Written by Karen Madden
Daily Tribune Staff
About 20 outdoor enthusiasts gathered in southwest Wood County during the weekend to learn more about wolf myths and facts.
On Friday, the gray wolf no longer will be on the endangered species list for the western Great Lakes states, said Ray Leonard, a member of Timber Wolves Information Network. At that time, each state will be free to establish its own regulations regarding the wolf.
Timber Wolves Information Network’s purpose is to give people the facts and let them make up their own minds about the wolves, Leonard said. To do that, the group has been holding workshops throughout the state since the organization was founded in 1989.
On Saturday and Sunday, Dick Thiel, chairman of the Information Network, instructed the group gathered at the Sandhill Outdoor Skill Center, Sandhill Wildlife Area in Babcock. The program included classroom sessions during which attendees learned about the ecology of the wolves and outdoor sessions when they followed gray wolf tracks to see the animals’ habitats.
Shawno resident Dave Reineke, a volunteer wolf counter for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, was at his second informational class. The DNR has volunteers help in an annual count of the wolf population and requires all counters to take the network’s two-day training course.
Reineke decided to take the course twice because he’s new to studying and counting wolves, and he enjoys it.
“It’s a fun weekend,” he said.
In 1960, there were no known wolves in Wisconsin, despite officials listing them as a protected species in 1957, according to the DNR website. Wolves moved back into the state on their own, and by 1980, they reached a population of 25. During the winter of 2011, experts estimated there were 782 to 824 wolves in the state.
The training sessions draw a range of people, said Bob Welch, who, along with his wife, Debra Martin, helped found Timber Wolves Informational Network. Families will sign up for the class to enjoy a fun and educational weekend together, he said.
Many people harbor a lot of myths about wolves, Thiel said. Some think they will eat small children and spoil the countryside. Wolves do kill livestock occasionally, but not at the rate many people believe, Welch said.
During the workshop, Thiel talks about the conflicts between people and wolves. He gets attendees thinking about how to responsibly manage the animals. It can be an awkward balance between wolves and people, he said.
While students are in the classroom setting during the mornings, Thiel sends spotters out to search for wolf tracks in the Sandhill Wildlife Area. The class then goes out to the tracks and follows them. It gives the students a chance to look around, see where the wolves travel and how they live, Thiel said.
Timber Wolves Information Network will hold another two-day workshop on the wolves Feb. 18 and Feb. 19 at Sandhill Wildlife Refuge.
The cost of the workshop is $80, which includes two meals, overnight lodging, instructional materials and a field trip into wolf territory. For more information or to register for the workshop, call 715-884-2437.
For more information on wolves and workshops held in other parts of the state, go to the Timber Wolves Information Network website at