Tag Archives: wolf ecology

Living in the Wild: Grey Wolves know every square inch of their territory.

The following story is a testament to just how much wolves pay attention to human activity in their territory.  

A few years back I received a message in my inbox from a couple living in wolf country. The couple had concerns about grey wolves and were looking for advice.

Photograph of a Wisconsin grey wolf. Credit Al Scherwinski Photography LLC

The couple lived in wolf country on a horse farm, and made it clear that they liked living alongside wolves. In fact, they hardly knew wolves were around, that is until recently.

The couple told me something was different with the resident wolf pack. The couple went on to describe this change; instead of remaining out of sight which was the norm for this pack, the couple began seeing the wolves by the horse corral. They went on to describe that the wolves were not only hanging out by the corral, they didn’t run away when they saw the couple. My response was that I would consult with a wolf expert and get right back to them.

I called up Carter Neimeyer, a biologist with decades of experience in grey wolf ecology and behavior. I told Carter about the couple’s concern and his response was for me to ask them, “what’s changed on the farm?”

I got right back to them with Carter’s question and their answer was that they just got a dog. Carter said the wolves were concerned because there’s a new threat in their territory because of the couple’s new dog. Carter recommended that they keep the dog close to them and leashed. Carter also recommended that the couple make a scarecrow and place it by the horse corral.

A biologist once told me that wolves know every square-inch of their territory. It’s just like a family that knows where everything is in their neighborhood. We know where the grocery store is, and we teach children how to avoid dangerous freeway crossings. So why wouldn’t it be the same for a family of grey wolves? By introducing a pet dog into the wolves territory the couple unknowingly added a new threat.

It all turned out for the couple and the resident wolves because they followed Carter’s advice. They worked to mitigate the problem. The couple learned just how much the resident wolf pack paid attention to their activities on the horse farm. Lesson learned! Conflict avoided!

Educating the public against anti-wolf propaganda is key to the health & welfare of Wisconsin’s gray wolf.

Making a difference for Wisconsin’s wild gray wolf through educational outreach.

The best method for dispelling myths and anti-wolf propaganda is through education. A few years go I invited TWA to come to my summer school class to educate the students on Wisconsin’s Wild wolf. They came prepared with curriculum that totally engaged students. The curriculum included history of wolves in Wisconsin, wolf ecology and engaging games! I recommend you check out the following information from TWA, and invite them to your group or school.

Wisconsin Wild gray wolf. Photograph credit Snapshot Wisconsin.

TWA’s Speakers Bureau

A member of the Timber Wolf Alliance Speakers Bureau will come to your facility, center, or school to teach an education program to your group. TWA will provide the presentation, display materials, and any other materials needed for games and more. Fill out the request forms click here.

If you are interested in a virtual program, just designate this in the comments when registering.

TWA Wolf Education website sources click here.

TWA offers three program length options:

One-Hour: Slide presentation on the topic of your choosing with questions at the end.

Two-Hour: Slide presentation on the topic of your choosing, a detailed Q&A session, and a discussion on the display objects brought to the program.

Four-Hour: Slide presentation on the topic of your choosing, a detailed Q&A session, a discussion on the display objects brought to the program, and an age appropriate wolf-themed game or activity for the group.

TWA has several program topics to choose from.

Myths About the Wolves of Wisconsin

This program is more localized to Wisconsin and covers the five common misconceptions about the gray wolf in the state: there is a wolf behind every tree, they are decimating the white-tailed deer herds, they are a serious safety threat to people, they are a serious threat to domestic animals, and they were reintroduced into Wisconsin and the UP. This program addresses the history behind these misconceptions and sheds led on the truth hidden in the myth.

Wolf Folklore

Almost everyone has heard of the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood or seen a werewolf in a Hollywood movie. Wolves have a long-standing history when it comes to story telling and folklore; this presentation with dive deeper into these stories to find out that there is almost always some hidden truth behind every story and that the wolf isn’t as big or as bad as Hollywood like show us.

Pup Development

Late spring and summer are the heart of pup season! Learn about pup development from birth in the den to full growth and hunting with the pack. Through better understandings of pup development, we can get a glimpse into later on adult behaviors and social structures within the pack. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy looking at pictures of baby wolves?

A yearling Wisconsin gray wolf on alert in this April 2014 trail camera image from the southern Lake Superior region.
Wolf Ecology & Management

This program provides a better understanding of the gray wolves of Wisconsin by covering the following topics: a brief history of the wolf in WI, social structures and pack dynamics, reproduction, dietary habits, and current status and management of the wolf in the state. This program provides a good overview of the gray wolf’s biology and management in the state. Further detail on a specific topic can be added upon request.

Wolf Communication

Gray wolves have very complex social structures and forms of communication. This program will cover vocal communication, body language, and pack structure. Hopefully after this program you will have better insight into how a gray wolf “talks.”

Canids of Wisconsin

There are five species of Canidae found in Wisconsin: gray wolf, coyote, red fox, gray fox, and domestic dog. This program will give a brief ecology lesson about each species and then show a comparison among them in relation to body size, dietary habits, behavior, and relationships to humans. Each species has a unique role in the trophic cascades of Wisconsin.

About

Timber Wolf Alliance (TWA) “The Timber Wolf Alliance is committed to investigating the facts and relies on research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves. TWA provides training in wolf biology and ecology, develops and disseminates educational materials on wolves, and supports volunteers to help with wolf monitoring efforts.” http://www.timberwolfalliance.org

Grey Wolves & White-tailed Deer: Urban Legend versus Scientific Fact

Stats are from 2019, but still hold true in 2021 proving there is no scientific basis for a wolf hunt in Wisconsin or anywhere else!

“Minnesota has also become the number two all time Boone and Crocket trophy white- tailed deer producing state, followed by Wisconsin. This might suggest that wolves and deer are co-existing very well.”

Wolves and Deer 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated 1.8 million White-tailed deer statewide. The 2018-2019 midwinter count estimated that there are a minimum of 914-978 Gray wolves in Wisconsin, in 243 packs.

Producing a trophy White-tailed deer

Minnesota has developed one of the largest deer herds in the nation while simultaneously restoring the gray wolf to an estimated 3,000 animals. Minnesota has also become the number two all time Boone and Crocket trophy white-tailed deer producing state, followed by Wisconsin. This might suggest that wolves and deer are co-existing very well.
Wolves may even play a role in helping to increase the health and fitness of the overall deer population by culling the sick, weak, and the old and leaving the healthier animals to reproduce and thrive.
From Wolves and Deer in Wisconsin WDNR website
Wisconsin’s White-tailed doe with fawns photo credit Snapshot Wisconsin

Misleading the public

Considering that all the data points to “wolves and deer are coexisting very well” why do we only hear negative news about the gray wolf? Case in point From a staunch anti wolf website. Wisconsin Wolf Facts claims that Gray wolves killed more deer than hunters. The cherry picked data claims wolves are killing more deer than the gun-deer hunters in the 2019 season:

“Gray wolves are now responsible for killing more white-tailed deer in four counties of one Great Lakes state than annual the number of deer killed by gun-hunters, according to data released this week by Wisconsin Wolf Facts.” The group is headed by Lauri Groskopf, a hunter that lost two dogs to wolves while bear hunting a few years back. Wisconsin Gray wolves photo credit Snapshot Wisconsin

Laurie Groskopf has a seat on the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan Committee.

The following table is being widely distributed to pro wolf hunting groups in the hopes that if gray wolves get delisted this cherry picked data will serve as proof that a wolf hunt is needed.Table from Wisconsin Wolf Facts shows incomplete data from Wisconsin White -tailed deer hunt 2019 

The above table only shows results from gun-harvest summarizes for 2019. This table conveniently scapegoats the gray wolf, proving it’s biased data.

In reality when WDNR data of Deer Mortality in Wisconsin’s Northern and Central Forests data has Wisconsin black bear estimated deer kill at 33,000 compared to gray wolves deer kill estimated at 13,000. Deer

Mortality in Wisconsin’s Northern and Central Forests From WDNR 2019

Gray wolves in Wisconsin’s Northern and central forests are helping to keep white-tailed deer healthy by culling the weak, the sick and the old. Gray wolves are providing Wisconsin’s deer hunter with a stronger and healthier White-tailed deer. 

Science versus anti wolf bias 

A single gray wolf while hunting comes across an abandoned White-tailed deer bed, and gently blows upon it causing all the particles to flow up into the wolf’s olfactory sense. The wolf then can determine if the blood in the tick, that fell off the deer the night before, contains pus in it. Wisconsin’s Northern and Central Forests data has Wisconsin black bear estimated deer kill at 33,000 compared to gray wolves deer kill estimated at 13,000.

Perhaps White-tailed deer have become wise to deer baiting and may be eating at night while hunters are sleeping.

Today’s white-tailed deer hunter sits in a tree stand waiting for an unsuspecting deer to approach and eat the corn or apples used for deer bait. The baiting of White-tailed deer for hunting is allowed only in areas where there is no CWD present. Wolves have a sense of smell 100 times greater than humans and they use this keen sense while hunting. Photo credit NPS

In summary 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated 1.8 million White-tailed deer statewide. The 2018-2019 midwinter count estimated that there are a minimum of 914-978 Gray wolves in Wisconsin, in 243 packs. “Minnesota has also become the number two all time Boone and Crocket trophy white- tailed deer producing state, followed by Wisconsin. This might suggest that wolves and deer are co-existing very well.”

Wolves may even play a role in helping to increase the health and fitness of the overall deer population by culling the sick, weak, and the old and leaving the healthier animals to reproduce and thrive.
From Wolves and Deer in Wisconsin WDNR website

Following video is from the Great Lakes Symposium