Monday, February 26, 2024

Wolves in Northern Wisconsin: Eyes in the Dark

Pack of wolves in game camera

On February 8th, 2024, my brother had started his morning exercise walk. It was 6:27 am his time when I received the phone call, still dark in northern Wisconsin. It wasn't what I expected. 

Only 200 yards from his home, on a lonely country lane, with dense forest and brush on both sides, he was confronting a pack of wolves, their reflective eyes easily visible in the beam of his headlamp. The pack of six were less than 30 yards away.  Wolves are common in the area. Common and protected. The brush was fairly thick, the eyes were relatively low to the ground. It was clear what the animals were. Their behavior was alarming. He shouted. He made short rushes at them. They were not intimidated or alarmed.  He had a Glock 23 and a spare magazine. He dropped my call and called his wife, only two hundred yards away.  She arrived in a couple minutes, bringing his 12 gauge tactical 870 with tac light forend and red dot sight, stoked with buckshot. As the vehicle approached the wolves left. My brother said the feel of the 870 in his hands was comforting. 

Just a few months ago, in 2023, a black wolf had closed to within 15 yards of the 15-year-old daughter of a close friend while she was hunting deer. The wolf had run off when Sarah turned around with her rifle. Her encounter happened only 300 yards from where my brother confronted the pack. He and I came across a road-killed young wolf in the fall of 2022, about a quarter mile in the opposite direction.

 Road killed wolf in northern Wisconsin, fall of 2022

The picture of a pack of wolves from a game camera, taken in 2019, was taken about a mile from his home.

Only a month ago, a wolf was shot in self defense, just 60 miles away. 

Wolves which hold their ground when confronted with a human, wolves which do not retreat when yelled at or bluff charged, are a problem, as explained by Dr. Valerius Geist, the eminent biologist and expert on wildlife management. The myth of the harmless wolf developed because people in North America were commonly armed and capable of dealing with wolf packs. The introduction of modern firearms, steel traps, snares, and poison made humans the uncontested apex predator.  Wolves learned to avoid humans to survive. The myth of the harmless wolf was born. 

Protect wolves from humans with punishing legislation, prevent them from being shot, trapped, snared, or poisoned, and they lose fear and respect for humans. They are subject to the immutable laws of physics. They have developed a healthy fear of cars, which have become their main "predator". 

Those who constantly call for more and more wolves do not have to live with them. They live in urban centers and read fables about wolf behavior such as  "Never Cry Wolf" by Farley Mowat. Mowat made a great living by telling tall tales, but his work was mostly fiction, depicted as fact.

If you wish an easy read which gives a realistic picture of wolves, read "The Wolves of Alaska" by Jim Reardon. He treats Mowat gently, a bit too gently, perhaps. 

As time progresses, more people will be killed by large predators in the United States. There was a reason our forefathers worked hard to rid the land of large predators. They are not fun to live with, when you depend on production from the land to survive. 

60 years ago, this correspondent did not worry about wandering the woods of northern Wisconsin unarmed. We often carried firearms while hunting, trapping or shooting varmints. We didn't worry about it if we were unarmed.

Today, when I go into the woods, I carry a handgun as a matter of habit and caution.  I consider Thomas Jefferson's advise on exercise:

"...I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independance to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.


 ©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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