Wolf Hunt: Tracking Down the Controversy

The U.P. Wolf Hunt is just days away. Recent reports have raised some questions regarding the need for one.

It’s a complicated matter. So, over the next three days, we’ll attempt to mitigate the confusion through a series of reports documenting the origins of the hunt all the way through its inception.

We begin in Wolf Management Unit B, where ABC 10’s Rick Tarsitano tracked down one couple at the heart of the issue, living amongst the packs.

Nancy Warren has a deep appreciation for wolves.

“I just find the wolf very fascinating,” said Nancy, a Wolf Educator for the past 20 years. “The more I learn about them, the more I want to learn about them. I found that they live in the pack, and they have a very strong social dynamic, very similar to the human family. They have adults, yearlings and pups of the year, and every member is dependent on the other for survival.”

Nancy depends on a pack of her own, comprised of her husband Al and their German Shepherd, Leibchen.

“My wife and I were canoeing the south branch of the Ontonagon River,” Al noted. “We were spending the night on the river, and while we were setting up camp, we heard a lone wolf howl. That was the first wolf I’d ever heard live other than TV, and it was quite a thrill for both of us. That’s what started my interest, and it’s just grown from then. It’s an interest that never stops growing.”

Almost ten years ago, the alpha male and female of the Ewen pack, that shares their property, were collared.

“We have telemetry equipment, and we’d tracked these wolves, so sometimes we’d get a response from the telemetry equipment right off our back porch,” added Al, a former Volunteer Wolf Tracker for the Wisconsin DNR. “But they’re pretty elusive animals. You know they’re there, you can hear them, you can find their tracks and sign, but when you see one, it’s a rare event. Probably over the last fifteen years, I might have seen a dozen. Not here. As a matter of fact, I’ve only seen one wolf live on our property.”

Wolves have the propensity to form 100-square-mile territories.

“Wolves are an animal that go jogging ten to twelve hours a day, every day of their life,” remarked Brian Roell, Michigan DNR Wolf Coordinator since 2004. “They are constantly on the movement. They put down a lot of footprints. They make it appear to the layperson there’s a lot more wolves than there are, just because there’s not a lot of wildlife that does that.”

The Warrens spent 17 years as volunteer wolf trackers for the Wisconsin DNR, so they know what they’re looking for.

“Each year, I would go out into the woods and look for sign and help the DNR calculate how many animals were in,” Nancy said. “We were each assigned a specific block, and we would look for tracks and designate whether or not there was breeding activity in that pack. This is how DNR determined the population.”

The Michigan DNR employs professionals that use a similar process in conjunction with aerial scans and telemetry readings. The current count pegs them at 658, a far cry from a mere 20 in 1992.

Nancy and Al monitor the Ewen Pack’s activity through two trail cams on their 281-acre patch of land. They even go on wolf howls to scan for nearby packs.

No answer today, but there has been plenty of activity in Unit B.

From the beginning of 2010 through July of 2013, 78 of 131 wolf-livestock depredations have taken place here.

“So, I really honed in on, ‘What are the problems in Wolf Unit B that couldn’t be handled through the non-lethal and lethal tools?’ What I found, or I should say what I got, are the records that show the majority of all the livestock depredations in this unit were at one farm, just about ten miles west of here.”

We’ll head to that farm in our next installment and try to find out why so many cattle are turning up dead.

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