It feels like wolves are everywhere right now. At the property down in Tomahawk, Wisconsin where I’m working for my assistantship this semester, we’ve been finding fresh tracks and territory-marking urine (although we have yet to get the wolves to answer our howls) And meanwhile in Land O’ Lakes, a wolf killed a deer within sight of my house. That’s how you know you really live in the wilderness. There wasn’t a lot left by the time I got home to see it last weekend, but there are lots of photos on the school blog here. While we were excitedly perusing them I asked the other Tomahawk graduate assistant, “What does it say about us that we’re this fascinated by a gory, disgusting deer carcass?” “That we picked the right career,” she answered. Very true.
Wolves are controversial in Wisconsin. They were completely eliminated from the state by 1960, but recolonized the area on their own in the late 1970s – they weren’t reintroduced by humans the way they were in Yellowstone. Despite the fact that wolves pose almost zero danger to humans (and that in the rare event that wolves kill a domestic animal, the state government reimburses the owner), there are sadly still a lot of Wisconsin residents who hate and fear them. At the movies over the weekend I overheard someone walking out of a showing of The Grey, Liam Neeson’s new action movie about people stranded in Alaska defending themselves from (completely unrealistic) bloodthirsty wolves, say disgustedly “I can’t believe the state thinks those are nice animals.”
Consider me firmly in the wolves-are-awesome camp. As someone who was a little obsessed with wolves as a kid growing up in decidedly wolf-free Ohio (I devoured Julie of the Wolves and all of its sequels), always imagining wolves in pristine far-away wildernesses like Alaska or Yellowstone, it still seems surreal that now I live somewhere with wolves literally outside my door. If I get to hear them howling in the distance at least once while I’m living in Wisconsin, I will be very, very, very happy.