The gray wolf is making a comeback in the upper Midwest, and for some young wolves the area may be getting a little too crowded. It’s not unusual for young wolves to travel long distances to stake out a territory of their own, but as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports… one wolf’s trip has surprised everyone:
The gray wolf is making a comeback in the upper Midwest. And for some young wolves the area may be getting a little too crowded. It’s not unusual for young wolves to travel long distances to stake out a territory of their own, but as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports… one wolf’s trip has surprised everyone:
The wolf was first seen two and half years ago as a young pup in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. At that time he was caught in a trap, and wildlife officials tagged him as “Wolf No. 18.” They fitted him with a radio collar and followed his movements for nine months before they lost track of him.
About a year and a half… and over 450 miles later, the wolf’s luck came to an end. A bow hunter from central Missouri saw the wolf snooping around his sheep pen. The hunter shot and killed the wolf – apparently mistaking it for a coyote. He realized his mistake when he noticed the radio collar.
Typically, young wolves travel west or northwest from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so when Michigan Wildlife Division Supervisor Jim Hammill heard the news that one of their wolves had turned up in Missouri… he could only think of one explanation:
“My first reaction was that somebody possibly killed the wolf in Michigan and transported it to Missouri and they found the carcass of the animal down there… but that was not what happened… and you know this animal was seen alive in Missouri before it was killed, so you know, it’s obvious that this was a natural movement and, uh, really sort of a stunning thing to have happened.”
Stunning because Hammill has never heard of a wolf traveling this far south before. They’ve seen wolves travel as far west… and northwest, but typically those wolves have an easier trip. Wolf Number 18 would have had to overcome huge obstacles, such as a number of major highways, a number of rivers including the Mississippi, and large open spaces like farms.
Hammill says this wolf’s trip will likely shed some light on the gray wolf’s behavior. And that may be especially helpful to biologists in the northeast – a region that hasn’t heard the howl of a wolf for some time:
“A lot of folks up there feel that there’s no way that wolves could re-populate the area without a trap and translocation program. But, you know, I wonder about that because of the kinds of movements that we’ve been seeing here in the Midwest.”
Wolf 18’s body has been shipped back to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources lab. There – they’ll try to piece together just what this wolf encountered on his historic trip south. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.