Northern Wilds Magazine
Wolf tracks on the porch.| Ann Possis
Points North

Points North: The season of the wolf

Tom Foster and his wife were watching television on a recent evening when they heard a couple of loud bangs on their deck. The Isabella man went outside in his slippers to see what was happening and spied a wolf dragging a deer by the throat from beneath the deck.

“I grabbed a snow shovel and went after the wolf to see if I could save the deer,” he said.

Foster got within 15 feet of the large, full grown wolf, which did not want to give up the deer. Eventually, it did, but the animal was reluctant to leave, slowly retreating down the driveway. The deer, a 2015 fawn, expired. Foster put it in his garage.

“I didn’t want the wolf to come back and tear up the carcass in my yard,” he said.

The next morning, he looked around his yard to see what had happened. Tracks in the snow showed at least two wolves had chased the deer out of the woods and across the backyard. The deer had run around the edge of the house and under the deck, where it was trapped by piles of plowed snow. The noises the Fosters heard were its ensuing struggles with the wolf. The animals were within five feet of his front steps.

“I don’t believe in exterminating the wolves,” he said. “But I don’t want them on my deck, either.”

Wolf tracks on the porch.| Ann Possis
Wolf tracks on the porch.| Ann Possis

Ann Possis of Lutsen knows what he means. One morning last week she let her dog out to do its business. When she let the dog inside, it immediately went to the window, looked out and growled. Possis looked out the window to see a wolf walk up her driveway and then pee right where her dog had just done the same. Since then, she’s found tracks all around her house, including on her doorstep.

The wolf at the door has placed her in a quandary.

“I love wolves and feel delighted and blessed when I see one,” she said. “I don’t wish this particular wolf any harm. I’m just worried about my dog.”

As many do, she turned to social media for advice. And of course, her Facebook friends responded with advice ranging from practical (walk your dog on a leash and carry an air horn to frighten wolves) to just plain loopy (pee in the driveway, burn sage and match your spirituality to that of the wolf). Possis has followed a bit of both. Suffice to say she is walking the dog on a leash and talking loudly to alert wolves to her presence.

A ways further up Highway 61, Hovland resident Paul Wiegele and his family are having their own experiences with dogs and wolves. Last week, Wiegele walked his yellow Lab, Blaze, to the Hovland Post Office on a long leash. He brought the dog inside the post office (such things occur in small towns). Then, looking outside, he watched a mangy wolf walk up the road where he and the dog had just been and follow their tracks into the post office driveway. There it paused. The wolf didn’t go away until a vehicle approached on the road.

The following day, his wife, Tracy, headed for the post office. She wasn’t sure if she would walk, or, due to wolf activity in the neighborhood, drive there. The post office is less than a quarter mile from their home. After she left, Paul looked out to the driveway to see if she taken the vehicle, which she had done. The mangy wolf was standing in the driveway.

Wiegele said his neighbors have seen the mangy wolf, which has no hair on its tail and shows hair loss on its body. They have seen other wolves as well. Recently the wolves killed a deer on the ice of the Flute Reed River on a Sunday morning, not far from his home.

Less than a mile from the Wiegeles, Bob Travis recently had a memorable experience with a hunting wolf. One afternoon, his wife asked him what the loud noises were that she could hear outside. Travis recognized the sound as that of a whitetail in distress. He went outside to find the source of the noise. Across a small creek, just 60 yards from his cabin, a wolf was attacking a deer, biting at its hind quarters. He yelled at the wolf in an attempt to save the deer.

It took some vocal persuasion from Travis to make the wolf give up the attack, but it retreated. When Travis went to check on the deer’s condition, the animal, a button buck, rose up and came to him, pushing its head into his chest. The deer was too badly injured to survive. Travis put the animal out of its misery and left it there. The wolf came back to feed on it that night.

In retrospect, Travis said he should not have interfered with the wolf.

“That was a mistake,” he said. “I should have let Nature take its course. I think predators are cool.”

For the record, Travis is an avid deer hunter who has hunted with a muzzleloader for over 40 years, which is long before these primitive guns became popular. He saw the same wolf, distinguished by its black and gray coloration, cross Highway 61 about a mile from his home a few days later. Others living nearby have seen the wolf, too.

Do so many wolf-human encounters occurring in such a short span of time suggest the North Shore is being overwhelmed with wolves? Not at all. It is simply the season of the wolf. February’s deep snows have driven deer, their primary prey, down to the Lake Superior shoreline, where snow depths are significantly less. The wolves are simply following their prey, as they do every year at this time. While none of the people quoted in this story are feeding deer, all of them knew or suspected some of their neighbors were doing so.

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