There is no topic more likely to raise the hackles of the outdoors crowd than the Gray Wolf. Most people interested in the outdoors either love them or hate them. There’s very little middle-ground. While I understand the arguments presented by both sides, I find it hard to agree with either. To me the Gray Wolf is a species that belongs here as much as any other species, so I abhor the idea of extirpation. Indeed, we tried that in Wisconsin and the wolves came back on their own. The three S’s of the Endangered Species Act makes me cringe, as do my kill-em-all hunting cronies. But…and this is where I’ll lose the the other side too…I also believe wolves need to be managed to minimize conflicts with humans, just like any other large predator. And, they need to be managed at the State level, where professional wildlife biologists have the ability to deal with local populations (wolf and human) in order the avoid conflicts. The Feds have made a mockery of this conflict-resolution process, especially in the Rocky Mountains, but to a certain extent here in the Midwest, too. The time is nigh to give individual states the right to manage their own.
For the record, I hunt. So do the wolves around me, and it doesn’t bother me even a little bit that we are both chasing some of the same game. They are not my deer, after all; they are not my elk. In fact, I don’t lay claim to any of the critters I hunt. They are not mine until they are wrapped in butcher paper in my freezer. Prior to that, they belong to everyone, including the wolves.
I encounter wolves with some regularity here in Wisconsin, including in the last couple years when I’ve been out deer hunting. The photo above was taken from my deer stand in 2009. Frankly, I haven’t noticed a decline in deer numbers. I’m sure the wolves are taking some of the deer–I know they are, in fact– but I still get my chances, and fill a deer tag when I want to.
I’ve seen wolves in Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska, too. I consider it a red-letter day when I get to watch one for more than a few seconds. On rare occasions I’m able to get a quick photo, but usually the wolves are just too damn spooky to capture on “film.” Last spring I was lucky enough to come across a pack in NW Wisconsin, and the one pictured below stayed on the road long enough to get a few shots. Someday I’ll get me a “Brandenburg shot.” For now these, and a few others in my gallery will have to do.