A Wolf Story

In  about December of 2011, a radio-collared wolf moved into Northern California. It took over four years for a different wolf to reach my home. In between those dates, wolves have settled in California and at least one pair of wolves has raised a litter of wolf pups.

During 2012 through 2014, I became somewhat involved with wolves in different ways. While volunteering for the Mule Deer Foundation, I served on a committee of wolf Stakeholders. I did my best to make my opinions known to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as they created a Wolf Management Plan. (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Gray-Wolf/Stakeholders)

While hunting in locations where wolves are common (Canada, Alaska but primarily Montana) I gradually became more familiar with wolves in the wild. During Montana hunts in 2013, 14 and 15 I heard wolves howl and eyed tracks almost daily. All the hunters in our camp possessed wolf tags in anticipation of having a shot opportunity.  A few hunters in our camp had sightings of wolves, but no shots were fired.

On those Montana trips I observed mule deer, elk, moose, a big-horn ram, black bear and two grizzly bears – but no wolves. On one occasion a wolf howled very close by. My guide and I expected to see the wolf, but did not. Later we found the tracks of two wolves that had been standing about 150 yards from our position.

Wolves have become a reality in my life, but I have yet to see one alive.

At the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in February of 2014, I attended a Friday afternoon auction where a trapping experience was auctioned. I purchased the trip with a bid of $1,500. The donor was Trent Packham of Groat Creek Outfitters. Trent lives about 60 miles north of  Edmonton, Alberta.

Eventually we scheduled the trip for early January in 2015 and I purchased ticket to Edmonton for January 3rd, 2015. I began building up my wardrobe of cold-weather clothes.

I expected temperatures as low as any I’d ever before experienced, but it was still a shock to my system when Trent called the day before my departure and told me that it was minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit in Edmonton. I told him I planned to be there the next day.

Then I laid awake that night and envisioned the drive in my rental car in sub-freezing weather through sixty miles of unknown territory. I have to admit that I didn’t want to take that challenge on and in the morning I cancelled my trip.

No regrets, but a couple weeks later, Trent sent me a photo of wolves he had trapped. He said that one of them was the largest wolf he had trapped up to that time. I mulled it over and concluded that maybe I should have a trophy from the trip I did not take.

I called Trent and asked him the price of the cape of that wolf. He came up with a number – $882 USD out the door. Then I asked if he knew a taxidermist who could do a good job of mounting the wolf – life size. He said that Scott Holman was the go-too guy and gave me his contact information:

SCOTT HOLMAN TAXIDERMY
661 24TH ST.
BRANDON, MANITOBA, CANADA
R7B 1X8
204 725 4474
sholman@westman.wave.ca
http://www.holmantaxidermy.com

Now it was quite a trip from Alberta to Manitoba and then to California, but this wolf puts OR7 to shame when it comes to miles traveled. The cost of taxidermy:$2205 USD. Just in case your thinking you might want to do this, here’s the breakdown.

 

Invoice Image (25) cropped

Scott sent me photos of various poses and this is the one I selected.

pose IMG_1840

Scott built the wolf and occasionally checked in. A couple months ago the wolf was finished, but then he had to wait for a CITES permit. Cost of the trip from Manitoba to Livermore: $671.04 USD.

It took about three weeks for the crate to make it through customs in North Dakota and then on to California. The crate arrived last Friday March 19, but it will be a while before I am ready to open it. Here’s a photo of the finish product as taken by Scott Holman.

wolf mountIMG_0091

Can’t hardly wait to open my present, but it may take a while to finish creating his final resting spot.

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Palin and Teddy Roosevelt

On a recent evening in the hills near Livermore, I climbed a rock overlooking a couple square miles of deer habitat. It wasn’t the best spot for spotting deer, but it did overlook a lot of country so I decided to give it a try.

 

As the evening wore on, I spotted a coyote in the distance. Then it disappeared. A little later I decided to move to a different spot as things were not looking productive. As I rose to leave I realized the coyote was approaching.

 

It was an awesome creature – sleek and silent. It was mousing and moved very slowly along while sneaking for mice. Although I’ve seen many coyotes up close, it always impresses me to see them undisturbed.

 

Although coyotes eat lots of rodents, they also prey on blacktail fawns during springtime. They do have an effect upon the deer population. However, it is debatable whether shooting a single coyote has any impact at all upon the deer population. If one could effectively manage the coyote population, then shooting coyotes might be meaningful.

 

I had all but made up my mind to let the coyote live, when coyote number two appeared over the rise. Now, instead of one coyote, I suddenly envisioned six or seven.

 

Yes, this was a pair of coyotes and it was clear that we had the makings of a family group. My attitude changed. Not only would I shoot the male, but I’d also attempt to shoot the female as well.

 

At 75 yards, phase one of the attack plan was over quickly. As the male tumbled down the hill, I turned on the female. Shot number one was behind her. With the sound of the next shot she disappeared, but apparently I’d missed again. Searching the vicinity I found no indication that I’d hit her.

 

Although I’d given this episode some thought, it wasn’t long before I put the distaste of killing in my rear view mirror and moved on to other more important events – until tonight when I spent a few minutes watching Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN.

 

The subject was Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The CNN reporters were examining her environmental record. Her supporters said she was pro-environment and listed her hunting experience as one piece of evidence.

 

An issue supported by Palin is aerial gunning of wolves and the subject was presented in a very negative way. They showed film of people shooting wolves from airplanes (called it hunting) included a photo of a dead wolf hanging from the strut of an airplane – very distasteful.  This is kin to showing the remains of a fetus while discussing the issue of abortion rights. (This type of broadcasting treatment is sensationalizing in a way that disables the viewer’s ability to use reason over emotion and evaluate fairly.)

 

Wolves eat moose and caribou, along with mice. If you favor having more moose and caribou, then fewer wolves is a key – it’s a no brainer. And, managing wolves doesn’t mean you’re anti-wolf. It just means you’re pro-human hunter.

 

In any event, I’m pleased that we have a candidate at the national level who understands wildlife management. I feel energized by this. I’ve been wondering when this person would show up and I never expected him to be a her.

 

I’ve been to the North Slope and seen the miles of tundra that make up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Properly managed drilling there will have very little negative impact upon wildlife – I’m sure of that. To say the porcupine caribou herd will be threatened by drilling sounds credible, but is inaccurate. We know these animals can coexist with and even expand their numbers in the presence of drilling operations.

 

Once again I’m glad we have somebody in the national spotlight with the credibility to discuss this important issue and hopefully the most important hunter in Washington since Teddy Roosevelt.