WHY IS VOYAGEUR WOLF PROJECT CAUSING UNNECESSARY FEAR OF A WOLF?

Yesterday the Voyageur Wolf Project posted on Facebook that there's a wolf acting unnaturally just south of Voyageurs National Park and they asked the public to share the photo and story of the this wolf and report any sightings to the Department of Natural Resources. 

Why are they doing this when all they received was a report from a few snowmobilers and no one with wolf knowledge or experience has investigated this first? This is the sort of thing that creates irrational fear and could embolden poachers. Not only did they give the location of the wolf, they provide a photo, and use the words cautious and EXTREMELY ABNORMAL. Pretty irresponsible for a wolf biologist to do.

What will the DNR do if they find this wolf? 

Why are they calling the behavior EXTREMELY ABNORMAL? Since when is a curious wolf abnormal? 



If it's EXTREMELY ABNORMAL behavior that warrants a call to the DNR and warning the public to be cautious and encourage people to reach out to the DNR to report any sightings why isn't that done every time a wolf is encountered. 

Why didn't Voyageur's Wolf Project not sound the alarm during this two encounters?


The following link is to a video shared widely of a man encountering a wolf on the side of the road and yet no one sounded the alarm and the man in this video even whistles and shouts at the wolf, plus he gets out of his car and the wolf doesn't leave.  Direct Link to Wolf Encounter Video


The following link is to a video of a wolf encountered by a woman taking photographs on a trail. The wolf isn't afraid, instead he walks towards her. Direct Link to Wolf Encounter Video.



The following is a link to a video of a wolf encountered by an intern for Oregan Dept. of Fish & Game. Direct Link to Wolf Encounter Video. This wolf isn't afraid either. It stops and looks at the intern.


The following is a link to a video of a wolf encounter by a BBC photographer in Canada. Direct Link to Wolf Encounter Video. This wolf isn't afraid. He even goes up to the photographer and sniffs his foot.


The following is a link to a video of a wolf encounter in the middle of road in Ely, MN.  Direct Link to Wolf Encounter Video. 


The following is a link to a video of a wolf encounter in Ely, MN by a boy on horseback. Direct Link to Wolf Encounter Video. This group of wolves weren't afraid. They didn't run away until he yells at them. 


Wolves like traveling along roads and groomed winter trails. They are commonly seen or their scat is often found along snowmobile trails. Wolf biologist Dr. David Mech once said "never feed wolves or allow them to become habituated. If you meet a wolf do nut run away, yell, look as big as you can, throw rocks. Pepper spray helps. The sound of a gun will let them know you mean business." He said this because curious wolves may not immediately run away when they encounter a person.

Usually when there is a wolf encounter where a wolf doesn't immediately run away we get a normal reaction like the following advice that was given to the public by the International Wolf Center in 2019 when there were encounters with some wolves in Ely.


We don't get WARNING... EXTREMELY ABNORMAL... here's the location... call the DNR... be cautious. 

Back in 2015 a lone wolf chased after snowmobilers in Voyageurs National Park. Dr. David Mech didn't put out an alarm. Instead he said he suspected the wolf was just young and naive. 



If the biologists with Voyageur's Wolf Project are worried about wolves being curious about people on snowmobiles they should stop handling those wolf pups. Maybe the constant presence of wolf biologists and volunteers in Voyageurs National Park has made wolves in that area less fearful of humans.

HERE'S A WOLF ENCOUNTER WORTH READING

The following is from Barry Babcock. Barry has lived with wolves for decades in MN Northwoods. He had a very close encounter with a wolf. No warnings needed. The wolf went on its way eventually as the wolf VWP warned about likely did too. 

A wolf, dog, human encounter - a true story.
About ten years ago in early October, my dog and I were grouse hunting near my home in N MN and had an unusual experience when we took a break: "...I pulled an apple out of my game bag and consumed it, and then took out my pipe and filled it with tobacco and lit it. As I started puffing away, Babsy stepped forward several yards and started to growl with the hackles up on her back. She scented something up wind in the trees and brush. I assumed it was a deer moving towards us not realizing our presence. In seconds, I began to make out something moving in the thick hazel brush, and to my surprise an adult wolf stepped out into the small opening. The wolf was a mottled black, gray and brown. I stood up in my blaze orange game vest with Babsy standing between me and the wolf. The wolf looked me in the eye and then focused its attention on my dog. I called Babs and she immediately responded by returning, not to my side, but behind me. The wolf, without any vocalization, nor outward sign of aggression, or any other gesture other than the curiosity of one dog encountering another dog, began to approach us. Wolves are mysterious and I’ll never know what was on its mind. This all happened in a matter of seconds, so I had no time to think about it, only to react. I was standing erect with no loaded gun, and my dog was directly behind me. The wolf was directly in front of me, within arm’s reach and showing no intention of stopping and keenly focused on Babsy. My immediate gut reaction was, I had to do something, so I removed my cap and hit the wolf on the head, which caused it to back off, somewhat surprised, and it began to pace back and forth. I walked towards it swinging my cap at it, and it backed off, staying out of reach. Within seconds it turned and left by the same way it came, disappearing into the forest. This whole episode happened so quickly, perhaps only thirty seconds and it was over. Or so I thought. I decided it best to load my gun, sit down, finish smoking my pipe, regain some composure and let the wolf put some distance between us before heading back. So that’s what I did and when done smoking, knocked the ash out of my pipe and started back, but this time, on the return, I kept Babsy right out in front of me within ten yards or less and she too, seemed to understand that circumstances were different now. By now the ground was drying out from the heavy dew and the sound of footsteps could be more easily heard. It wasn’t far after we started back that I heard something paralleling us and that feeling I had earlier, of being watched, had returned. Was my mind playing tricks on me now after the wolf encounter? But as I began questioning myself, about a hundred yards down the trail I got a fleeting glimpse of a wolf just off the trail as it bounded off into the dense forest cover. Things started to get real weird now as I continued to hear something moving off in the woods a short distance off the trail on my flank. Then for a second time, about another hundred yards or so down the trail I got another quick look at a wolf. Whether this was the same wolf I hit on the head or several different wolves, I cannot say with any certainty. It wasn’t until I was within a half mile of my cabin that I felt the wolf or wolves had disappeared. I have heard wolves called ‘gray ghosts’ but after that morning the name took on new meaning to me. What happened this day with the wolf has taken me several years to fully wrap my brain around. In fact, I am still pondering the full meaning of this. I do not intend to make this out to be something it’s not, perhaps it was no more than a chance encounter and I should not interpret a moral lesson in it. But the uniqueness of this special incident is irrefutable. A great and powerful spirit of the forest met me that day face to face and everything in life has some meaning whether it is of lesser or greater consequence and to me, this was of great significance. It taught me something about this mysterious entity. This lesson was not an academic teaching, it was a real life experience that brought the definition of a wolf out of the pages of a book, to as intimate of an experience one can have with such a being that has had more of a polarizing effect on us than any living creature. The wolf, the bear, the raven and eagle are all powerful spirits in these wild places. The time we spend in wild places adds great meaning to our lives, and my life certainly has been broadened because of it." ...From "Teachers in the Forest"

Final thoughts on the Voyageur Wolf Project post about the wolf not fearful of humans.

1. Wolves have behaved that way in the past and no one sounded the alarm. Is it extremely rare? Yes! But it has happened in areas wolves exist and didn't later result in anyone getting attacked by wolves in the area. There was an attack here in MN once by a wolf that wouldn't budge when yelled at. The wolf was first seen during the day at a campsite standing on a picnic table. When people yelled and tried to shoo it away it wouldn't budge but it also didn't look well. That wolf would later bite a camper and a necropsy showed it was starving to death. It only has fish scales and bones in its stomach, it was emaciated, and it had a deformed jaw. That's a totally different situation then the one VWP is talking about.

2. Some might think the VWP post is warranted considering a wolf not running away from a loud snowmobile is very strange, but remember back in 2015 when the wolf chased the snowmobile in Voyageur National Park there was no outcry, no warnings, and the DNR didn't rush out to find it. Wolf biologist Dr. David Mech also downplayed the situation and said it was probably a young inexperienced wolf and it may have seen the snowmobile as prey because it was speeding away like prey does.

Now ask yourself, what's more intimidating, a wolf that stares at you as you ride by on your snowmobile or a wolf that chases you? We all know the answer and yet no one was concerned about the wolf that took chase. 

3. The area this wolf was seen isn't a large tourist area, it's not Yellowstone or Gooseberry Falls, so it's a bit surprising that the VWP would encourage people to share their post in hopes of getting the message out. Also telling people not to approach the wolf is odd considering all of us have been raised to believe wolves are dangerous, the only people that wouldn't be afraid of a wolf is someone who has educated themselves on wolf behavior and they would know better not to approach a wolf anyway. The surrounding area does have a lot of wolf haters and now VWP basically gave the license to kill without consequences. There's a wolf out there acting strangely and they give the location it was spotted. How hard will it be now for someone to go out and shoot the wolf and just say it tried to attack them even if it didn't?

4. Why the all caps wording? It incites irrational fear in people that know little about wolves other than the myths they've been told. To write WARNING, EXTREMELY UNUSUAL...and then not follow that up with all the steps that should have been given on what to do if people encounter that wolf or any wolves seems very irresponsible. WVP could have easily just posted "There's a wolf in the area that is behaving more friendly than we usually see wolves behaving so if you see it, here are the precautions you can take - and then list the precautions. In fact, VWP didn't give steps people could take if they encountered that wolf or any wolf, instead they encouraged people to report it to the DNR. Why? If the wolf is that concerning then the DNR should be heading to the park now to deal with it and they should be the ones warning the public, not VWP.

5. Why has no one considered that the constant presence of the wolf researchers in the park may be contributing to wolves being wary of humans? The biologists are going into wolf dens to remove wolf pups, they are spending time examine wolf pups, they tranquilize and examine adult wolves, etc... Why is no one talking about that and how it effects such an intelligent species as the wolf?

6. The main reason the park and surrounding area even gets visitors during the winter is cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Maybe the wolf is just use to seeing people on snowmobiles. Dr. Mech claimed they could possibly mistake a snowmobile (not the person) for prey if they are young and inexperienced so maybe the wolf was there to inspect what he/she was seeing.

Lots of questions and concerns about this but as usual we'll get no answers.