Ely, Minnesota (1994)

Wolf Weekend


Well, our Wolf Weekend was everything that it was advertised to be and more . . . a chance to learn something about the wolf population of northern Minnesota, to meet some interesting and fun people and to spend a few days outdoors in the Boundary Waters in all its winter splendor.                

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We lucked out with the temperatures which were in their teens . . . and about forty degrees above the temperatures of the previous weekend. And we lucked out with our companions, who were all generally pleasant and who came from as far away as New York, Texas and California for the wolf experience. We had a little less luck with wolf sighting . . . but I know that they were out there.

Actually, on Friday afternoon, moments after arriving, we went up in a small Cessna 172 equipped with telemetry equipment to try and spot wolves from the air. About 20% of the 1,800 wolves in Minnesota have been fitted with radio transmitter collars to facilitate their tracking. We picked up a signal and after circling over the signal at about 200 feet above the ground, we spotted a wolf flying in the late afternoon sun. He turned out to be the only wolf we saw in the open. We heard some, though.

Each night after dinner, we went out to remote locations and howled at the nearest wolf pack to establish our territory and they howled back to confirm theirs. It would have been a strange sight to anyone who might have happened onto this group of 12-15 humans standing at the edge of a logging road howling at the night.

We were up early each morning for a big North Woods breakfast before heading out for our "studies". On Saturday morning, we spent a couple hours at the International Wolf Center in Ely hearing slide show lectures and observing the four yearling wolves that live in a three acre compound behind the center. They are beautiful animals, whose ancestors go back thousands of years and I thin we understand our own dog, Maddie, better now as a result of this exposure to her progenitors.

On Saturday afternoon, we skied about five miles into the wilderness to a "kill site" where the plane had spotted a deer killed by a wolf pack two days earlier. There was nothing left but a foreleg and a the skins. The naturalist, who accompanied us, was able to recreate the story of the kill from the tracks and other evidence left behind. Fascinating.

The Sunday morning ski adventure was even more fun covering about ten miles over three lakes and two portages to some Indian pictographs of a man, a moose and a wolf painted on a lakeside cliff over five hundred years ago. Preferring to ski, we passed up an offer of dog sled ride to the site but we did hitch a ride on a tow rope and raced across the entire length of one of the lakes behind the dogs. Winter water skiing !!. for one magic hour on the return trip, Val and I found ourselves all along with a beautiful snow covered lake surrounded by pines and with a crystal blue sky overhead all to ourselves. It was worth the trip right there!

Some people say that we’ve got it wrong . . . that you’re supposed to head South for the winter. After last weekend. I’m not so sure that I would agree!

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