Last weekend a trio of wolves passed through the neighborhood a mile east of our place along River Road and it now appears to be an annual winter event. Tracks in the snow tell no lies - revealing stories of survival, predation, intrigue and fear. Gallery: We're collecting your trail camera photos.
I was gazing over the neighbor’s pulping operation when I spotted the tell-tale signs on the edge of the cut. It appeared a lone wolf crossed the road after traversing the recently harvested woods. But apparently he was not alone, as neighbor Steve counted three sets of tracks on Saturday. Aspen treetops, littering the forest floor, act like candy to hungry deer during winter months and the sound of a chainsaw becomes a dinner bell. The small herd of deer attracted to the tender aspen stems in turn lured the predators into their back yard.
Experts claim an adult wolf consumes around 25 deer over the course of a year. They also determine their core home range covers 14 square miles, but may travel up to 30 miles a day while hunting. Studies show deer comprised about 50% of their diet, followed by beavers, rabbits, mice, squirrels, muskrats and other small mammals.
According to the DNR, we are now experiencing the largest wolf population in Wisconsin since the 1800s and with the growth in population, coupled with the inability of states to kill problem animals due to their protection under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, problems with wolves killing livestock and hunting dogs have grown to intolerable levels.
Backtracking their travel route, I found where the wolves had crossed a large marsh southwest of our property, then lost their movements in a big tract of woods. A small herd of twelve deer, just inside the edge of the woods seemed undaunted - apparently the predators were long gone.
Tracks in the snow told the story - but I watched intently the surrounding landscape for a possible sighting. You see, I have been hunting wolves for years. Not with a gun, but armed with binoculars and camera – and it appears I am one of the minority in the area that hasn’t seen the neighborhood wolves. My list of two wolf sightings all occurred up north while bird hunting.
Last year, neighbors Bill and Norma observed a large male standing broadside in a hayfield. Jim and Margie watched from their window as another cased a doe and her two fawns in the field behind their house. Two years ago, Steve and his mother Grace experienced one up close and personal looming large in front of their car. And along Dam Road, neighbors Dave and Mary saw a couple while walking their dogs. The list goes on – sightings in our township have become common place. Except for me.
Hoping to report to you that I saw a wolf this winter along the creek was my wish. The next best thing of course is tracks in the snow. The laws of average say I will spot one sooner or later.
And when I do, you’ll be the first to know.
Ken M. Blomberg is a freelance writer and longtime resident of the Town of Eau Pleine, northeast of Junction City. A 1976 graduate of UWSP in Resource Management, he is currently Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Water Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.