Cameras and signs will soon be posted along the Trezona Trail in Ely to warn users of the trail about recent wolf encounters in the area. On Thursday, Aug. 15, a dog out for a run with its owner was attacked by a wolf at about 8:30 p.m. A report was made to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by the dog’s owner, detailing his encounter with the wolf near the Shagawa Lake boat landing.
“As I was running, I heard a yelp from my dog behind me,” Ely resident Ted Schlosser said. “I turned around and saw that a wolf had him down on the ground. I screamed extremely loudly at it and it took off running with my dog into the woods. I immediately started chasing after him and screaming as loudly as I could. I had gotten into the woods about a hundred feet and my dog was free. The wolf was still standing there about twenty feet away. I took my dog out of the woods immediately. I was still about three-quarters of a mile from my pickup, so I proceeded to walk back to it. I had my other three dogs with me as well (all small dogs). After walking a few hundred yards, the wolf ran up to us again. He came close to the edge of the trail (about 50 feet away from us). I screamed at him again. We continued walking. A few hundred more feet, and he ran up to the edge of the trail again. I grabbed a large stick to carry and I yelled at him again. He started barking at me. He continued barking for quite a while and had a high tail posture.”
Lori Schmidt, the International Wolf Center wolf curator in Ely, manages the wolf helpline, a resource for local residents to report wolf issues and receive advice and consultations with local wildlife management agencies such as the DNR and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services office located in Grand Rapids.
“As a wolf curator with over 33 years of wolf behavioral experience, I know that barks are a threat display, and a high tail means the animal is confident, and it may indicate aggressive arousal,” Schmidt said. “Wolves with low, tucked tails are more fearful and may be easier to deter. This animal may be food conditioned towards people. If anyone has issues with wolves on the Trezona or anywhere in the Ely area, contact the Wolf Helpline at 365-4695 ext. 134. If you have a concern of an imminent threat, calls should be made to the local conservation officer or 911.”
The dog was treated at the Ely vet clinic with a single wound on his right shoulder.
Schmidt will coordinate with Vermilion Community College’s Wildlife Society Chapter to deploy wildlife cameras and signs, identify the patterns of wolf presence and attempt to deploy negative conditioning techniques to deter the wolf from the area. The fall season can be particularly problematic for wolf issues as the presence of pups in a pack can create a lot of food pressure. This may leave some younger animals to go hungry, scavenge or disperse and become loners in search of another wolf and a new territory. Wolf pups are very mobile this time of the year, so if this wolf is associated with a pack and pups, the chances are they will move on relatively quickly.
It is important that human-related food supplies such as garbage, dog food, even remnants of bird or deer feeders are removed, as they can serve as an attractant for wolves.
The Voyageur National Park wolf project recently posted a notice on its Facebook page about a yearling male wolf that was collared on May 23 as a 60-pound yearling with adequate fat reserves, but died of starvation on Aug. 9 weighing 31 pounds. Other times of the year when wolf-human interactions can be more intense are during the winter breeding season, January to March and the pup denning season, April to May.
Effective Dec. 19, 2014, Minnesotans can no longer legally kill a wolf except in the defense of human life, and wolves are a federally protected species managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The wolf is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, which does allow for control measures from the USDA Wildlife Services program. In the case of the Trezona Trail, the area has a high concentration of human use and would not be conducive to trapping wolves and the USDA abides by depredation management zones, with the Trezona Trail area being north of the line for removal for domestic livestock depredation.
Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare, and we know of no such attacks in the Superior National Forest even though wolves have never been been exterminated there. Minnesota DNR Large Carnivore Specialist, Dan Stark, offers recommendations to deal with wolf issues.
People with pets should avoid area until time passes or no additional wolf observations/incidents occur
Keep dogs on leash, so wolves are less likely to approach people
Don’t allow dogs to run loose or range away, keep in close contact and control
Don’t try to intervene if dog is actively being attacked
Carry bear/pepper spray – It can be used to deter attack or spray both if wolf is actively attacking dog. The dog will need some recovery time, but the effects of bear spray are temporary and non-lethal
Don’t run, but act aggressively, stepping toward the wolf and yelling or clapping your hands if it tries to approach.
Do not turn your back toward an aggressive wolf, but continue to stare directly at it. If you are with a companion and more than one wolf is present place yourselves back to back and slowly move away from the wolves. Retreat slowly while facing the wolf and act aggressively.
Stand your ground if a wolf attacks you and fight with any means possible (use sticks, rocks, ski poles, fishing rods or whatever you can find).
Use air horns or other noise makers.
Use bear spray
Climb a tree if necessary
Minnesota’s most recent wolf population estimate within Minnesota’s wolf range was 2,655 wolves and 465 wolf packs during the winter of 2017-2018. The estimate is statistically unchanged from the previous winter, according to the Minnesota DNR. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a rule in March 2019 that proposes the delisting of gray wolves from threatened or endangered status under the Endangered Species Act in the contiguous United States.
The International Wolf Center will continue to provide information as this delisting process progresses.
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit wolf.org.