EMMA KUHN, EH staff writer
MARINETTE — Some visiting wildlife appear to be roaming around the City of Marinette.
Citizens on the outskirts of the city near Pierce Avenue and University Drive have been reporting seeing wolves wandering around the area, either by themselves or in small groups. The appearance of wolves, while not necessarily unexpected this far north in the State of Wisconsin, has a few residents concerned about their presence in the community and what it means.
Recent sightings of the wolves began about a month ago, although some residents recall seeing some as far back as a year ago. Marjorie Kurtz, who resides at the Country Meadows & Cedar Ridge mobile home park, encountered one about a month ago.
“I was out walking in the morning and saw it, just standing there,” she said. “I turned around and went straight home.”
Kurtz saw a wolf within the same month, again just watching her while she was out walking. She has a small dog, and is worried about what the wolf presence means for the mobile home park and surrounding community.
“It’s just scary living here like this,” she said. “You’re living under fear all the time when you take a walk.”
A pair of wolves with a younger wolf in tow were spotted in the area behind Walmart, 2900 Roosevelt Road, by EagleHerald delivery driver Barry Beaver about a month ago about 3 a.m. Beaver said he witnessed the three wolves running into the woods toward the mobile home park.
The most recent sightings come from Peachy Hubert and Nola Cook, both residents of Pierce Avenue. Hubert said she encountered two wolves while out on her morning walk with her dog, a tiny Yorkie named “Bear,” just after 6 two weeks ago.
“They were just standing, looking at me,” she said. “I tried to shoo them off, but they didn’t move.”
Hubert said she had also seen a lone wolf walking around the trailer park, in between trailers and garages. She also reported that a local flock of eight or nine turkeys had been absent from the area recently, as well as the usually large population of wild rabbits.
Cook witnessed a wolf running down the middle of the road in the afternoon two weeks ago.
“I originally thought it was a dog, maybe a German shepherd,” she said. “I’ve seen lots of turkeys and deer and even a fox one time, but never a wolf around here.”
So far, none of the wolf sightings have been confrontational. Witnesses say the wolves just appear to observe those who spot them, and have not reported them as a nuisance.
Jeff Bush, an area resident, said he suspects the wolves may have been just outside of town all along, and could have recently come out of hiding because of construction projects like the new Bay Area Medical Center (BAMC) hospital on University Drive.
“Part of it is the hospital and everything being built,” he said. “They’re digging up wooded area. They’ve probably been around here for years, and nobody knew it.”
John Hofer, marketing director for BAMC, said he had spoken with a construction supervisor about the issue. The supervisor said no wolves had been spotted on or around the site of the new hospital.
Bob Willging, district supervisor for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services branch in Rhinelander, Wis., said it is unlikely the wolves were displaced by local work.
“Wolves are very mobile,” he said. “They relocate a lot.”
The main draw for wolves, Willging said, is usually a food source. Like bears and other wild animals, wolves will hang around if they have a free and easy source of food to get at from humans, like outside pet dishes or even garbage. He advised residents to get rid of these food sources if they are worried about wolves or other wild animals getting too familiar.
“Wolves are generally pretty wary of people,” he added. “If there is a concern that a wolf is habituated to people, maybe too comfortable around people, they can call us.”
Mary Cherry, the animal control officer with the Marinette Police Department, said she had received calls about wolves on University Drive and around the 3400 block of Pierce Avenue, but referred callers to state and federal agencies because she only deals with domestic animals at large.
“I discussed the situation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources,” she said. “My advice is to stay away from them, don’t provoke them.”
Those who have experienced recent peaceful wolf sightings are encouraged to fill out a large mammal observation form online with the DNR at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/mammalobsform.asp. The form can also be used for sightings of cougars, lynx, wolverines and moose. If the wolf is seen being a nuisance, those observing it are encouraged to contact USDA Wildlife Services in Rhinelander, Wis., at 1-800-228-1368.