Matt Simmons was faced with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Navy. Finding it difficult to return to society, he found healing through helping wolves.
“Wolves are a lot like returning veterans,” Simmons said. “There is a non-verbal communication and connection between them.”
Simmons and his wife, Lorin Lindner, who fell in love with wolves when one was brought to her high school biology class, have since founded the Wolves and Warriors and WolfGuard programs, as well as the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center in Frazer Park, California.
At 6 p.m. Saturday Simmons and Lindner will be at the Center for the Arts for “An Evening with Our Ally: The Wolf.” The event will feature a showing of the film “The War in Between,” in which Simmons and Lindner are both featured, followed by a question-and-answer session.
Both of the couple’s programs aim to help wolves while helping veterans heal.
The Wolves and Warriors program partners veterans with rescued wolves. WolfGuard sends veterans out into the forest to keep watch over and protect wild wolves while they map out poaching in efforts to stop illegal hunting.
“The wolf and veteran slowly begin to trust each other,” Simmons said. “Through our program the vulnerability and trust comes with time. The wolf makes such a big difference in the veteran’s life that then they go out and protect wolves.”
Simmons related his time in the military to nature.
“In the military we say, ‘The price of freedom is not free,’” Simmons said. “And the price of a healthy ecosystem is not free. You have to balance nature with nature.”
The lack of laws against killing wolves and other top predators is destroying the ecosystem, according to Simmons and Lindner.
“I am not really blaming anyone,” Lindner said. “I just want people to be educated on the topic.”
The film “Wolf Spirit” will also be shown during the event. Director Julia Huffman will be there to answer questions afterward. The film has been voted Best Nature Film on Hulu and ranked ninth on iTunes documentary charts. Huffman introduces the viewers to wolf experts aiming to help people understand why wolves should be freed from constant persecution.
“That’s what I hope to do with this film,” Huffman said. “Let the audience hear from these people who know the wolf on a much deeper level.”
Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, said she is hosting the event to give the wolf a voice.
Combs wants to highlight the people who find wolves important in their everyday lives and educate the public on why wolves need to be protected.
Combs noted how in Wyoming wolves can be killed any day, in any number, in 85% of the state. She wants to shed light on how people can coexist with wolves, in party by dispelling misconceptions about the animals.
“People think that they are these bloodthirsty killers that kill for sport,” Combs said, “and they’re really no value to the ecosystem and that they endanger prey population and things like that. So those kinds of cultural myths that are really ingrained in the culture here in Wyoming are not true.” ￼