Saturday, January 11, 2014

a wolf story

Last Friday January 3rd, I was heading to town and saw a wolf with coming out of the sandpit two miles south of Ely on Highway 21. He seemed to pause and not be moving so fast so I turned around and went back. As I approached, he came down the bank into the road to cross and I could then see he had a trap on his foot. He dragged it across the road and into the woods on the east side. I called the DNR and an officer came out and tracked it for a while. I was gone by that time. He called me back to say he never caught up with the wolf so it must have been able to move a little faster than I thought it could. It was getting dark and snowing heavy by that time...
I felt bad, didn't have a gun in the truck and the DNR guy told me that shooting it, even under the circumstances, would have not been legal, but I hate to think of an animal dying a cruel death like he was destined for. I hoped the upcoming cold weather would make it at least somewhat quicker...

First I was just upset that someone could be this irresponsible with their trapping, not having secured their trap well enough, but then I realized to wolf trapping season had ended on the 28th of December, so it was likely an illegal set anyway... maybe that is why the DNR responded so quickly, hoping to find a name tag on the trap...

Anyway, on Wednesday of this week, my son comes to me in my home office and says come check this out. Here was a wolf just standing there in my driveway 10 feet from the house behind the car.
It was obviously very unhealthy and not functioning well. After watching it for a while, I saw that it had a terrible limp and then, when it got closer, I could see the huge area of scraped off skin on it's leg from the paw to about 6" up. This wolf looked far less healthy than the one I remembered seeing a few days earlier but it seemed like too much of a coincidence that I would see an animal dragging a trap on it's foot and then a few days later one with an injury like this. I guess he had come though some serious cold and his health would certainly have deteriorated considerably... But it also seemed an unlikely coincidence that our paths would cross again, though I live only half a mile through the woods from where I saw the one with the trap.

He walked back down the driveway and I got in my truck and drove down the road to see if I could see where he was going, (just curious, I don't know what I was going to do), but I never saw him again.

I don't know if he was delirious or looking for an easy meal, (one of our dogs), or even if he was strong enough to take a dog. I let the neighbors know about this and to him, but never heard anything more.

As he was walking away from the house I had time to grab a camera and take a couple extremely poor quality shots through the window...





I posted this story first on a google field naturalists group.

The first response was that the wolf in the pictures obviously had  mange...

I don't know if that would also explain the leg wound that seemed to me to be consistent with having removed a leg-hold trap, (I would say a #4 size or so), by slowly and painfully pulling it off as it took a layer of skin with it, (the wound is not evident in the pictures).

I don't know if the wolf I originally saw was as healthy as I remembered, (in my experiences with wolves, they are often pictured in my memory with almost a magnificent ghost like quality, and it was snowing heavy and late afternoon starting to get dark).

And I don't know enough about mange to know if injury coupled with the cold weather would help to bring it on that quickly...

I guess, what I am saying is, I can not be sure it was the same wolf. It was just one of those strange coupling of events that happen from time to time...

In any event, it seemed a blog worthy story so, there it is.

A couple of notes:

In the above story I have tried to avoid the debate on the current status of trapping of wolves, (or any other animal for that matter). Only that it is the law that a trap needs to be chained securely so that the trapper can find the animal and dispatch it quickly. Also, the wolf season was called to an end on December 28th 2013. I'm pretty sure the trap I saw was much larger than the size one might use for fox or other mid sized fur-bearing animals, but it could have been a coyote set. I do not know what the season is for them. It might have been a legal set with a weak link in the chain and a much larger animal than it was intended for happened to stick his foot in the wrong place...

The second note is that I am not sure of the sex of this wolf, (or either of these wolves if there are indeed two). I considered alternating the reference to the wolf between a "him" and a "her", but decided to go with straight "hims". I thought it deserved to be called something a little more than an "it", but my intent is not to offend anyone by apparently assuming that this was a male wolf.


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