Someone once asked me how I could possibly feel safe spending time in the woods, and still not fear the presence of wolves?
I live in Northern Wisconsin, and do spend a significant amount of time hiking and camping in the woods. Yes, there could be some calculated risk involved, but I am not going to live in fear of that which I cannot control. If a wild predator wanted to attack me while I was in the woods, I suppose it probably could. And I am okay with the logic of that. But that, by no means, should give us reason to be afraid to enjoy an escape into wilderness. That is exactly what nature is intended to be.
W I L D • U N T A M E D • W I L D E R N E S S
Upon which we enter at our own risk. That’s not to say humans don’t have any place to be there. But we must respect the fact that when we enter the wilderness, we are agreeing to the terms of a different playing field, wherein humans are no longer the ones in charge.
We cannot tame a storm. We can only prepare ourselves for the unforeseen and make calculated decisions based upon when and where we decide to enter that place we call wilderness. And we would be naïve to believe otherwise. That wolves, coyotes, wild cats or any other facet of nature for that matter, should befall to the needs of our species above all others.
Instead of thinking, “the dangerous should be ridden”, perhaps we could learn to respect the fact that we, along with all other living things, are simply trying to get by on this planet together.
As a Northern Wisconsin resident, I’d say I spend quite a bit of my time in the woods. Not only in Wisconsin forests, but also quite a bit in the northern Minnesota / Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) as well as the upper peninsula of Michigan. All of which are prime habitat for Great Lakes wolves. Have I ever felt threatened?
At least not by wolves. Why? Because wolves are terrified of us. And if you have ever felt your safety threatened by a wolf, you might consider that you were somewhere you shouldn’t have been. Maybe that was a mother wolf rearing its pups in a den 50 yards from where you were standing. In these instances, it is useful to imagine putting yourself in such a position. What if a wolf came strolling up to your home and lingered around your kids as they were playing in your back yard? As a parent or guardian, would you go on the defense a little bit too? The same mentality goes for bears, wild cats — even deer.
My dog was actually attacked by an aggressive doe one spring. The deer charged at Reagan and flipped her over right before my eyes. She was just a mother protecting her fawn. If you don’t have kids of your own (I don’t either), try to pause for a moment to understand what that might be like to have some strange, potentially dangerous creature trespassing on your territory threatening your innocent, helpless young ones.
And then, maybe instead of resulting to the notion that that creature is dangerous and therefore needs to be killed, perhaps we could learn to respect the fact that we, along with all other living things, are simply trying to get by on this planet together.
Note: In all my research, I still have never been able to supply one single case of a healthy wolf attacking a human in North America. There are however, approximately 130 people killed across the US by deer every year, ironically enough.
Photography by Joel Sartore
One of the biggest misconceptions about wolves, and what I believe to be one of the main drivers behind this state’s senseless wolf slaughter, is the idea that wolves are “decimating” the deer population.
With all the violent, vengeful and unfounded slander being thrown at wolves by Wisconsin hunters these days – most wanting to see all wolves eradicated as if they were vermin – it was so refreshing to stumble upon this insight from a young Wisconsin deer hunter with a higher sense of responsibility:
“Deer hunting in Wisconsin has absolutely imploded over the past 5-7 years. Here are a few of my thoughts on how we can turn this ship around…
#1 – $25 Doe Tags (No more free or cheap doe tags! If I want meat, I am happy to pay $25 for a doe tag. That still only figures out to about .45/lb.)
#2 – One Buck Only. When a hunter buys a license, they get a buck tag. They can fill it using gun or bow, but we all only get one per year. That will allow a good number of bucks to survive and grow one year older. Some will say, “I don’t care about antler size, I hunt for meat.” No one is stopping you from shooting the first buck you see. But, I have never heard another hunter complain about seeing a big one.
#3 – Allow Feeding Again. While I’m not a big proponent of feeding or baiting during season, there is no reason why someone shouldn’t be able to help the deer herd through the winter after the hunting seasons are over. The DNR have it backwards right now, baiting should not be allowed during hunting season but feeding outside of the deer seasons should be permitted.
#4 – Raise Non-Resident License Fees by $90. $250 is still an inexpensive ticket to some highly enjoyable entertainment and fine table fare! If hunters see the value here, they will still gladly pay the fee. If they are just coming for cheap meat, they may stay home.
Deer hunting in this state is as much of a tradition as Thanksgiving and to see it deteriorate to what it is now in most parts is very unfortunate. We as sportsmen have more of a responsibility to make wise decisions than the DNR. We are the ones pulling the trigger, not them. And for the wolves, they still only account for around 15% of the annual deer mortality [its actually 6%, according to a 5-year study conducted by the University of Wisconsin and the WDNR]. Let’s take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we plan to regain our deer hunting greatness in this state. Change will be painful for a few years but if we don’t make adjustments now, we will suffer through many more deerless seasons. Times change and we must adapt. If we manage our resources well, they will be here to enjoy for generations to come.”
I think it is important for us to acknowledge that all hunters are not reckless barbarians, and that there are still many sportsmen who share the same respect for all wildlife and understand the importance in making responsible decisions in the woods.
While wolves only account for a marginal annual percentage of deer mortality (6%), statistics show Wisconsin deer hunters take over SEVEN TIMES that amount (43% annually). And that doesn’t even account for the additional 8% taken by poachers and thousands more deaths caused by motorists each year (6%). (2013 UW / WDNR Deer Mortality statistics found here >> http://bit.ly/1fg6qTs )This is elementary-level math we’re talking here:
Yet, the state of Wisconsin is currently in the process of slashing its wolf population by one third, in the name of “management” of course. Maybe, before we humans take it upon ourselves to go interfering with a natural predator species that has successfully evolved to survive and sustain a healthy existence over millions of years, perhaps we should first attempt to get our own rates of deer mortality under control.
And to those individuals who still want to immediately direct all the blame at wolves, coyotes, bobcats or any other being you like to call “them” — just remember, every time you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.