Winter 2020


Voyageurs Wolf Project: Studying and Sharing the Summer Ecology of Wolves in the Majestic North Woods
By Tom Gable

“How do wolves hunt beavers?” seems like a simple question—but watching wolves hunt beavers in the north woods is effectively impossible. In 2014, there were theories, but no data to support them—so Tom Gable and the rest of the Voyageurs Wolf Project set out to change that. Download full article.

Restoring Wolves on Isle Royale
By Debra Mitts-Smith

In September 2020, the National Park Service released a report on the Isle Royale wolf restoration project. It covers the first 20 months of this collaborative process among federal, state, provincial and tribal agencies, and several universities. This story, based on the report, is about that effort and its apparent success.

Revising Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan: Courting Disagreement and Finding Common Ground
By Cree Bradley

Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan was drafted in 2001—but 19 years later, things have changed. Updates to that plan are being done with careful attention to stakeholder needs and opinions, with the goals of ensuring long-term survival of Minnesota’s wolves and minimizing wolf-human conflict. Here’s how it’s done.


From the Executive Director

Yellowstone Discoveries Meeting the next generation of wolf science

Just hold the bone like a tree branch and saw right through!” These are words I never expected to hear—but then I never expected to be cutting through a bison foreleg, either. But there I was, in late August, in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, about to cut into the carcass of a bison to take a marrow sample.

How did I get there? Well, when my family moved to Minnesota during the COVID-crazy spring, we left a car and a few fragile items back in Portland, Oregon. My 17-year-old son and I planned to fly back and drive the car to Minnesota at the end of summer. We knew we would be driving near Yellowstone, so I reached out to some contacts with the Yellowstone Wolf Project. Taylor Bland and Jeremy SunderRaj offered to meet us early one morning in the Lamar Valley, where they were monitoring the Junction Butte pack—all 35 wolves. They generously shared their spotting scopes with us and introduced us to several other wolf watchers, including Rick McIntyre and Laurie Lyman. When the wolves settled down for the day, Bland and SunderRaj offered to escort us back to Park Headquarters—but first they needed to stop at a bison carcass to document it.

Tracking the Pack

Moving Past The Pandemic
by Lori Schmidt, wolf curator, International Wolf Center

As winter approaches, the International Wolf Center wolf care team is ready to put 2020 behind and begin planning for 2021. Despite the unknowns about the impact of COVID-19, the Center made the best decisions possible to safely manage the ambassador wolves, staff and visitors during the pandemic. We delayed the planned acquisition of pups in 2020 until the summer of 2021, and now we are planning to move past the pandemic.As wildlife managers, we understand and deal with risk. If a disease transfers from an animal to a human, the disease is called a zoonotic. If a human transmits a disease to an animal, it’s termed a reverse zoonotic. With COVID-19 being a novel (new) virus, we had to assess the risk of transmission to pups. Now we’re sharing some basic knowledge about this topic.

Member Profile

A Connection in Norway Formed through Webcams
by Chad Richardson

A handful of years ago, Jessica Larsen found herself scrolling through animal-related videos on YouTube from her home in Norway. Before long, she found one that featured a live stream of wolves. That stream belonged to the International Wolf Center and soon the Center had itself brand new international member.

Wolves of the World

Fossils Speak from the Past while Today’s Animals Gain Numbers, Territory, Friends and Foes
by Tracy O’connell

The battle to save mountain (or deep-snow) caribou herds in British Columbia from extinction pitched environmentalists against those in the resource extraction industries whose timber cutting, oil drilling and road
building activities cut into vital caribou habitat. Then a scientific paper last year suggested that culling the wolves
that preyed on them would enable the caribou to live on in the presence of industrial incursions. That claim, which
resulted in the killing of more than 460 wolves last winter, has now been discredited by a second paper that highlights shortcomings in the first.

Wolves have been such a common sight in at least one region of this country that it makes zoos “redundant for those who actually want to see one,” Estonian Public Broadcasting reports. Predictably, there have been cases of predation in sheep farming communities, with farmers, hunters and environmental officials at loggerheads over an acceptable compromise on wildlife levels and methods of compensation.

A survey commissioned by the government and reported in the online medium NL Times showed that 57 percent of the Dutch people found it acceptable for wolves to settle here, up from 45 percent in 2012, and that 65 percent think wolves are essentially harmless. Opponents accounted for18 percent, citing danger, nuisance and lack of space as reasons for their objection. Farmers also said they want to receive compensation for wolf depredations on their livestock, which Dutch people are generally in favor of providing.

More than 6,000 Europeans were surveyed across six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Finland) in a poll commissioned by the animal protection lobby Eurogroup for Animals, with results not dissimilar from the Netherlands data.

This country hosts nearly a quarter of the world’s terrestrial carnivore species, according to Down To Earth, an environmental organization, in an online posting, noting it is remarkable that they, “in fairly high numbers, share space with a population of 1.3 billion people.” This is an unusual phenomenon, seldom seen elsewhere in the world.

Personal Encounter

Sage’s Story
by Diane Boyd

There it was again—a wolf howl just outside my cabin. On the opposite river bank stood a huge gray wolf peering at me from beneath snow-laden willows. I realized this naïve animal was likely an adolescent exploring on his own.

I stared back, mesmerized, for what seemed a very long time. Then he was gone. It was November 1983, and I had spent four years searching for phantom wolves in the North Fork of the Flathead River drainage along the northwest corner of Montana’s Glacier National Park. And this wolf had come to me. That was the beginning of my special relationship with Sage.

A Look Beyond

Revising Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan: Courting Disagreement and Finding Common Ground
by Chad Richardson

When Dave Olfelt welcomed the newly formed Wolf Management Advisory Committee, he didn’t imagine it to be under such unique and distant circumstances. Referencing the opening sequence to the 1970s American sitcom,the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) Division of Fish and Wildlife director called the “Brady Bunch style” virtual meeting an imperfect option to gather 17 committee members and 12 DNR, tribal and other staff. Yet, despite complications created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the important work of updating the state’s wolf management plan would move forward with a solid process and a flexible, patient approach.


What Do Wolves Have to Do with Elk Antlers?
by K.C. and Aaron Morris

The bugling sound of a bull elk breaks the silence across a meadow. The elk stands tall near his herd, his impressive rack of antlers on full display. It is fall, and the elk rut, or mating season, is at its peak. Another bull elk moves in to challenge him, and the two animals walk side-by-side, sizing one another up. The challenger gives up and leaves. His antlers are smaller; he is no match for the larger bull. Visit our Wildkids section.

Book Review

Yellowstone Wolves: Science and Discovery in the World’s First National Park
Book Review by Debra Mitts-Smith

By 1926, the United States government had eradicated wolves throughout most of the U. S., including the ones in Yellowstone. Almost 70 years later, in 1995, the government acted to return wolves to the park. This large-carnivore reintroduction in North America was greeted with excitement at the time—but also with controversy.