaNun says she knows that there are people opposed to wolf reintroduction, and she expected to encounter more during her volunteer work over the summer and fall. But her interactions with people have mostly been positive, she says, and bipartisan support exists for wolf reintroduction.
According to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, gray wolves were hunted to extinction in Colorado in the 1940s and were one of the most aggressively hunted animals in the United States. They were reintroduced to the Rocky Mountain ecosystem in the 1970s, and their numbers increased, but eventually led to conflicts with ranchers in the 2000s. The wolf advocacy organization says the predators are an important part of a healthy ecosystem.
Lost Walks worked an injured lone wolf into the narrative for its debut album, Wolf, Woman, Man, and it was important for the band to make the wolf a heroic character, a departure from the “big bad wolf” clichés of western folklore. It’s been part of the band’s effort to educate people about the maligned canines.
“There is so much fear-based information,” GaNun says. “We’ve been told for generations that the wolf is a scary, evil animal that kills for fun and is out to get your children. We know these stories. [Wolves] are vilified in lots of stories, but there are cultures that are incredibly respectful of wolves.”
The band plans to continue its wolf advocacy work and is currently working on a followup to Wolf, Woman, Man, which will examine the origins of the wolf. They hope to eventually make it a trilogy.
“We’ve started working on it,” GaNun says. “We’ve got all the bones finished. We have a goal of performing it by summertime. … I’d like to have it out there before people start voting.”