West End’s sick wolves to be trapped
Joan Farnam/Staff writer
Traps have been set out for the two remaining wolves in a mangy wolf pack that has been sighted close to homes and vehicles in Lutsen this winter.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service gave me permission to try to capture the remaining wolves in Lutsen,” said Bill Paul, assistant state director for Wildlife Services, an agency for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We got a special exemption. Lutsen is in Wolf Management Zone l, and normally we aren’t allowed to take wolves in that zone. But when a wolf gets used to people or becomes bold, it can pose a possible threat.”
The nine-member pack, all of whom appeared to be suffering from mange, was first sighted this fall.
“We have a field in our backyard with a transmission line above it,” said Alta McQuatters, a resident of Lutsen, who reported her concerns about the wolf pack to Paul. “All the wild critters use that — bear, moose, wolves, whatever. And some of the people use it as a walking trail. We’ve had these wolves around forever. They’d usually come through the area on their route about every five or six days or so.”
But last fall, McQuatters said she and her husband, who are both trappers, noticed the wolves looked mangy. Their fur was falling out, they had bloody scabs on their legs and flanks and were scratching all the time.
“They’d come into our field,” she said. “There’s a lot of grass and trees, and it’s protected from the wind. They’d go by the trees and lie down, but they could never rest because they were scratching all the time.”
As the season progressed, McQuatters said they began to notice the wolves were acting strangely. They appeared to be weak, and in some cases disoriented.
Then the cold hit, a fatal problem for a wolf who doesn’t have all his fur.
“When the wolves have mange, the lose a lot of fur,” Paul said. “They become pretty debilitated. When it becomes really cold, they die of exposure.”
By December, McQuatters said the wolf pack was down to about five or six individuals. And people began seeing them in situations that made them pretty nervous.
They came in people’s yards, they didn’t run when they saw people walking to their vehicles. In some cases, they actually approached people, who jumped into their cars.
“The wolves walked around the vehicles,” Paul said. “That’s not normal for a wild wolf.”
“One day, they had come through our yard,” McQuatters said. “A wolf walked right on our sidewalk to our front porch. My husband stepped out. It didn’t hardly run. It was all raw on the sides from being scratched.”
At that point, McQuatters and her neighbors called Paul to see what could be done about the wolf pack.
McQuatters said she and her husband were concerned about their grandchildren as well as the wolves themselves.
“As an adult or teenager, you know enough to stay clear of them,” she said. “But a younger child, 2 1/2 and 7 years old, have no concept. The younger ones think it’s a big dog. And if they’re hungry, who knows what they’re going to do.”
Also, she said, the wolves were obviously in distress.
“Our main object of calling was that we didn’t want them to suffer,” she said. “That’s a slow agonizing death. You scratch yourself, freeze yourself and slowly starve to death.”
Paul said he and other consultants went to Lutsen and interviewed McQuatters and her neighbors to determine what to do.
What concerned them most was how unnatural the wolves were acting.
“They’ve had a lot of contact with people and gotten used to human activity. That’s not normal for a wild wolf,” Paul said. “They could pose a threat to people, especially young children.”
Although there have been no reports of wolves attacking children in the lower United States, there have been incidents in Canada and Alaska, he said. “There’s potential there. You don’t want to cross the line by not doing anything.”
The two wolves remaining in the pack will be trapped. Rehabilitation is not possible, he said.