Living With Wolves

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Many of our guests are curious whether we see many wild animals. When we reply to the affirmative, they always want to know 'what.' As we begin reciting a list of the most commonly seen criters, many interrupt. "What about bears? Do you have Grizzlies?"

"Yes," we answer.

"Do you ever see them?" is the predictable next question.

"Not often, but yes, on occasion. We see more tracks than bears, thankfully."

Without hesitation I can predict the next question. "What about wolves? Do you have any wolves around here?"

And so the conversation goes. Usually, somewhere along the line, someone's eyes take on a far-off look and they say, "I wish I could see a wolf."

I always reply. "It is a major thrill to see a wolf - in Yellowstone Park. But to see one in your back yard, to wake to tracks outside your fence, or to find fresh tracks on your cross-country ski trail - that is a different story."

As I've said before, I enjoy seeing wolves. They are wild. They are beautiful. And, they look enough like our pets we often think of them as safer and more friendly than they are. However, the only thing wolves have in common with most domesticated dogs is their looks.

After a similar conversation this summer with some guests, I received an email. Unlike most people I talk to, this guest had not only been intrigued by the wolf subject, he took the time to do some personal research. Furthermore, he shared his findings with me. What follows is from his email and the links he provided.

Our guest commented, after his research, "[Wolves] seem to learn quickly that people can be lethal and should be avoided." While one would expect this would be true, our experience has not shown this to be the case - at least not around here. In fact, the wolf we saw about a month ago allowed Craig to approach within a few hundred yards (he was on a snowmobile and had intended it harrass it away from the resort).

While this may not a valid 'proof test', I recently learned this animal is, most likely, a member of our 'local pack.' The local trapper shot at and harrassed this pack last summer because they were feeding on nearby cattle. It made me wonder. Where is the natural fear? Where is the preference for no human contact?

Then I looked at the links the guest had provided. Wikipedia is often a wonderful resource. Their article on wolf attacks is completely fascinating. I encourage you to read it. Did you know when compared to other predators "the frequency with which wolves have been recorded to kill or prey on people is much lower, indicating that though potentially dangerous, wolves are among the least threatening for their size and predatory potential"?

Which instead of bringing comfort about my 'relative' safety around wolves, just makes me more leery of the other critters. With the lack of fear our local wolves have exhibited (in every situation over the last two years), it makes me wonder why they are so self-confident .

Perhaps the most valuable piece of information included in this article is what they entitled, "The Seven Stages Leading To Attacks." They are as follows:

  • Scarcity of wild game.
  • Wolves introduce nocturnal visits to habitated areas.
  • Wolves progress to visiting habitated areas during daylight hours and watching people and stock from a distance.
  • Wolves begin attacking smaller livestock and pets - often chasing them to the porch. At this stage they only growl at humans.
  • Wolves begin attacking larger livestock and may follow riders as well as mounting porches and decks to look in house windows.
  • Wolves begin harrassing people, but usually nipping and chasing if the person runs yet still retreating when confronted.
  • Wolves begin attacking people.

Before you change your travel plans to exclude wolf inhabitated areas, I encourage you to take an inventory of your street. How many dogs reside there? While wolves and bears and cougars do kill people, the domesticated dogs we call our pets are responsible for a growing number of deaths. In fact, according to an article in Parade, dog-induced deaths are on the rise. And, just in case you did your inventory, found no pit bulls on your block (or your walking route) and thus feel safe, think again. Only half of the people-killing-dogs were pit bulls.

I don't know about you, but I'd still rather live in a place where I know to exercise wisdom and caution rather than think I am safe and find out differently. While I do not care for wolves in my back yard, I still feel safer and more comfortable at Elk Lake than I would in just about any other place I can think of living.

Lady of the Lake

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