Tag Archives: forest

Coexistence Holiday: Let’s take the first path before us and howl a chorus or two together.

To hear those howls a singing away
A howl here and a howl over there
Come on, it’s lovely weather for a howl with you.

Photograph credit John E Marriott

Outside the snow is falling
And families are calling “Howl Howl”
Come on, it’s lovely weather for a howl with you.

Awoo-yip awoo-yip let’s howl
Let’s roll in the snow
We’re running in a wonderland of snow.

Awoo-yip awoo-yip it’s grand
Just nuzzling your nose
Were running along with the sounds
Of a wintry forestland.

Our thick fur coats are nice and warm
And comfy are we
We’re snuggled up together like two wolves
With the whole pack.

Let’s take the first path before us
And howl a chorus or two
Come on, it’s lovely weather for a howl with you.

Wolf Country. Photograph credit Rachel Tilseth

There’s a Birthday party at our friends Farmer Gray
It’ll be the perfect ending of a perfect day
We’ll be Howlng the songs we love to howl
Without a single stop
At the fireplace while we watch the chestnuts pop
Pop pop pop.

There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the blueberries and pie
It’ll nearly be like a picture print of coexistence
From a long time past

These wonderful things are the things
We remember from the first time we shared man’s fireplace
In ancient times long ago.

Have a Howling Good Holiday Season from All of us at Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin!

Poem adapted by Rachel Tilseth from the original song “Winter Wonderland” 1934 by Bregman, Vocco and Conn

White-tailed deer are bad for wildflowers & sugar maples and research shows how wolves are keeping them in check

With the resurgence of wolves in the region, smart deer are learning to keep away from areas with many of the predators, meaning that wildflowers and young maples there have a better chance of survival, according to a recent study by scientists from the University of Notre Dame and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Research, The work took place at Notre Dame’s Environmental Research Center that straddles the border between Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula and Northeast Wisconsin. The site has forest, bogs and swamps, with red and sugar maples as the dominant hardwoods — a preferred food for deer.

Of wolves, deer, maples and wildflowers by Eric Freedman first published on June 16, 2016 Source breaks the results of the research down in the following article:

Grey wolves are good for wildflowers like the nodding trillium and the Canada mayflower in the Great Lakes region. They’re also good for young red maples and sugar maples. That’s because white-tailed deer are bad for both wildflowers and maple saplings. And wolves are bad for deer.

With the resurgence of wolves in the region, smart deer are learning to keep away from areas with many of the predators, meaning that wildflowers and young maples there have a better chance of survival, according to a recent study by scientists from the University of Notre Dame and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The work took place at Notre Dame’s Environmental Research Center that straddles the border between Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula and Northeast Wisconsin. The site has forest, bogs and swamps, with red and sugar maples as the dominant hardwoods — a preferred food for deer.

In scientific terms, it’s not a question of deer getting smart. Rather, they adapt their behavior in wolf-heavy areas to improve their chances of survival — and incidentally improve the survivability of the maples and forbs, or herbaceous flowering plants. On a practical level, that means deer have adapted by spending less time foraging in “heavy wolf use areas,” the study found.

We conclude that wolves are likely generating trophic cascades which benefit maples and rare forbs through trait-mediated effects on deer herbivory, not through direct predation kills.”

Biologists call the process “trophic cascades.” The phrase refers to “trait-mediated” indirect effects that carnivores, meat-eaters, have on plants by killing plant-eaters or changing plant-eaters’ behavior. In other words, trophic cascades happen when predators, in this case, wolves, kill or change the behavior of their prey, in this case, deer, in ways that benefit the type of plants that deer eat.

Plant-eaters can have a major impact on environmental change, including biodiversity and the structure of plant communities, the study said, and the findings may help managers of wildlife and public lands in the Great Lakes region.

Historically, wolves were “the natural top predator of Great Lakes deer,” the researchers noted, but hunting eliminated them in the study area by the late 1950s. They stayed extinct in the area until the MDNR discovered a new pack around 2000-06.

The department’s winter 2015-16 survey found a “minimum population or 618 wolves in the U.P. That’s “a very conservative count,” said Kevin Swanson, a Marquette-based wildlife management specialist in the MDNR bear and wolf program. White-tailed deer populations in Great Lakes forests increased dramatically without grey wolves, a trend with “significant negative impacts on forest sapling growth and forb biodiversity,” the study said.

Photograph credit Linda Nelson a Wisconsin DNR volunteer wolf tracker. Since 1978, when the gray wolf (Canis lupus) was identified in Douglas County, the first sighting there in about two decades, the animal’s population across the state sharply increased. By the winter of 2017-2018, the minimum number of wolves in the state stood between 905 and 944, based on the annual count by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

There are no official estimates of the U.P. deer population but numbers are “the lowest for several decades” due to recent back-to-back hard winters, said Swanson, who was not involved in the wolf-deer-maple-wildflower research project.

Lead author David Flagel, assistant director of Notre Dame’s Montana-based Environmental Research Center West, said an estimated 5 to 15 percent of Wisconsin deer die each winter,
Originally, deer in the region chowed down on yellow birch and eastern hemlock, “but the combination of lingering logging effects and years of deer eating saplings has eliminated a lot of them from the understory,” Flagel said.

Maples are “not an absolute favorite,” but once the preferred birch and hemlock are gone, they’re “going to eat something else. Like with your fridge at home,” he said.
The study said, “Deer exhibited very different behavior in areas of high and low wolf use. Deer visited high wolf-use plots less frequently than they did low wolf-use plots, and the duration of the visits to high wolf-use areas was shorter. Deer also spent a lesser proportion of their time foraging in high wolf-use areas.”

A sap run is the sweet good-bye of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and the frosts. – John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886. Credit Environmental Education for Kids website.

Differences were dramatic. Deer density was 62 percent lower in high-wolf areas, where deer visits were 82 percent lower and foraging time was 43 percent shorter, it said.
And what about the maple saplings and wildflowers?
Not surprisingly, deer browsed a significantly larger proportion of them in low wolf-use areas, while the richness of wildflower species “was also significantly affected by wolf use,” the study said. The average richness of the wildflowers increased from 38 to 110 percent in low wolf-use sites.
“The results of the experiments revealed that the negative impacts of deer on sapling growth and forb species richness became negligible in high wolf-use areas,” the study said. We conclude that wolves are likely generating trophic cascades which benefit maples and rare forbs through trait-mediated effects on deer herbivory, not through direct predation kills.”
Study co-author Dean Beyer Jr., a MDNR wildlife biologist, called the findings “an important step, albeit, an early step in investigating trophic cascades in the Great Lakes region.”
He said, “We have known about deer response to wolves for quite some time, including a1980 study that found increased deer use of areas between wolf territories.” And in a 2014 report on research in the south-central U.P., Beyer and other scientists discovered that adult does avoid core areas that wolves use.
If additional research produces similar results, “I would expect that this information would eventually begin to influence forest and wildlife management plans,” Beyer said.
The study appeared in the journal “Community Ecology.”

The call of the wild lone wolf 

On a cool autumn evening in October we drove down an unpaved-country road in search of the wild Wisconsin wolf.  It was a perfect night for a wolf howl survey. There was a full moon out that night. The night air was cool with no breeze. A perfect night to make our human-howls carry through the night air. 

We stopped the car deep in the woods, and quietly exited the vehicle.  We walked to a spot in front of the car about 50 feet away.  We waited for the sounds of the car motor to die-down. Jeff made the first howl with no response. Then, I howled, and there was a response.  We heard wolves howl from our left about a hundred yards away. 

The forest canopy blocked out any moonlight making it impossible to see your hand in front of your face.  That’s how dark it was in the forest that night. 

Then, shortly after we heard the howls, a lone howl cut through the night air, and to my surprise, was not far from where I stood.  I frooze, didn’t even breathe, because that’s how close the lone wolf was to me.  I listened for any sounds that would reveal the position of the lone wolf. There was no sound, no sounds of rustling leaves, not a sound to be heard; except the sound of my heart pounding in my chest. 

I couldn’t believe my ears. Did a wolf just howl right next me me? 

We figured the howl was around 70 feet from my position, and in the forest to my right.  We must of interrupted this lone wolf, who was about to cross the road. We were in between the lone wolf and the rest of their family. We didn’t want to disturb them any further, and so we got back in the car and left the area. 

I’ll never forget that night. It’s etched into my memory forever; The call of the wild lone wolf, 2006, while helping to monitor wolves for the Wisconsin Wolf Recovery Program. 
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Featured image is from a trail camera in northern Wisconsin.

Wolves are benifical for the health of Wisconsin’s forests…

…According to a study by USDA Forest Service Research & Development: Wolf Recovery and the Future of Wisconsin’s Forests: A Trophic Link

Wolves were all but eradicated in Wisconsin by the late 1960s due to over hunting. In 1974 – Gray wolf listed as endangered in the lower 48 States and Mexico.  Wolves flourished under the guidance of Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery Program.  On Dec. 28, 2011 wolves were delisted: the Western Great Lakes DPS – Revising the Listing of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in the Western Great Lakes. Politicians rushed in to designate wolves as a game species that could be hunted on 2011, Wisconsin Legislation  Act 169. Then the hunting & trapping of wolves was abruptly halted in 2014; Due to a Federal court decision, wolves in the western Great Lakes area (including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) were relisted under the Endangered Species Act on December 19, 2914. 

Wolves are reducing local browse intensity by white-tailed deer and thus mitigating the biotic impoverishment of understory plant communities

The following is from the study, “Wolf Recovery and the Future of Wisconsin’s Forests.”  Read on: 
USDA US Forest Service Research & Development  Wolf Recovery and the Future of Wisconsin’s Forests: A Trophic Link, 2010.  Wisconsin, Northern Research Station, principal investigator W. Keith Moser 

The following is a snapshot discription from the study:

“Overabundant white-tailed deer populations have serious negative effects on understory plant community structure and composition. Wolves, which are top predators of deer, have been recolonizing central Wisconsin since the early 1990s. NRS scientist Keith Moser and partners from the University of Georgia are measuring trophic cascade effects, that is, whether wolves are reducing local browse intensity by white-tailed deer and thus mitigating the biotic impoverishment of understory plant communities.”  Source

The following is a summary  from the study:

“Overabundant white-tailed deer populations have serious negative effects on understory plant community structure and composition. Wolves, which are top predators of deer, have been recolonizing central Wisconsin since the early 1990s. NRS scientist Keith Moser and partners from the University of Georgia are measuring trophic cascade effects, that is, whether wolves are reducing local browse intensity by white-tailed deer and thus mitigating the biotic impoverishment of understory plant communities. Wisconsin DNR wolf territory data combined with Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data were used to develop a landscape-level spatially explicit analysis protocol in FIA plots categorized as high wolf impact areas and low wolf impact areas. : Preliminary results suggest that seedling survival of preferred, browse- sensitive seedlings is higher in areas continuously occupied by wolf packs.” Source 

Wolves are benifical for the health of Wisconsin’s forests. It’s vital that gray wolves retain federal protection in Wisconsin. 


Here is what you can do to insure that wolves continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act in Wisconsin/Great Lakes Region, Contact your congressman using this easy email link democracy.io and ask that they do not approve any riders that call for delisting of wolves. 

Action Alert!  Anti-Wolf Riders in House Bill Funding Dept of Interior- oppose: S. 1514

Our politicians are once again using wolves as political pawns and resuming their seemingly relentless assault against them. On Wednesday a House Panel approved a bill funding the Department of Interior and the EPA. This bill contains 2 highly toxic riders which would undermine 40 years of recovery and jeopardize the future of wolves.

The first rider would strip all federal protections of wolves in the Great Lakes region (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan) and allow trapping and hunting to resume after it was put on hold in 2014 by a federal judge. The rider would also preclude any further judicial review of this overturned court order.

The second rider would prevent any money from being spent on federal recovery efforts of wolves in other parts of the country – the Mexican gray wolf in the southwest, the red wolf in North Carolina, and the 2 wolf packs that just resettled in California, to name a few.

We need to make our voices heard and let our politicians know that this bill, along with these anti-wolf riders, is not acceptable. Coexistence, not killing, should be the goal of wolf recovery. Our wolves deserve a better fate than the death sentences our legislators are proposing.

Please take a few minutes to call or email your Congressional Representative and US Senators. Links to contact your legislators are here:

US Senate: http://bit.ly/2sGeI1B

House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/

To read more on the House bill: http://bit.ly/2tgjJOL


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Featured image by Jayne Belski