Thursday, May 28, 2009

Great lakes wolves

I figure I better catch up on all the timber wolf news I've accumulated over the past couple months. The main piece of news is the delisting of wolves which means they are off the endangered species list and the states (and tribes) are now in charge of wolf management. Like most issues these days there appears to be no middle ground. It seems a person needs to be either a blustering, redneck, kill-all-wolves guy or a touchy, feely, PETA sympathizing granola muncher. But I don't want to go into that here, especially since it could result in a written tirade, savaging both groups as short sighted idiots. No, in this post I just want to relate a couple wolf stories that have occured in my stompin' grounds, the south shore of Lake Superior.

The first is a 'man bites dog' story. Rather than paraphrase it, I'll just let you read the email from Adrian Wydeven, Wisconsin's 'wolf guy' with the DNR......

I received a call from a logger yesterday, that was not the typical sort of story you hear from loggers. Jim Hintz of Park Falls was logging an area near Spillerberg Creek west of Highway 13 in Ashland County. On 2/20/09 he was skidding logs in his sale and noticed the deer were staying very close to the skidder. Normally the deer were eager to come out and fed on tops of the cut trees, but on this day ~ 25 deer were staying so close to the skidder, Jim had to be careful not to bump into the them. After a while he noticed a pair of wolves moving into the timber sale. To his surprise a group of 6-8 deer consisting of adult does, and a couple of bucks with recently shed antlers, ran at the wolves. The deer caught up to the wolves and started stomping and kicking them. Some kicked with hind legs like mules, other lashed with front hooves. After a while Jim heard one of the wolves whining. The way the deer were mobbing the wolves, Jim thought the wolves were going to get killed. Eventually the wolves were able to run away, but one appeared to be badly limping.

There are records in the literature of wolves being killed by deer. Dave Mech & Mike Nelson detected a few cases in Minnesota. I don't think we have actually documented a wolf killed by a deer in Wisconsin, but it sounds like this was almost one of those situation. Any way there are a few deer left in the woods and some of them are mean, so when you go for a walk in the woods, watch out.... for the deer!

Watch out for the deer indeed. The other bit of news is that there is apparently a wolf or wolves on Sand Island in the Apostles. Last winter a fellow was coyote hunting on Point Detour which is about 3-4 miles or so from Sand. He had a decoy out and was calling from a blind on the pack ice when he saw a coyote come off the mainland. Three or four more animals followed and it became apparent that they were wolves and not coyotes. They got fairly close before they scented him and turned around and took off across the ice to Sand Island.

Fast forward to this spring. Sand Island is lousy with deer and they have eaten over 50% of the Canadian Yew out there. As a fan of that particular species, I was heartened to hear that the Park Service planned to cull a bunch of the deer out there this spring. "Cull" and "harvest" are the words that we kinder, gentler souls prefer to use rather than "shoot", which of course is exactly what was done. The guys found evidence of wolf kills from the winter and it was likely a target rich environment for our buddies the wolves. They thought however, that the wolves had moved back across the ice in early spring. That was until one of the hunters saw a wolf from his blind last week.

It been a few years since I've camped on Sand but I just may have to do it to see if I can hear some howling in the evening. There is no sound that drives home the concept of wilderness like a wolf howl. I'm sure Gaylord Nelson is smiling somewhere at the thought of wolves in the wilderness area that bears his name. The wolf controversy will keep simmering along and there was a story in the Ashland paper yesterday about a guys prize beef calf being killed and eaten. I'm sure there will be more. My buddy RawhidePhil lives out in Moquah and didn't make the wood cutting party on Saturday; I hope he wasn't eaten as well. Seriously, I just hope we can plug along on the wolf issue, keeping the nut cases on both sides at bay. Its great to have that crucial piece of the wilderness puzzle in place and I trust that will be the case for many years to come


gurneygranny said...

RawhidePhil was alive and well and drinking with the best of them Sunday night. Most certainly not eaten by wolves--just in case you were concerned.

DaveO said...

What a relief! I worry about those poor residents of the remote Moquah hills with murderous packs of wolves roaming the area. I also wonder how, if you think of your cattle as 'your kids' you can send them off to get turned into hamburger? Not that I hadn't thought about it a couple times during the junior high years...