Minnesota & Wisconsin Photography Competition: Featuring Wild Canids

Photography Competition will be open for entree on May 1, 2020. The competition will be accepting photographs of wild canids from Minnesota & Wisconsin “Red & Grey fox, Coyote and Gray wolf.”

Dewey Bunnell, singer, songwriter & guitarist from the folk-rock band “America” has generously donated autographed CDs as prizes for the photography competition this year! Thank you Dewey!

Dewey Bunnell, singer, songwriter & guitarist from the folk-rock band “America” has generously donated autographed CDs as prizes for the photography competition this year.

Competition details are in the works, and will be forthcoming…

Why hold a photography competition featuring wild canids?

Far to often the ecological roles they play are misunderstood. Wild canids have become targets, literally targets for extermination. Every winter states hold fox and coyote competitions awarding prizes for the biggest animal killed using predator callers and high powered rifles. The Minnesota & Wisconsin Photography Competition’s mission is to elevate public opinion by using the medium of photography to showcase wild canids. Thus, drawing attention to their value as a photographer’s subject and to the environment.

Wildlife Photography Contest entrees 2019
Last year Jim Brandenburg donated a print for the 2019 contest winner Chris Rugowski. Photo courtesy of Jim Brandenburg.

Photography Competition will be open for Entree on May 1, 2020. The competition is accepting photographs of wild canids from Minnesota & Wisconsin. Red & Grey fox, Coyote and Gray wolves.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project: Ecology of Summer Wolves in Northern Minnesota

Some of the first howls from a pup of the Wiyapka Lake Pack in early May 2019. The pack had a total of 5 pups in 2019, and the pups were about 1 month old when this video was recorded. http://www.voyageurswolfproject.org

The Voyageurs Wolf Project is focused on understanding the summer ecology of wolves in and around Voyageurs National Park in the iconic Northwoods border region of Minnesota, USA.

Video Footage from Voyageurs Wolf Project

These wolves from the Shoepack Lake Pack are the most elusive and remote wolves in Voyageurs National Park and the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem. This pack occupies the eastern half of the Kabetogama Peninsula, which is an incredibly wild place in the interior of Voyageurs National Park. This video footage is from this past November and December.

We have been in the field all week doing trail camera work (switching SD cards, putting in fresh batteries, putting out more cameras, etc) and got lots of neat footage from this past fall! Will be sharing more soon!

About Voyageurs Wolf Project

The Voyageurs Wolf Project, which is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park, was started to address one of the biggest knowledge gaps in wolf ecology—what do wolves do during the summer? Our goal is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the summer ecology of wolves in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem in northern Minnesota. Specifically, we want to understand the predation behavior and reproductive ecology (e.g., number of pups born, where wolves have dens, etc) of wolves during the summer.

Photograph credit Voyageurs Wolf Project

In March 2019, we set up three remote cameras at a den that had been used by the Sheep Ranch Pack from 2016–2018. The pack did not use this den in 2019 but wolves and a variety of other elusive animals visited this area. This video is a compilation of the wildlife activity that was recorded.

To learn more about The Voyageurs Wolf Project got to www.voyageurswolfproject.org

Photograph credit Voyageurs Wolf Project

Wildlife Photography Competition Late Winter 2020

Minnesota & Wisconsin Wildlife Photography Contest will be open for Entree on March 2020. We are looking for photography of carnivores from Minnesota & Wisconsin in full winter coats. Red & Grey fox, Bobcat, Coyote and gray wolves. Prizes…More to come…

“Wolf Spirit” Screens at the Twin Cities Film Festival Sunday October 20th.

“Wolf Spirit” screens at the Twin Cities Film Festival in the Documentary Shorts Block: Persistence and Vision on Sunday October 20th at 05:00 PM To Purchase Tickets Click Here

Friends of the wolf Jim Brandenburg, Larry Stillday (Chi Ma’iingan) and Barry Babcock all who have spent most of their lives in wolf country are featured in the film.

“Wolf Spirit” Minnesota Premiere at the Twin Cities Film Festival Sunday October 20th. Photograph by renowned National Geographic Photographer Jim Brandenburg.

“Wolf Spirit is dedicated to the memory of Chi Ma’iingan a spiritual teacher of mine from Red Lake Nation and to the wolves of northern Minnesota.” Julia Huffman, Producer and Director

“Wolf Spirit” screens at the Twin Cities Film Festival Documentary Film Shorts (Shorts Block) on Sunday October 20th at 5pm!

Purchase Tickets here: https://www.showplaceicon.com/Browsing/Movies/Details/h-HO00002753

Wolf Spirit is Endorsed by Dr. Jane Goodall:

“BEAUTIFULLY and sensitively filmed with commentary from people who not only admire but understand the role of the wolf in the American landscape. A film that needs to be watched by as many people as possible right now in the face of the horrifying and inhumane slaughter of wolves supported by State Wildlife Services and the US government’s Senate and House of Representatives.”

A Message from “Wolf Spirit” Producer and Director Julia Huffman

Jim Brandenburg was able to attend the screening and here’s what he had to say…

Urgent Action Required to Protect Gray Wolves From Delisting Threat in Wisconsin, Minnesota & Michigan…

The U.S. House of Representatives scheduled a vote the week of November 12 on H.R. 6784, a bipartisan bill requiring the Secretary of the Interior to reissue final rules removing gray wolves from the threatened and endangered species list in Wyoming and the Great Lakes states, including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The bill would also prevent further judicial review of these rules.
Please contact your members of Congress (click here) and encourage a “no” vote on H.R.
This is how the state of Wisconsin wants to manage it’s wolf population.

Delisting Wisconsin’s gray wolf would once again allow wolf hunters to run hound dogs on them…

During wolf recovery in 2006 on a snow covered road in northern Wisconsin I found wolf sign every tenth of a mile while tracking. This was on the very edge of wolf territory. I found wolf tracks, raised leg urination, squat urination and scent marking. This was a lucky find! Even better was finding a snow capped pine tree sapling with rust colored urine on it. This was the sign of estrus, meaning the alpha female was ready to mate. This was the time of year when wolves created new life. Alpha males are very protective this time of year.

Flash forward to the year 2014 and the memory of finding wolf breeding sign came flooding back to me while I was sitting in on a WDNR Wolf Advisory committee meeting. The topic of discussion was about training hound hunting dogs on wolves during wolf breeding season. The pro wolf hunt members were arguing that they should be allowed to train dogs on wolves during mating season. Yes! You heard that right! Out of all the states that hunt wolves Wisconsin is the only state that allows the barbaric practice of wolf Hounding.

I’m convinced, after what I witnessed at that wolf advisory committee meeting, that there’s no way Wisconsin should be allowed to manage its gray wolf population. That’s not responsible wolf management. Under Wisconsin’s current political party in power gray wolves will never be managed for conservation. You might as well throw a ring around wolf territory and call it “Dog Fighting” cause running dogs on wolves during mating season is cruel to dogs and wolves! Photo by Niebrugge Images

Please vote on November 6! #StopExtinction

Get involved Be the Voice for America’s Gray Wolf…

…Action Alert. Contact your representatives in the U. S. Senate today. Major anti wolf legislation is now being proposed in the U. S. Senate. Just recently in the House version of the defense bill that could weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act; Another provision in the bill that Republicans want to include would delist gray wolves found near the Great Lakes and Wyoming, while another amendment would block ESA protections for all gray wolves in the continental U.S.

The Senate is considering a ‘sweeping attack’ on the Endangered Species Act, environmental groups say. The bill’s author, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), is holding a hearing now. The legislation would empower governors to veto some of the current protections for imperiled species, and limit the ability of citizens to file lawsuits to protect threatened plants and animals. [read more]

Wait there’s potentially another anti-wolf bill, a version of a bill that passed the House of Representatives a month’s ago could be on its way in the U. S. Senate. On June 6, 2018 The U. S. House of Representatives passed a Bill: Making appropriations for the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes.

The bill contains language for delisting of Gray wolves in the lower 48 states:

…the Secretary of the Interior shall issue a rule to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in each of the 48 contiguous States of the United States and the District of Columbia from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife [read more]

The majority in power is clearly trying to rewrite the Endangered Species Act in favor of big monied special interests that want the land (animal’s land it protects) would place endangered species in even more danger of extinction. Please be the voice for the Gray wolf. #ExtinctionIsForever

Here’s what you can do…

You can help stop this threat to the Endangered Species Act by contacting your senator. Click here for their contact information.

Here’s another way you can help. Writing an Effective Letter to the Editor (LTE), Writing a letter to the editor of your local or regional newspaper is the best way to reach a large audience with your message. Click here for more information on how to get involved.

Featured image credit: NPS

Will the Government Ever Get it Right on Delisting the Gray Wolf in the Great Lakes Region?

These and other questions come to mind as the Federal Government Working On Removing Gray Wolf From Endangered Species List . Will Wisconsin be transparent in its management of the Gray wolf population, and once again allow for greater pubic input as it did prior to the 2012 USF&WS delisting decision.

In 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169 legislation mandated a trophy hunt on the newly delisted Gray wolf. Wisconsin Act 169 allowed reckless management policies such as; Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” Wolf Hounding Fact Sheet

In 2013 & 2014 Wisconsin sanctioned the use of dogs to hunt wolves.

This reckless management of the Gray wolf was overturned as part of Humane Society of the United States lawsuit of USF&WS’s 2012 delisting. In December 2014 a federal judge put Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region back on the Endangered Species List. USF&WS appealed the 2014 ruling, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled Gray wolves in the Great Lakes region should remain on the endangered species list, July 2017.

Besides the horrific wolf management policies by the state of Wisconsin, problems exist within the way USF&WS determines criteria for wolf delisting in the Great Lakes Region in 2011. It’s seems USF&WS got its “hand slapped” by a judges ruling for trying to delist using the following:

“The proposal identifies the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of wolves, which includes a core area of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as parts of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core recovery area.” USF&WS Press Release 2011

But then, on July 2017, the three-judge panel unanimously said the wolves should stay under federal protection. The judges wrote, “The Endangered Species Act’s text requires the Service, when reviewing and redetermining the status of a species, to look at the whole picture of the listed species, not just a segment of it.”

As the Associated Press reports the judges ruled that,

“The service had not adequately considered a number of factors in making its decision, including loss of the wolf’s historical range and how its removal from the endangered list would affect the predator’s recovery in other areas, such as New England, North Dakota and South Dakota.”

Just how reckless is Wisconsin in its management policies of the Gray wolf?

If the Gray wolf in Wisconsin gets delisted tomorrow; it’s a law that a wolf hunt must take place:

“If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.” 2012 Wisconsin Act 169

A brief history on Wisconsin’s reckless management of it’s wolf population, 2012 through 2014.

Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee is not far and balanced. In other words, there is no transparency in WI DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp’s Wolf management process (WDNR secretary at the time).

WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee met once a month during the legislatively mandated trophy hunt on Wisconsin’s Gray wolf. The WAC recommend how wolf management in Wisconsin should be done. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s (WDNR secretary at the time) hand Picked WAC, that she thinks better suited to, “…people who were willing to work with us in partnership…”:United States Fish & Wildlife Service(USFWS), United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services(USDA WS), Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission(GLIFWC), Wisconsin County Forest Association(WCFA), Wisconsin Conservation Congress(WCC), Safari Club International(SCI), Timber Wolf Alliance(TWA), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association(WBHA), Wisconsin Bowhunters Association(WBA), Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA), Wisconsin Trappers Association(WTA), Wisconsin Wildlife Federation(WWF) and 10 WDNR biologists. WODCW blog

Several DNR staff are on the recently created Wolf Advisory Committee, as are representatives of several pro-hunting groups. A smaller number of wolf hunting skeptics also remain on the committee, including a representative of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  WPR reporter Chuck Quirmbach June 2014 

At a WI DNR meeting secretary Cathy Stepp admitted, “When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Source WPR June 2014

I was was interviewed on June 2014 regarding DNR secretary kicking off wolf hunt opponents Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was a volunteer DNR tracker of wolves for about a dozen winters, and attended a few meetings of what used to be called the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholders Group. Tilseth testified about the wolf hunt proposal during Wednesday’s meeting. She later said she didn’t care for Stepp’s remarks.

“I was just appalled that somebody like Cathy Stepp, who’s in charge of this important issue, is saying something like that,” said Tilseth. “It sounds to me like it’s a committee that they want made up of wolf-killers.”

Recap of the last two years in the never-ending political rhetoric designed to stir public sentiment against an endangered species.

Wisconsin’s annual nine-day gun deer hunt sees increase in statewide buck harvest 2016. The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags. From WI DNR Press Release 

The increase in buck harvest is hopeful news, because fringe hunters, along with some politicians are claiming that wolves are killing all the deer. This news puts a damper on republican Senator Tom Tiffany’s efforts to delist the wolf.

“A Great Lakes Summit in September 2016, was organized by two Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, who hope control of the wolf population returns to state governments.” MPR News

The 30 percent buck increase in the Northern Forest Zone (where the wolf lives) is good news as DNR’s own scientific data is proving wolves aren’t eating all the white-tailed deer in northern Wisconsin.

Yet, certain politicians in Wisconsin refuse to believe scientific fact.

As with any cause, a biased or misleading view can be used to promote, to publicize a particular political cause or point of view.  Here we have several anti-wolf politicians making claims to distort the public’ veiw of wolves; wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer herds, attacking livestock and killing hunting dogs.  Let’s set the record straight; wolves do hunt White-tailed deer, have killed some some livestock and did kill 37 bear hunting dogs.  But in reality; is there a big-bad-wolf here? Let’s get the facts before we sanction the killing of an endangered species.

Are wolves killing more livestock?

Let’s take some statistics from The Wisconsin Gray Wolf Monitoring Report for the period of 15 APRIL 2015 THROUGH 14 APRIL 2016 and read the graphic for yourself. There were 52 wolf depredations on livestock.

There were 52 wolf depredations from April 15, 2015 through April 15, 2016. To put it in perspective, that was 52 livestock deaths by wolves out of 3.50 million head of livestock in Wisconsin. Read for yourself:

“The total inventory of cattle and calves on January 1 rose 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 3.50 million head. The number of milk cows rose by 5,000 head to 1,275,000 head and the number of beef cows rose 25,000 head to 275,000 head. On the U.S. level, slaughter prices rose to $153.00 per cwt. for cattle and $255.00 per cwt. for calves. As a result, Wisconsin’s value of production rose 33 percent to $1.92 billion.”  Source: USDA Wisconsin statistics

Wisconsin’s wild wolf is the most talked about animal of late.  Politicians in Wisconsin have villianized the wolf, and are pushing to delist him.  It’s no secret that one cannot trust politicians. Politicians are in competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership; they’ve created propaganda to make the wolf look bad.

Politicians have removed science from wolf management and replaced it with political rhetoric. They put together a Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee with stakeholders primarily from the hunting community.

The WAC is heavily slanted towards recreational trophy hunting of wolves with 9 citizen pro wolf hunting organizations to 1 pro wolf citizen organization. Further, according to Cathy Stepp this committee is more productive than opponents of the wolf hunt. There is evidence to the contrary that shows the WAC productiveness is comparable to reality TV’s Housewives of NYC.  From WODCW’s Blog

In conclusion, if USF&WS, the government, gets it right this time in delisting the Gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region Wisconsin citizens must push for greater transparency in wolf management. Because trophy hunts are about power not conservation. We owe the Gray wolf, that was exterminated from our forest, an ethical & compassionate conservation management plan, because we have done enough harm to this iconic predator.

Urgent Action Required to Protect Wolves in the Great Lakes Region

The Farm Bill (H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018), scheduled to be brought to the House floor next week that has amendments to delist wolves in the Great Lakes region. Amendment number 85:

Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) submitted an amendment to remove ESA protections for gray wolves across the continental United States. This would not only place gray wolves in peril, but also undermine the ESA by taking away the decision-making power from scientists, as the law mandates, giving it instead to partisan members of Congress. This amendment also blocks judicial review, meaning that citizens can’t challenge the delisting in court. Shielding agency actions from review by independent federal courts violates citizens’ rights under the ESA and is simply undemocratic. Animal Welfare Institute

Contact your members in Congress clicking on this easy form democracy.io click here to write them.

The bear and the wolf are the two of the most powerful spirits in the forest

An essay by guest blogger Barry Babcock

“The Cherokees….put bears in a special category. To the Cherokees, the bear represented the division between people and animals, and bears were descended from people. Long ago, according to a Cherokee legend, all the Cherokees in a certain town decided to live in the forest with the animals, so that they would always have enough to eat. Other Cherokees sent messengers to the forest to try to persuade them to come back, but when the messengers arrived they saw that the people already had long black hair like bears. The bear-people refused to return.  ‘Hereafter we shall be called bears and when you yourselves are hungry, come into the woods and call us and we shall come and give you our flesh,’ one of the bear-people said. ‘You shall not be afraid of us, for we shall live always.’

“As the messengers were leaving they looked back, and saw a group of black bears going into the forest.

“This legend illustrates the Cherokees’ belief that a bear did not really die when it was apparently killed. It simply returned to its home in the forest or swamp, and resumed its life. This belief, which was shared by most Native American Indians, explains how these people were able to kill an animal they regarded as almost human or god-like. Nevertheless, holding this animal in such high regard required that the hunting of it and other actions connected with its death be carried out in a certain way. If these rules were not followed, the bear’s ghost would take revenge on the killer.” [“Black Bear –The Spirit of the Wilderness” Barbara Ford, pg 43-44]

Where I live in northern Minnesota and where many of my friends live in northern Wisconsin, bears have made a remarkable come-back since the 1970’s when bear populations had been decimated. In Minnesota, bears were classified by our DNR as “vermin” and could be killed day or night, year round. It was legal to shine them at night or kill them in their dens. Bear sightings were a rare event. But since protections were implemented and bears recovered, an economic take-over of hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits has affected these endeavors like a creeping malady. I call this economic disorder; the recreation/industrial complex. Our public lands and plant and animal communities have become market places for a vast network of corporations aimed at redefining what is hunting and turned hunting into more about consumption than a real experience in nature. We have lost what respect we had for game species and now see them appeasements to our insatiable appetite for ego aggrandizement and a plethora of contraptions. Little respect is left for the quarry.

I do not wish to get into a blame game or that my state is better than other states but perhaps the most deplorable treatment of bears is in Wisconsin where hounding is permitted by law. The disregard for both bear and dog is nothing short of barbaric. And now the wolf too is found in the vortex of this debate. The debate and struggle in Wisconsin has made all of us take a deeper look at bear hunting and the impacts of baiting, hounding, harassment, ethics and the role of mega predators like the bear and the wolf in our natural ecosystems. None of this is to say, Minnesota has it right, as it doesn’t. There are licensed bear guide services in Minnesota that have up to one hundred bait stations that cater to the bear hunter with the hopes of killing a huge bear yet the average bear killed is more likely to be a 130 to 150 pound three year old that hasn’t been on its own for three years. The trails servicing these baits are hammered by ATVs and are all on public lands yet the public has little to say about the ethics of this. The special interests and dollars of groups like the Sportsman Caucus have the ear of legislators.

The debate and struggle in Wisconsin has made all of us take a deeper look at bear hunting and the impacts of baiting, hounding, harassment, ethics and the role of mega predators like the bear and the wolf in our natural ecosystems.

The whole notion of baiting is for humans who are either too stupid to figure out the habits of bears and think they can bring a bear to them. A good hunter would understand the status of the forest plant community and that would put him where the bears should be without the use of baits. I have witnessed hunters bringing in pickup truck loads of bait and dumping it in the woods. The success rate should dictate that this method doesn’t work but most hunters just don’t get it. Sure, a few hunters get lucky and take a larger and more mature bear but not the greater majority. It’s young, immature bears who haven’t learned to ignore baits till well after dark that are mostly killed.
I have been a hunter for over fifty years but now find my hunting restricted to deer and ruffed grouse. As I age, I find my desire to take a life harder to do. I let more deer pass by me and come up with excuses to not take the animal such as; there is a fawn with the doe, or the buck is too young, or it’s too early in the season and I don’t want to use my tag now and have such an early end to my hunting season. Concerning bears, I applied for a license in 1996 and was drawn but the spirit and desire to kill a bear wasn’t there and I went out once and that was enough. I live on a bear travel corridor and see and photograph many bears and I could never find myself taking the life of a bear. I see them as neighbors and acquaintances. I am in their home.

Where I live in Minnesota, I am surrounded by the three largest Indian Reservations in the state and have many native friends. Of these friends, I was lucky to know Chi Ma’iingan (aka, Larry Stillday), the late great Ojibwe spiritual leader of Red Lake. He taught me about the “Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers” which helped me connect some dots in my life that were yet unconnected. He made me realize that by observing all wildlife has teachings and value that will make me a better human being. Wild animals can and will teach us if we take the time to observe with open minds. “When people are balanced and in-harmony with our Earth Mother the animals know that, that’s what the old people used to say is the animals are talking to us, sometimes they use sound, but most of the time they use their behavior, its therefore up to us to be able to read what their acting out.” Chi Ma’iingan

All the earth’s living organisms will do just fine without us but we need these same communities to survive. These teachings; love, respect, humility, courage, wisdom, truth and honesty are incorporated into the teachings of the eagle, buffalo, wolf, bear, beaver, turtle and Masabe (the wilderness man or big foot.)

These are the teachings of Makwa (the bear) as taught by Chi Ma’iingan:

• To have the courage of the bear is to overcome our fears that prevent us from living out our true spirit as human beings.

• To have courage is to have the mental and moral strength to listen to our heart.

• In the natural world the BEAR shows us the spirit of courage.

• By nature it is very gentle, but if you show any sign of approaching a bear cub it will display total fearlessness in defending her cub.

• The bear represents power, industriousness, instinctive healing, gentle strength, introspection, dreams and living of the heart-living spirit.

• The bear is very close to the land and brings many medicines to our people.

• When we have a hard time in our life, whether it be something we’re going through or a decision we have to make and we are afraid, we can call on the spirit of the bear to help us have the courage and strength to do the right thing for our life.

• The bear is the part of self that needs to retreat into its own space, hibernate and heals itself.

• It is comforting and protective and a common animal spirit for Mothers.

The bear and the wolf are the two of the most powerful spirits in the forest. Anyone experiencing the bear will immediately feel its power; both spiritually and physically. Though the bear is by nature a peaceable animal it has incredible strength and speed. They deserve our respect and their right to exist unmolested and peace in their home. To harass with hounds and spread bait over the forest as is happening in Wisconsin is crossing the line of moral decency and only benefits Cabala’s, Gander Mountain, ATV manufacturers, and a long line of corporations that are profiting off miss-guided hunters and the bear himself. The first lesson we need to learn from Makwa is his teaching of “courage” and that also means having the courage to do what is right.

Doing the right thing in regards to living in peace with Mother Earth can start with taking seriously the “seven teachings” of our Anishinaabe neighbors. This is what it means to be a better human being. The bear is not a commodity to bring hunting revenue into a state. The bear is one of the Creators great achievements. The bear has reached the zenith of evolutionary achievements; he is a teacher of medicinal herbs, healing, industriousness, introspection, dreams and living of the heart-living spirit and most importantly “courage”

I would hope that the Cherokee belief, “… holding this animal [the bear] in such high regard required that the hunting of it and other actions connected with its death be carried out in a certain way. If these rules were not followed, the bear’s ghost would take revenge on the killer.” Hopefully our miss-guided social attitudes towards the bear and other life will be altered someday and those who have no respect or ethics towards the bear will be heaped with scorn and learn to walk the good path in a good way and learn to respect Makwa.

“As I penned this essay on my experiences with Makwa, it was early January, in the midst of winter and the bears were asleep in their dens. I do not prefer to write in the winter, but it is the most convenient time to do so. The rest of the year is consumed by chores of gardening, ricing, maple sugaring, putting up firewood, hunting, fishing, and other labors of love. I look forward to winter as my chores are completed, the days are short and the nights are long. Winter has become the time of year for sleeping in the long nights, taking walks in the silence of winter, reflecting on myself and loved ones, and getting my mind right. It is the bear within me, or as Larry said, “The bear is the part of self that needs to retreat into its own space, hibernate and heal itself.” It is now that I remember the bear people who I live with and take healing in the messages they give me. When winter ends and spring comes, and when the first bear comes to see me in late April, I will be most pleased to see them again, my teacher, Makwa, and when I do meet Makwa again, I will think of his courage and know that his teaching means having the courage to do what is right.” [“Teachers in the Forest”] 

Teachers In the Forest
This collection of essays, from one of Minnesota’s prominent voices for the environment, discuss the author’s connection to the wild. He shares his experiences living off-grid, harnessing solar power from the sun, pumping his water well by hand every day, hunting, fishing, and gathering, all as part of the natural world, and not above it.

This is also a philosophical adventure, as Babcock discusses how traditional scientists and native American spiritual leaders have arrived at the same concept of protecting our environment, but by use of completely different methods, theories, and practices of living.

Babcock has been active in defending Minnesota’s environment for more than two decades, and was recently featured in the documentary film: MEDICINE OF THE WOLF. 

About Barry Babcock 

Barry walks the walk. He and his wife Linda own 40 acres living literally “off the grid.” You’ll read stories of that land, about gardening, a hidden lake, three dogs, a gas refrigerator, an outdoor hand pump, with 100% of their electricity generated from solar collectors. The author fishes, hunts with a bow, wild rices, and does sugar bush.