Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?

Wolf tracks Andy and I discovered on a walk last week
One afternoon, back when the ice was forming in December, I watched two large dogs carefully pick their way across the slick new ice at the mouth of the bay. Orange and rosy hues from the sunset reflected in the ice, casting the two dogs in a golden glow. The larger of the two dogs had disappeared onto the shore by the time I'd grabbed the binoculars. As I peer out at the smaller dog, who was obviously struggling to keep her footing on the ice, I realized she was a dog, yes, but not one I'd  be playing fetch with any time soon. I'd just watched two wolves cross the ice I'd been skating on not long before.

Wolves aren't an unusual sighting in these parts. In fact, in the last year, I've seen more wolves in the wild than I've seen moose. Minnesota has the wolf herd of approximately 3000, the largest wolf herd in the contiguous United States. Last month, the wolves were delisted from the endangered species list in the western Great Lake states and that means there's the possibility of there being a wolf hunt in Minnesota this year. 

Although they're fairly ubiquitous, I can't help feeling a little apprehensive about it all. I know it's silly, probably just childhood conditioning from stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs kicking in. My senses prick up when I hear the faint howl of wolves in the evening. As fascinating as it was to stumble upon a pair of wolf tracks when Andy and I were hiking down the lake last week, it also reminded me that I'm sharing these woods with some large predators.

This summer, a wolf grabbed the neighbors' dog by the ruff before the wolf was scared off. (Granted, this same dog was also bitten in the bottom by some critter, probably a bear, this summer. Curiosity got the black lab?) More recently, just this month, another acquaintance's dog was killed by a wolf. The local radio station is issuing warnings like this.

The other day I was bemoaning my lack of activity this winter. When Andy suggested a solo hike down the lake, I quickly poo-pooed the idea. I said I don't like trudging through the snow, but frankly, the wolves kind of put me on edge.

"You're right," Andy said (ironically?). "It is wolf mating season."

Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf? Not me . . . ?

7 comments:

  1. My little dog, Harriet, would be an easy target for the wolves up in your neck of the woods! As it is, here, I worry about an eagle or an owl scooping her up. Last summer we visited a local wolf center and as the sun was setting all the wolves started howling. What a fun experience it was for us city dwellers to be able to hear and see the wolves howling.

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  2. The first and last time I had seen wolves and heard them every single night, was when I spent 6 long months close to Novosibirsk / Siberia. yes, their howl gave me goosebumps every night, yet I am fascinated by these creatures!

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  3. Beautiful pictures! Not sure I would want to walk alone either! Take the pepper spray with you, just in case!

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  4. I haven't had much experience with wolves, so I have to agree and say I'm a bit leery! I have seen coyotes at my parents place in Arizona though, and that's pretty crazy!

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  5. I love MN bloggers. I grew up in the southern part of the state, in Northfield, but every year my family vacationed in northern MN. I've been a CA girl for a long time, but my MN roots still show and I have no plan to subdue them. To this day, I love reading about my home state, any way I can find it--books, blogs, whatever. Glad to have found you.

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  6. I have always been fascinated by the wild life around me, though in our NY state forest, the wildest creature I have ever seen was the pack of coyotes that run along our creek. Reading histories of my area, wolves were pretty much an every day sighting until they hunted them out. Bobcats, mountain lions and bear are seen every now and then, but we have not seen them ourselves or any signs of them. Be careful.

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