The positions expressed reflect the views of the authors or organizations cited and does not necessarily reflect the views of the International Wolf Center.
Editor’s note: The following is a letter received by the International Wolf Center from an Ely, Minnesota resident in early 1998. We have changed or omitted names to keep the individuals anonymous. To put this account in perspective, there are approximately 68,000 homes that have dogs in Minnesota’s wolf range and an average of less than 14 dogs are verified as being killed by wolves each year, though others are likely killed and not reported. The following account provides insight in to the emotions and sentiments of one pet owner.
One of our sled dogs, [Tanya], was killed and eaten by wolves about a month ago (early February 1998). We live in a remote area 30 miles south of Ely surrounded by Superior National Forest. During the winter months the road to our cabin is unplowed and we keep open by ski, snowshoe, and dog sled a four mile trail to where we park our vehicles. We had a ten (now 9) dog sled team. We use the dogs for transportation to and from our vehicles and to haul in supplies. We also occasionally hire out our services.
[Tanya] was a three year old female. Her parents came from [a local] kennel. She had been bred earlier in the winter and was within a few weeks of delivering a litter of pups. When we left home that morning, [Tanya] was too pregnant to run and pull in the team, tho she could easily keep up running free directly behind the sled. For most of the run that morning she stayed within 10 feet of the back of the sled. As we got within 1/4 mile of the gravel road, where our vehicles were parked, the dog team suddenly perked up and changed from their trot to a full run – something they often do if they sense another animal nearby. I didn’t think much of it other than to hang on for a fast ride. [Tanya] couldn’t keep up. When we got to our vehicle a few minutes later [Tanya] wasn’t with us – nor did she catch up as we unloaded the sled. I guessed, wrongly, that she’d gotten tired and turned back for home. After I dropped… [my family] …at the vehicle I continued on home on another trail expecting to find [Tanya] at home when I got there. She wasn’t. Later that afternoon I skied the trail we’d taken that morning. I found her. Dead and gutted, four puppies scattered on the trail about where the dogs had sped up and she’d dropped behind. Within 48 hours she and the pups were gone.
My feelings ran the gamut. If only I had not brought her – or not allowed her to be separated from the team. But I did. I have 2 young pups who ran free behind the sled most of the winter without coming to harm.
I wondered – did the wolves plan to separate the sled team from her by letting the team “chase” them while other wolves picked her off? Was she a threat because she was pregnant? New genes? More mouths to feed?
One thing seemed obvious – the wolves were hungry. When I found her she’d been dead only 4 – 5 hours. She was about 1/3 – 1/2 eaten. I could only count 4 pups. Last year her sister gave birth to eight. Maybe the wolves had eaten some of them – maybe not. As I’d said, within 48 hours everything was eaten.
I feel better knowing she fed wolves than if she’d been killed by a vehicle on the highway. We live in the woods because we want to surround ourselves as much as we can by nature. Wolves are part of our neighborhood and our “property values” would decrease if they left the neighborhood. I don’t want to see them trapped, or hunted, or killed because they acted like wolves – any more than I’d want to see vehicles eliminated or roads closed if [Tanya] had been run over by a truck.
P.S. I came in to town after I found [Tanya]. I was going back home later that night. I wondered if I needed protection from the wolves. Firearms – a handgun..? I came to the conclusion that I’d be safer if I didn’t have firearms – and so at midnight under a bright moon as I skied past even less of [Tanya]’s body, I just sang a little louder and skied a little faster and remembered what an old woodsman had told me long long ago – “Some folks gets the peanuts and some folks gets the shells but you got to suit up for every game.”