CNN Environment News

Timber wolves return in packs to Wisconsin


March 3, 1996
Web posted at: 7:20 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jeff Flock

GRANTSBURG, Wisconsin (CNN) -- A man stands amid the bitter cold of a Wisconsin winter, his hands cupped to his mouth. He breaks the silence, unleashing a piercing, primitive howl. (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound)

In the distance, timber wolves respond as if he were one of them, their calls echoing across the quiet, snowy hills. (1.2M QuickTime movie)

"They're fascinating animals. They have a majestic look to them. And I think they probably tell us a lot about ourselves," explains Adrian Wydeven, satisfied his calls were answered.

In Wisconsin, timber wolves are back in the woods and hills, as well as streets and backyards -- a remarkable feat considering they were close to extinction until the 1950s.

Tracking wolves

For the last 10 years the state of Wisconsin has been quietly watching and encouraging the wolf. And unlike the much- publicized, reintroduction plan at Yellowstone National Park where wolves were trapped and shipped in, Wisconsin's program has brought the wolves back through more natural methods.

Those associated with Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources find the wolves' return extremely gratifying.

"To see a permanently established pack in this area is real gratifying," said one man.

To aid the wolves' return, researchers have kept a close tab on the wolf packs by tracking them with radio collars, watching them from the sky and educating the public so the wolves wouldn't be mistakenly killed.

Wolf-Dog hybrid

Some Wisconsinites, however, think the state has done too good a job, bringing wolves too close to civilization. Farmers are worried about their livestock and hunters are concerned about game the wolves' prey on.

But those fears may be exaggerated. Even with the increased number of wolves, they only kill about 1,500 deer a year. In comparison, hunters and motorists kill half a million.

A more immediate concern in the state is a wolf-dog hybrid that has come dangerously close to people. These half-dog, half-wolf animals were bred by humans and now run wild. They are considered bold and more dangerous than the timber wolves.

Resident Scott Moan has seen his collie roam with the hybrids, but even more frightening his collie has mated with the half-dog, half-wolf.

Willis traps

Another resident Bruce Willis had his dog run away with the wolf-dog pack. Now, he and the Department of Natural Resources are trying to trap the wolf-dogs and move them to a wildlife center.

"They're actually more dangerous than timber wolves," Willis says.

Despite the concerns about the half-breeds, the quiet comeback of the timber wolf appears a victory for nature over human nature.

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