July 8, 2020

Finding Wolves Where Wolves Weren’t Thought to Be

Imagine that? For years now, outdoor sportsmen in Idaho have been pounding on the heads of officials at the Department of Fish and Game telling them there are a lot more wolves than the department thinks there are and they are in places IDFG believes they don’t exist.

On Wednesday, January 4, 2012, in a radio interview on KUOW.org website, Jim Hayden, the regional manager for IDFG in the Panhandle region is said to have claimed:

Though Hayden thinks the biggest reason for hunters’ success is -– more wolves. He says at least half the wolves hunters have brought in came from areas Fish and Game didn’t know had wolf packs.

Hayden evidently was making this claim when being questioned about why he thought wolf hunters and trappers had already killed more wolves during this season than the one held in 2009.

What an epiphany!!

Tom Remington

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The Future of Trapping in Maine Looking Sketchy Leaving a Lot of Unanswered Questions

With the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) recently presenting an application for incidental taking of Canada lynx to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), what most deemed a great opportunity to rectify a lot of trapping and snaring issues, is rapidly turning into a nightmare.

The Canada lynx was declared a “threatened” species in the state of Maine in 2000. In 2009, the Federal Government designated a large chunk of northern Maine as “critical lynx habitat”. In the midst of a lawsuit by animal rights/environmental extremist groups, Maine agreed to and signed a Consent Decree that would allow the state to continue with its trapping program, albeit in a limited and restricted fashion. Also in the Consent Decree, MDIFW listed Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10, and 11 as their own brand of critical Canada lynx habitat designation. According to the Consent Decree, within these WMDs, Maine trappers were restricted to smaller trap sizes, aimed are reducing “incidental” trapping of lynx and the use of snares for limiting coyote mortality on deer in wintering yards was banned, among other restrictive measures. Maine remains under the throes of the Consent Decree until such time as the state can obtain an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the Federal Government.

An ITP is an agreement reached between the state and the Feds on how to conduct a trapping plan in order to continue adequate protection of a “threatened” or “endangered” species in order that this species will not be blocked from recovery. You can view the application for an ITP for Canada lynx at this link.

I learned a few days ago, through hours of research, that Maine’s current laws on trapping are NOT what most sportsmen believe them to be. I would strongly suggest reading that article before proceeding with this one.

Most sportsmen in Maine believe that if Maine can obtain this seemingly illusive ITP, then trapping can resume as normal and that the commissioner of the MDIFW can implement snaring programs to save the deer herd. This is not the case.

To be as brief as possible, the current law governing trapping and specifically snaring in Maine can be found in Maine Statute 12252 and Maine Statute 10105, as recodified under LD 1600 signed into law on June 3, 2003 by Gov. John Baldacci. MS 12252 bans snaring in Maine with exceptions. In part, MS 10105 lists the authority the commissioner has to utilize some form of “coyote control program”, in which he can hire trained agents to implement snaring in unorganized townships during winter (this was not part of LD 237).

While the law was effectively rewritten during recodification, it must be further understood that obtaining an ITP from the USFWS will not free up the commissioner or even the Maine Legislature to use snares to kill coyotes.

First of all, the application for an ITP is nothing more than a clone of the Consent Decree signed in 2007. It bans the use of snares and still retains the restrictions on trap sizes. The application and plan is not restricted to just those WMDs that MDIFW listed. It becomes statewide.

In the very first parts of the application it states:

The Department seeks a Section 10 permit that would cover its agents and licensees from liability in the event of incidental take of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in Maine that may occur as the result of otherwise lawful activities.

This Consent Decree clone of an application now will stretch out and cover the entire state, or at least that is how I understand the terms of the plan as written thus far. In essence Maine rids itself of one ball and chain, Consent Decree, and replaces it with a bigger ball and chain, ITP.

In short, where currently Maine is continuing its trapping program under the Consent Decree, which I believe in conjunction with current laws, the commissioner COULD, implement a snaring program outside of the 10 WMDs listed, in unorganized townships during winter. When and if this ITP is granted, the commissioner will lose his authority to do that.

If my calculations are correct, then short of dealing with some kind of liability issue for incidentally catching and or killing a lynx (which by the way, since 2000 no lynx has been killed as the result of an incidental take), why would Maine even seek an ITP that is more restrictive than the one in place now?

Some believe that Maine then needs to apply for an ITP for snaring in Maine. You will probably witness me walking on water before that ever happens. I doubt that if you collected all those in Maine Government and the Federal Government who would support an effective snaring program, you could fit them all into the eye of a needle.

From the frying pan to the fire.

Tom Remington

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“Recodification” of Maine Statutes in 2003 Gave That State It’s Ban on Snaring

In 2003, by mandate of the Maine Constitution, laws governing the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife were “recodified”. The end result was a statewide ban, with exceptions, on the use of snares for trapping, other than underwater snares for beaver and foothold snares for bear.

If you are puzzled, join the ranks of thousands of other Maine sportsmen.

Let me present a bit of personal history to help readers understand how I got here. As a hunter, I have become concerned over what I believe to be an overgrown population of coyotes in many parts of Maine. This has contributed to a sizable reduction in the whitetail deer population there. Efforts to do something about that population have seen many hurdles and are currently mired in court orders and confusion over just what the Maine laws are. Perhaps it is intended to be this way.

Trappers using snares has proven to be an effective tool to target those coyotes who like to consider wintering deer yards as their own private 5-star restaurants. Implementation of snares around deer yards took care of a respectable number of coyotes that would kill winter-weary deer.

Use of snares was stopped and subsequent lawsuits by environmental and animal rights groups, coupled with a federal listing for protection of Canada lynx, has left Maine in a situation where, even if IFW agreed coyotes were that serious a problem, there is little they are willing or able to do to stop the demise of the deer herd.

But confusion has run deep as to what the Maine laws governing trapping and in particular snaring are. Here’s a brief history.

In 1929, the Maine Legislature passed and was signed by the governor, a law that banned the use of snares…..period. Over the years there have been minor changes to what equipment and definitions constituted a snare. I believe it was in 1983 when the Maine Legislature mandated that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) begin a program to control the population of coyotes. This, to my knowledge, was the first attempt at implementing the use of snares.

Through the 80s and 90s, it seems the Maine Legislature as a whole has been mostly supportive of controlling coyotes and have instructed MDIFW to do something about coyote control, and yet there is none.

To keep my focus where it needs to be in this article, I’ll become more directed to the events of 2003. The Maine Legislature and Gov. Baldacci, signed into law LD237, “An Act to Improve the Coyote Control Program”. Initially, LD237 was a bill to ban snaring again, even after it had shown its effectiveness. Subsequently and during debate, etc., LD237 was amended and thus the title I gave above was attached to the bill.

LD237 was not an all out ban on snaring. What remained was the authority given to the commissioner of MDIFW to use “agents” to “meet management goals established by the commissioner for deer……”. I say this with all due diligence that I firmly believe the overwhelming majority of Maine sportsmen believe this is the law that is in place today as it pertains to snaring. If this were the case, then surely the Commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, or any commissioner before him or after, could have easily put together a plan to implement a targeted snaring program for coyotes in areas of Maine most vulnerable to coyotes……if that were the law.

As the result of a lawsuit filed against Maine by the Animal Protection Institute, in 2007 a Consent Decree was activated by the Courts. In that Consent Decree, the use of snares was prohibited within those Wildlife Management Districts that had been deemed critical habitat for the Canada lynx; a species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Because the majority of hunters and trappers (and to be honest, I think the ignorance ran deeply into MDIFW and probably the Maine Legislature) were still thinking that Maine was operating under the statute of LD237, people began asking why MDIFW didn’t implement snaring programs in areas outside critical lynx habitat. Downeast regions come to mind.

The Consent Decree was to remain in effect until such time as Maine was granted an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), for the “incidental” taking of lynx during trapping season. Once again, sportsmen waited eagerly for Maine to acquire such a permit, believing that with this ITP, the commissioner has authority under LD237 to begin a snaring program. In the meantime, the deer herd is suffering.

I was one of many in the ranks of those led astray, or poorly informed, who wrote extensively on LD237 and the commissioner’s authority granted in that bill, fully believing through many hours of research that LD237 was the snaring law we were abiding by. Nobody has attempted to clear this up that I am aware of.

So, what law is the MDIFW, trappers and the people of Maine being governed by as it pertains to the use of snares? It took me many hours of research and a lot of dead ends and frustration, before I contacted the Maine Law Library seeking information, hoping it would answer some of my many questions.

What really piqued my level of frustration came when I was reading the Application for an Incidental Take Permit. Included at the end of this application was a copy of the trapping laws and rules that govern trapping in Maine. This is where I came upon Maine Statute 12252. Reading that statute, it says that it is unlawful to “set or tend a snare…….”. I told myself that there was something seriously wrong here. This isn’t even close to LD237, the law I and many others believed to be the law governing snaring.

A very important note that needs to be made here: This is the only statute provided in the ITP application that refers to the use of snares for capturing and killing coyotes. More in a minute.

Once the fine people at the Maine Law Library helped me and sent me some 800 pages of files and documents, I have learned that LD1600, “An Act To Recodify the Laws Governing Inland Fisheries and Wildlife” is the bill that governs trapping statewide.

Before I proceed, I want you to embed into your memory that LD237 was signed into law by Governor John Baldacci on April 25, 2003.

On June 3, 2003, Governor John Baldacci signed into law LD1600. LD1600 was introduced by Senator Bruce Bryant. There were no sponsors or cosponsors. Mr. Bryant was Chairman on the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at that time I was told by the Law Library. By law, the Joint Committee was to read LD1600 and debate all 600 pages or so and they ultimately made a unanimous recommendation to the Maine Legislature, “Ought to Pass”. According to House and Senate records there was no debate on LD1600. It passed the Legislature on May 27, 2003 and was signed into law by the governor as described above.

The Maine Constitution, Article X, Sec. 6, mandates the “recodification” of statutes every ten years beginning in 1973.

Section 6. Constitution to be arranged by Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court; Constitution to be enrolled and printed with laws; supreme law of the State. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court shall arrange the Constitution, as amended, under appropriate titles and in proper articles, parts and sections, omitting all sections, clauses and words not in force and making no other changes in the provisions or language thereof, and shall submit the same to the Legislature; and such arrangement of the Constitution shall be made and submitted to the regular session of the Legislature in 1973 and every 10 years thereafter unless sooner authorized by the Legislature; and the draft and arrangement, when approved by the Legislature, shall be enrolled on parchment and deposited in the office of the Secretary of State; and printed copies thereof shall be prefixed to the books containing the Revised Statutes of the State. And the Constitution, with the amendments made thereto, in accordance with the provisions thereof, shall be the supreme law of the State. (emphasis added)

My first knowledge about codification as it pertains to laws taught me that codification was more of a housekeeping measure. Its intent was to clear up language, redundancies, typos, grammar, etc., that sometimes made it difficult to interpret and administer the laws, but never to alter the law. Once statutes have been “codified”, which according to the Maine Constitution appears to have been in 1973, each ten-year term becomes “recodification”.

Wikipedia defines “recodification” this way:

Recodification refers to a process where existing codified statutes are reformatted and rewritten into a new codified structure. This is often necessary as, over time, the legislative process of amending statutes and the legal process of construing statutes by nature over time results in a code that contains archaic terms, superseded text, and redundant or conflicting statutes. Due to the size of a typical government code, the legislative process of recodification of a code can often take a decade or longer.

I think it becomes clear and should be a logical conclusion that the purpose of recodification isn’t to rewrite existing laws; only to clear up any confusions, etc. that make it difficult to understand the law.

And so, with the passage of LD1600 by the Maine Legislature, this is where the MDIFW came up with the statute that they provided in the application for an ITP to the USFWS that included a statewide ban on the use of snares.

As you might expect, this story doesn’t end here. In the “recodified” MDIFW trapping laws, i.e. Maine Statute 12252, Section 2, paragraph A reads: “A. Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird, except as provided in section 10105, subsection 1 and section 12259;” (emboldening added). If we examine the “recodified” MDIFW statutes under section 10105, subsection 1, we see that it tells us that the commissioner has the authority to issue permits to anyone in order to assist in the “taking and destruction of any wildlife”.

However, there is no mention in Statute 12252, of any reference to section 10105, subsection 3, “Coyote Control Program”, which I am under the impression is an attempt to recodify LD237. There exists no other place in the MDIFW statutes any law that resembles LD237 except for what is found in Statute 10105, subsection 3.

But, I’m left here with some of what I am considering serious and troubling problems with this entire procedure and the end results. First, if the purpose of recodification is to clear up confusing laws, errors, etc., one would think that during this process that Maine Statute 12252, Section 2, paragraph A. would have been changed to read: “A. Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird, except as provided in section 10105, subsection 1 and subsection 3 and section 12259;” (I emboldened what should have been added during recodification.)

As far as the laws that govern snaring, doesn’t it make sense that if a law is created that bans snaring and there were exceptions to that ban that all exceptions would be listed? Furthermore, shouldn’t it be expected that this should have been corrected during the recodification process? So was this a mistake by those undertaking the ginormous task of recodification, or something more sinister?

Second, before you answer that last question about the possibilities of something being more sinister, let me get back to something I mentioned before about the only snare-relevant statute included on the application for an ITP was 12252. Why didn’t the application also include statute 10105? The ITP application was drafted, according to dates on the draft, August 13, 2008. Gosh, the recodification and passage of LD1600 took place on June 2003.

The purpose, I am to presume, of MDIFW including the trapping statutes for Maine, is to show the USFWS what Maine’s current laws are that pertain to trapping, including snares so that USFWS officials can better determine how current laws will effect protection of the Canada lynx. The application included 12252, which “exceptions” 10105 subsection one but no mention of subsection three.

Was the omission of Statute 10105, the recodified law about coyote control and snaring an error, or something more sinister? You have permission to attempt to answer that now, however, you might want to read further.

Third, I have one more issue to discuss and bring to light. Above I provided information that I had as it pertains to codification and recodification. I think I made my case that recodification is not a tool to be used to rewrite existing laws, only to clear up discrepancies.

If that be the case, then certainly there is room for debate as to whether the recodification of the laws governing snaring were clearing up discrepancies or rewriting laws.

I am of the opinion that Maine Statute 12252 is a clear attempt at re institution of a statewide ban on snaring as was done in 1929. Maine Statutes in 1929, Chapter 331, Section 44 reads: “No person shall set a snare…..for any fur-bearing animal…”. Statute 12252 reads that it is unlawful to: “Set or tend a snare for the purpose of trapping any wild animal or wild bird”. Other than changing up some non existent and outdated terms and language, the recodification appears cut and dry.

I’m not sure the same can be said about Maine Statute 10105, Section 3, paragraphs A, B, and C. This has to be either an attempt to recodify LD237 or LD237 was stricken from Maine Statutes and this law was inserted in its place. This article is already quite lengthy but I believe it’s imperative to post the following information in order that readers can easily review and decide for themselves.

First, is LD237 passed into law on April 25, 2003:

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 12 MRSA §7035, sub-§3, ¶B, as amended by PL 1999, c. 636, §1, is repealed.

Sec. 2. 12 MRSA §7035, sub-§3, ¶B-1 is enacted to read:

B-1. An agent may use snares to control coyotes during winter months under the following conditions.

(1) Agents may use snares only for animal damage control purposes to help meet management goals established by the commissioner for deer, threatened or endangered species or other wildlife species or to benefit agricultural interests as described in paragraph C.
(2) Agents must be trained and certified by the department in the use of snares.
(3) Agents must be deployed by a department wildlife biologist before setting snares.
(4) Agents shall post access points to areas in which snaring activity is taking place, including, but not limited to, roads and trails for motorized vehicles, cross-country skiers or hikers or other obvious travel ways that may be used by people.
(5) An agent shall plainly label snares with the full name and address of that agent.
(6) An agent shall keep an accurate record of the number and location of snares set by that agent and must be able to account for those snares at all times.
(7) An agent shall check that agent’s snares that are equipped with relaxing locks on a daily basis.
(8) Department employees may accompany agents at any time an agent is checking snares.
(9) Agents shall report monthly to the department on forms provided by the department the coyotes and nontarget species taken by snaring during the reporting period.
(10) The commissioner shall revoke the snaring certificate of an agent who violates any provision of this paragraph.

The commissioner shall adopt policies and procedures on the use of snares as necessary to minimize the potential for taking nontarget species and to adequately protect threatened and endangered species.

And the following is Maine Statute 10105, Section 3:

3. Coyote control program. Pursuant to section 10053, subsection 8, the commissioner shall maintain a coyote control program as follows.

A. The commissioner may employ qualified persons to serve as agents of the department for purposes of coyote control. These agents must be trained by the department in animal damage control techniques and must be utilized by the department to perform coyote control duties in areas where predation by coyotes is posing a threat to deer or other wildlife. Each agent shall execute a cooperative agreement with the department specifying the conditions and limitations of the agent’s responsibilities as an agent, including any terms for reimbursement of expenses or payment of wages.

B. Agents must be trained in the use of snares and must be deployed in the unorganized townships to control coyotes during the winter months. All snaring must be carried out under the direction of department officials and with the knowledge of the local game warden. All areas of snaring activity must be adequately posted.

C. Agents may be utilized for the benefit of agricultural interests as long as the department is reimbursed annually for the cost of those efforts by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources from funds specifically appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources for that purpose.

It certainly would appear to me that certain liberties were taken in “recodifying” LD237, if that is what this is supposed to be. While at first glace it may appear that this recodified statute is the same or at least similar to LD237, there is at least one specific qualifier in this statute that does not appear in LD237 and is far more than a clarification of text or outdated language, etc.

The first sentence in subsection “B” above states: “Agents must be trained in the use of snares and must be deployed in the unorganized townships to control coyotes during the winter months. (emphasis added).

In my opinion, this far exceeds what should be considered “recodification” of existing laws. Nowhere in LD237 did it state that snaring can only take place in “unorganized townships” nor was it limited to the winter months.

Granted LD237 gave the authority to the commissioner to formulate a plan which may spell out precisely that snaring will be in unorganized townships and in winter only. However, that was not necessarily the desire of LD237 nor was it even implied, nor is it the point of this article. If the Maine Legislature had intended to ensure that snaring was only going to take place in unorganized townships during the winter, then the bill would have stated such. Whoever rewrote this took the liberty to add in language that didn’t exist in LD237.

The question should become, who authorized or took in upon themselves to rewrite the laws of the state of Maine? Unless the laws in Maine that govern the recodification process are so lenient as to provide for such action, one must be left questioning whether this in an illegal action that needs some serious attention.

It should matter not whether one thinks snaring should or shouldn’t be used. It matters not whether snaring, if used, were to be relegated to unorganized townships. It matters not whether snaring should take place in winter or summer. What should matter is whether or not the recodification process in Maine results in the rewriting of laws enacted by the people of Maine? This cannot be. There has to be some kind of better oversight here, otherwise what confidence do any of us have that every 10 years our laws will get changed and we know nothing about it.

Did the process fail the people or was the failure a result of the process, which includes certain checks and balances or lack thereof? The Maine Supreme Court, via the constitution, is responsible for this undertaking. Were there all the necessary checks and balances done here to ensure no rewriting would take place.

The recoded laws, done by whom I am not sure, then went to the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Did they read the entire revised statutes or give it a cursory nod that it must be alright? Was there a failure to perform according to the wishes of the people of Maine?

And then it went on to the Legislature in which there was no debate recorded. This should tell us nothing was read and obviously no questions asked. It all appears like a very easy and convenient way to make changes and rewrite existing laws for which most people will never be informed about until one day it might effect them personally.

While recodification may be a great idea and may help in the process of reading, understanding and applying laws, if laws are being rewritten, whether intentional or not, whether allowed by law or not, it can’t be. Something must change. This is a faulty process to say the least.

In my mind, I am left with three very important and unanswered questions:

1. Was it someone’s intent through recodification of the MDIFW statutes to actually alter the existing laws that govern snaring or was it ignorance, lack of proper skills and poor workmanship?

2. Was the omission of Maine Statute 10105 on the application for an Incidental Take Permit from USFWS an error, oversight or was it intentionally left off in order to deliberately deceive anyone reading the application?

3. And during the recodification process was it also intended to NOT make reference to Maine Statute 10105, subsection 3 when the recodification of Maine Statute 12252 was carried out?

Answers to these questions will never come about as there is no way to prove a person’s intent. I feel it is my duty and responsibility to share what I have learned and to ask questions that many of us will also be asking.

If, however, there is intent here somewhere to deliberately mislead the people of Maine through, 1). Using recodification as a tool to rewrite Maine’s laws, and/or 2). intentionally deceive the USFWS in order to achieve an ITP, then I shall have nothing to do with that. Other than exposing what I know, there is no way that I will become partner to any unethical, illegal or deceitful acts in order to obtain an objective that I feel is important.

I hope my efforts have helped some to come to better understand where we are as it pertains to snaring and trapping and its associations with Canada lynx.

Tom Remington

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To Catch A Wolf – Part V

Links to Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV

If we are ever to consider “catching” a wolf, we need first to understand it. This has become a difficult task, especially here in the United States because most who advocate for wolves, seemingly those with all the money and resources to do so, aren’t at all interested in telling the truth about this animal. Why is it that in efforts to discover the truth about this large and sometimes vicious predator, advocates mount bigger campaigns to counter those truths with lies, information designed to mislead the public?

In the West we love our stories about Nikki: Dog of the North and Jack London’s other creation of Call of the Wild. In our romantic fantasies we want to be friends with canines that are portrayed as our best friends, cute and cuddly. The reality is wolves are none of these and there are many other myths that we have been programmed to believe as true.

Most of us will never see a wolf in the wild. Most of us will never have a desire to “catch” a wolf. Some of us are going to be forced to at some point and hopefully we’ll never reach the degree of problems our ancestors faced all around the globe, the result of which was lack of wildlife management and the taking away of the God-given rights of people to self protection.

In the previous four parts in this series (see links above) we have traveled across parts of North American, Russia, France, Italy and made mention of other countries that historically have faced wolf problems. We now are going to travel to Scandinavia where we will take a look at two aspects of the wolves there – attacks on humans and methods used to kill wolves.

No matter where we traveled, we found out that wolves vary in sizes and color. We know that the characteristics of wolves also vary depending on several factors, including habitat, time of year and the influences of climate, to name a few.

One thing that I have discovered in reading the many accounts of wolves and hunting wolves is that often what and how the writer conveyed their message depended a great deal on their own experiences and perceptions of the events at hand. Let me give an example.

Scandinavian Adventures by Llewelyn Lloyd was written in 1854. It contains numerous accounts of wolf/human encounters and detailed descriptions of wolf habits and of course methods on how the people in Scandinavia captured and/or killed the beast they so much hated.

I chuckled at one point and then read on with my jaw agape, when Lloyd wrote that wolves seldom attack people.

Though wolves are so numerous in Scandinavia, and commit such considerable ravages amongst cattle, they do not often molest man.

I will concur here with Lloyd’s statement that wolves were numerous during this time in Scandinavia, having to this point already read what seems an unending accounting of the savage events involving wolves in this country and the destruction of private property.

After stating that wolves “do not often molest man”, Lloyd fills many pages documenting several of at least 20 accounts of wolves killing humans just during one winter. This doesn’t account for the attacks on humans that didn’t result in death.

I would assume we need to conclude that it is all relative as to what we become accustomed to in our everyday lives. That one man can so boldly state that wolves seldom attack man, yet view the deaths of at least 20 people, mostly children, as somehow insignificant, certainly baffles my mind but I’ve never had to live with wolves on a daily basis. In all of North America we struggle to accept the death of one man in Canada a couple years ago.

As with all the other countries we’ve visited, Lloyd tells us that the wolf is despised in Scandinavia too. He states that from the beginning of time, wolves have been hated and that they were the “plague and torment of the land”.

The Scandinavian wolf is characterized as having a “most ravenous appetite” and at times when food is not available to the wolf, he will actually ingest dirt and mud in order to quell the hunger pains. If all goes well, he will regurgitate the mud once he has killed prey to eat. The author tells us of instances when a wolf howls incessantly from the pain caused by eating and puking up the dirt.

“He can suffer hunger and hardships for a long time, which is common for beasts of prey, according to the Creator’s wise institution; for their provision is uncertain, and comes accidentally, and at irregular intervals. When his hunger becomes too great, he’ll eat clay if it is to be had; and this, as it is not to be digested, remains in his belly till he gets flesh, and that works it off violently; and then he is heard to howl most dismally for pain;

One farmer who killed a wolf, opened the animal’s stomach up to see what it had been eating and found it full of moss and the tops of birch trees.

Lloyd tells us that Scandinavia is “exempt from rabies”. I can’t confirm that to actually be the case but he is quite convinced there were never any cases of rabies recorded at least up until this time in history. Part of the reason for bringing this up is that in his list of wolf encounters, all occurred with what appear to be healthy animals. This dispels the myth that only diseased wolves will attack a human.

Like with all the other accounts we’ve examined, wolves in Scandinavia are most dangerous during the long winter months, when food is scare and the animals run in very large packs. People traveled most often by sleigh or horse and during these times some where allowed to have guns for protection as it was common for packs of wolves to attack and follow the travelers.

The author tells readers that when the wolf is hungry and in packs, they seem not afraid of anything, boldly entering barns and enclosed pastures taking whatever they wanted, sometimes barely reacting to the beating by farmers with clubs, sticks and rocks.

The story here gives us an indication of excess killing. In modern times, at least here in North America, we have coined the term “surplus killing” to characterize the act of wolves killing far more prey than they ever intend to eat.

The wolf is amongst the most voracious of beasts. The slaughter he commits in the fold is at times terrible; and he frequently kills ten times more than he can devour. Hence it would appear, he is impelled rather by a mere love of destroying, than by hunger.

I read recently the account of one wildlife biologist who said that surplus killing did occur with wolves and domestic animals but rarely happened with wild animals, particularly large game animals. Even though I have had the opportunity to read accounts of and view pictures of what seem to show surplus killings of deer and elk by wolves, biologists, for whatever their motives, seem quick to come to the rescue of the wolf and state that it may appear the wolves killed needlessly but will return at a later date and clean up the mess. This brings the discussion to one that now becomes quite subjective. If a pack of wolves during one attack session kills 20 elk and then leaves without eating any of them, one can argue that the wolves will return to clean up later, yet we have no way of knowing that.

I find it a tough pill to swallow that wolves will only “surplus kill” domestic animals and not wild ones. The game manager making the statement backed his theory by saying that most livestock have had all sense of fighting back bred out of them. I have never witnessed alive any attack by wolves on deer and elk, but in most of the video I’ve seen, the deer and elk aren’t fighting back. They may run and stand their ground for a time but are soon outnumbered or worn down to defeat.

I can concur that it would appear much easier, if I were a wolf, to enter an enclosed area housing 100 sheep and killing them all, than to run down and kill 100 elk or deer. This doesn’t however dispel the idea that wolves do not “surplus kill” elk and deer. The task may be more difficult but the voraciousness of the wolf is on display no matter what animal it is attempting to kill. If a pack kills any number of game animals they don’t consume or haul away, we can say there was surplus killing.

The landscape of much of Scandinavia provided excellent habitat for wolves and as a result, there were many to contend with. The habitat also prevented hunting the wolf in what is referred to as a common method – using dogs and people to drive wolves out of the thick forests into openings or fields where the wolves could be shot. There were just too many intermingled, dense forests where wolves could essentially hide forever. This brought extra challenges upon the citizenry to protect themselves and devise other means of killing wolves and killing as many as they could all at once.

The presence of wolves was an extreme burden on the people. It is described in some places as being the most difficult thing in life to deal with. Here in the West we think stories like Little Red Riding Hood were created from some fairy tale dreamed up by a fanciful writer.

Not only do our children’s books relate some of the experiences people had years ago, the angst and outright hatred that grew toward the wolf had people believing the the wolf was an incarnation of Satan himself. As backwards as this may seem to the modern West, we’ve never really had to deal with anything so frightful and controlling, with the dominance of a vicious predator. It was as bad or even worse than any plague.

The people persevered and one way that helped was the creation of devises and methods to catch, trap and kill wolves. In the northern areas of Scandinavia, the Lapps often strapped on their skis, or skidor they were called, armed themselves with a 12-foot long pointed spear and headed into areas thought to have wolves.

The conditions needed to be right so that the snow was such that wolves couldn’t run away and yet the hunters could remain on top of the snow with their skis and navigate to where the wolves were, spearing them to death. A good downhill run seemed a good opportunity.

Sooner or later, however, he is necessitated to quit the ” vantage-ground,” and betake himself once more to the forest or the fjall, as the case may be. Thus the chase may continue for a day or two, until the beast is fairly worn out with hunger and fatigue, when his pursuers are enabled to close with him—generally on the long slope of a hill—and to put an end to his miseries and his life.

Seldom would enough wolves be killed to have any real affect on limiting the wolf kills on the reindeer herds. However, under the right conditions, there is a recorded event of around 70 wolves being killed in one week using this method of skis and spears.

As I mentioned earlier, hunting wolves by foot or horseback in the “traditional” manner was quite ineffective. Lloyd explains it this way.

Little in the shape of wolf-hunting—such at least as accords with our notions of hunting—is practised in Sweden; and that little is, from necessity, always followed on foot. From the difficult nature of the ground, and the peculiar style of fence, it would be quite an impossibility to pursue that beast on horseback.

And thus the most effective means to deal with wolf populations was devised – locate the dens and kill the cubs. Lloyd goes to great lengths offering advice on how best to locate the dens. As a bonus, hunters would set a trap for the she-wolf and kill it when it returned to the den area.

The she-wolf does not, like the fox, litter in deep holes in the ground, where it is difficult to get at the cubs; but under boulders, under the stumps of uprooted trunks, in close thickets, or beneath spruce-pine trees, the branches of which hang to the very ground; and for this reason, when the Lya is found, one can readily take and destroy the cubs.

“One of the number, however, should be retained alive, that by means of its cries the mother may be killed also. The object is best effected by erecting a screen of boughs, near to the lair, where two of the hunting party (the rest retiring to a distance) secrete themselves, and shoot her on her return home. This is hastened by the piteous lament of her offspring, who at some four feet from the ground, is suspended by the hind leg to a neighbouring tree. But the men, at such times, should face in opposite directions, so that one or the other will be sure to see her when she first makes her appearance, as she then comes much nearer to the ambush than afterwards.”

The event of locating wolf lyas (lairs) and destroying the cubs is a community-wide event employing large groups of people. A continued effort each year to do this seemed somewhat effective in keeping wolf populations in check.

Another method used by the Scandinavians, particularly in areas overrun with wolves was called a Skall-platser. Essentially, an area is located in which bait is deposited in great amounts over long periods of time. This often consisted of dead animals.

During the time of year, mostly winter, when the wolves were both hungry and packing together in larger numbers, hunters, numbering as high as 600 hundred would surround the baited area where no wolf could escape. Canine slaughter ensued.

During a period of about 7 years, it is recorded that 35 of these Skalls took place, resulting in the killing of over 200 wolves, including cubs. This may have been the most effective means of killing larger numbers of wolves at one time but I believe the most effective long term was killing the cubs and she-wolves. One of the problems with carrying out the Skalls was the expense and the time commitment in keeping the area baited.

Scandinavia also employed the use of live, squealing pigs on a winter sleigh to lure the wolves out while hunters riding the sleigh shot them. I covered this in more detail in Part I.

In all of the stories covered in this multi-part article, people resorted to the creation and use of traps. Most of them to catch an individual wolf but as we learned earlier, elaborate contraptions were designed to capture many wolves at one time.

While individual traps served the purpose of maybe taking care of one or two problem wolves that were killing livestock, it did virtually nothing to control wolf populations.

What we should have at least learned through all of this is that wolves are most difficult to “catch”. We read here in Scandinavia that the terrain and habitat was such that much of it was impossible to hunt on foot or horseback. In all the stories, the authors made no bones about the fact that wolf population controls had to be done on a consistent basis and the only way to accomplish this was with the use of hunting dogs. There was nothing very scientific about any of it. They knew there were too many wolves and no matter what they did, there were always too many wolves.

I’ve pointed out numerous times that as the United States readies itself for a rapidly expanding population of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes, I have little confidence that we are prepared to handle the problem or at least take care of it in a timely matter.

Idaho, a state that is eager to get the federal government off its back and out of its state, has written up preliminary rules to govern wolf hunts. None of the rules allow for any of the methods I’ve described or provided for you from history past. I’m not advocating for the employment of these methods but we have to use history to teach us that a hunter alone with a gun is no good.

With a wolf population growing at a rate of near 30% in some places, sending a man and his rifle into the woods to kill a wolf will do nothing to stop or slow the rate of growth. With the proper management of wolves, it should be known whether the state wants to reduce, maintain or grow the wolf population in certain wildlife management areas. This is readily accomplished through the issuance of tags or quotas. When the quota is taken the hunt ends. If this be the case, then why put so many restrictions on the hunter? It really makes little sense?

We have areas now where the deer and elk are being killed by wolves at a rate that some fear is approaching or has surpassed recovery. Presently our hands are tied as wildlife managers are at the mercy of the federal government and having to be in compliance with an Endangered Species Act that has morphed into a political activists’ tool.

If the day comes when each state is granted permission to manage the wolf, we have to be ready, knowledgeable about the wolf and its habits and prepared to implement the necessary tools to accomplish the needed tasks.

I hope that this article and the other four parts can serve as a means of gaining a better, more truthful understanding of the wolf. Learning about the truth shouldn’t be something we fear. It is fought against only by those with hidden agendas.

Tom Remington

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To Catch A Wolf – Part IV

Links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part V.

Before we venture into some of the Scandinavian countries to examine how they dealt with wolves and wolf problems, let’s visit for a moment right here in the United States. It is believed that several subspecies of wolves inhabited much of the U.S. at one point in time.

Teddy Roosevelt went to great pains in some of his writings of the late 1800s in describing the different kinds of wolves he encountered all across the nation. He related colors, sizes, characteristics and habitats of any of these predators he came in contact with. One thing Roosevelt tells us is that even though he believed that man’s efforts to get rid of wolves certainly had a significant affect, he was convinced there was something more than man’s effort at hunting, trapping, poisons, etc. that wiped out wolf populations.

What is different about Americans dealing with wolves and many of the other European and Asian countries we have looked at, was the fact that Americans were readily armed with guns and could not only protect themselves from large predators but they actively hunted and trapped the animal as it was part of the heritage.

In areas of France and Russia, most guns were banned and only wealthy and governmental connected people could posses a gun. In cases where the peasant population could own a gun seldom could they afford to buy one or the ammunition to put in it.

As settlers in America moved into the forests and prairies of the west, they encountered wolves. Not unlike those in Russia, France, Italy, India and any other country that had wolves, it didn’t take long for people to grow to dislike the wolf, especially when it began killing off livestock and threatening the children and other settlers.

Having the weapons to do so, these settlers, turned hunters and trappers, began to kill off the wolves in many parts of the country.

In parts I, II and III of “To Catch a Wolf”, we’ve looked at some of the different methods employed by the government, wealthy hunters and peasant trappers to kill wolves. We’ve established that the wolf was clearly despised by the people and often times their lives were controlled by the fear of getting attacked by wolves or having their livestock destroyed. People risked their lives with wolves in order to avoid starvation.

Here in America, we don’t have the long and storied history of wolves like our friends across the ocean. Our experiences were somewhat different and short lived in comparison. Our access to the tools used to kill wolves, in comparison, seems so much easier but the creativity of devising ways to mass kill wolves wasn’t lacking.

In 1854, Hurst and Blackett published Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s book, “The Americans at Home: Or, Byeways, Backwoods, and Prairies”. In that book is a chapter titled, “Wolf-Hunting on the Turkisag“. This is one account of a seemingly bizarre, daring, if not ignorant, rough and tumble wolf hunt, one that takes place under the full of the moon and putting every participant in danger of their lives.

I tried and failed to find out where the Turkisag was. Assuming it was a mapped out place or location, I searched and found nothing. I began then to look more closely at the word itself and with knowledge that this book was written in the mid-1800s, I wondered if the Turkisag was a created word of local origin.

Turk or turki relates to either the country of Turkey or the bird animal turkey. Sag used as a description could mean a depression, a valley, maybe even a hollow or some such. It is only a guess on my part but I thought maybe Turkisag came literally from the turkey sag. I might be completely wrong and would welcome any explanations.

Regardless of what or where Turkisag was, the author Haliburton, gives us a bit of a description of the area.

It was broad moonlight when we arrived at the place selected as the scene of operations. The Turkisag possesses a different aspect from the Blue Ridge. The latter is of a noble and magnificent description, but the scenery of the former is of a different order: there was an air of desolation hovering about it that produced feelings of awe, and you gazed around you as if in expectation of beholding something instinct with horror. Dark and gloomy caves or holes met your sight on every side; but where a level spot presented itself, it was thickly covered with trees, short, and of monstrous bulk, so that they nearly shut out the light of the moon in various places.

The stage is set for the hunt. There are around 50 men all armed with guns and ammunition and lots of it. Haliburton tells us that many times hunters/shooters can’t leave their posts for several days. This is after all the time of year when “wolves are the most ravenous, mustered in great numbers“.

This kind of wolf hunt is referred to as a “skirl“, being defined as a shrill and piercing sound. That name and description alone would be enough to send shivers up and down the spine.

One party locates a place where they will build a scaffolding, where shooters can lie in wait for the wolves. Read Haliburton’s depiction of the place and the construction.

The spot where we purposed to erect our scaffolding was in the dreariest place we could select, and, as it proved, where wolves were the most numerous. First, we all set to work with our axes, and cleared a space of about fifty feet in extent, by cutting down the smaller trees, leaving, of course, the larger ones standing. At the extreme west of this clear space, two scaffolds were erected after this wise: branches of trees were driven into the earth, six or eight inches apart, rising above the ground about eight feet; then a great quantity of brushwood was wove around them from the bottom to the top, presenting a strong basket or net-work; across the top were laid large branches, affording a tolerably firm flooring; and around the works props were placed, giving sufficient strength to the whole capable of bearing the weight of the party; a rude ladder was also made to enable us to ascend, but more particularly for the runner, whose share of the dangers of wolf- shooting was not inconsiderable. These scaffolds were built nearly on the edge of a precipice of about sixty feet in height; on the north-east, and about one hundred feet from us, arose a peak, stretching far above our heads, overhanging a gap in the mountain about twelve feet wide. The opposite point was somewhat lower than that on which we stood, making a considerable descent, leading round to the place where we were encamped. Before us appeared an interminable forest, with here and there a cave, the uncertain moonlight only adding to its repulsive appearance.

Did you pick up on the term “runner”? Frighteningly so, it is exactly as you might imagine. Two men are “selected”. God knows what process that is actually used to pick who will be the runners aside from the fact that they should be young, fit and able to run fast.

Their task is to head out into the forest to find the wolves. Then the runner has to get the wolves to chase him. Utilizing only the available moonlight and a few dimly lit torches, the runner must use his blazing speed to stay just ahead of the wolves while hopefully successfully negotiating the landscape in the darkness of night. One mistake and it’s toast.

The runner then must enter the scaffolding area in time to climb the ladder to safety and before the wolves catch him or the bullets hit him from when guns begin blasting at the wolves.

The author at one point writes that the runners take some kind of drug with them. Little is said about it so we can only guess as to whether it was something they thought would enhance their speed or awareness or maybe it was to quell the fear. Maybe it was even used for something else.

Then, taking from his pouch a drug, a piece of which they placed in their moccasins, and holding the remainder between their fingers,

Picture if you can how a shooter must be feeling. It is dark and you are stationed on a platform above an area set for ambush. You know that two men are being used as decoys and they are depending on you to kill the wolves before they get killed. Here’s how it began to unfold.

Presently a faint howl was heard, that caused the blood to rush to my heart. Nothing but actual experience can enable any one to form a correct estimate of the intense anxiety that a person labours under on such occasions. Again, another howl, more loud, then another—another, from every direction of the wood ; then simultaneously, a burst, as if from myriads, resounded through the wild, echoing from mount to mount, followed up by cries still more awful and terrific.

“Be ready!” said an old hunter beside me, in a tone that betrayed the excitement he felt, ” for we shall have work to do presently; ” and at that instant a wolf emerged from the wood into the open space, the torches revealing him plainly to our view. A dozen rifle balls in an instant pierced him. Another followed, glancing first at the torches, and then at us, as if uncertain what course to take.

” Be chary of your ammunition,” said the same hunter, “for we may need all we’ve got;” and he raised his rifle, as the wolf was turning back, and instantly brought him to the ground.

The terror and the stress is building. The air is filled with blood-curdling howls, shooters are unloading on one wolf and you are reminded not to waste your ammunition. With that all dancing in your mind, along with the fact two human beings are out there streaking through the forest and running in fear for their lives, you hope you won’t miss.

The first runner appears.

We could not discover the least sign of their proximity, and the awful howls now came thick upon our startled senses, borne upon the breeze that whistled past us. Suddenly we heard footsteps, and could detect the quick breathings of a person, followed close by the rush of multitudes of those ravenous beasts, and presently the form of Ralph was seen, darting like a winged bird towards the goal. Close upon his track are seen the wolves—they press upon him, their eyes gloating at the prospect of his becoming their victim—lie looks not behind—he gains the open space—already they clutch at his legs—he eludes their fangs, and with a spring reaches the ladder—the next moment he falls breathless upon the scaffold—he is Safe !

As the guns crack and the dead wolves begin to pile up, Haliburton’s description of what is taking place sheds some light on what the runners used the drugs they took with them for.

The gleam of the torches threw a fitful light on their protruding tongues and glaring eyeballs, as they ran to and fro, rendered frantic by the unnatural appearance of the flames, and the exciting nature of the drug used by the runners, so that they fell easy victims to our murderous fire, which, however, in no way appeared to check their onward rush.

Did the runners use some kind of bait or food laced with this drug to first feed the wolves? Obviously it appears as though the drug was used to alter their behavior.

But what of the second runner?

Appearing from the dark, through the midst of the chaos and frantic behaviors of both men and beast, the second runner appears, surrounded by wolves on both sides and from behind. He cannot make the ladder to safety.

Hunters open fire on the wolves and the runner is yelled at and told to try to jump the ravine ahead, knowing the odds of him making it were slim but doing nothing would result in being eaten alive by ravaging wolves.

The shooters continue to kill massive numbers of wolves until they run out of ammunition. The runner is left to his own desire and willpower to live. He opts for the ravine, jumps and doesn’t make it.

What possesses men that they would be driven to such extremes in order to kill wolves? Was this only about the hunt or was this something that had to be done to protect the people and their property?

Wherever the Turkisag was, make no mistake there seemed to be an endless population of wolves that night. How many got killed we know not but several and it cost one young man his life.

For several reasons, wolves in the United States where nearly wiped out. Efforts to get them back have led to great controversy and there is no end in sight to the bickering. Our knowledge and reality in dealing of wolves is so limited that some fear that the wolf populations here are growing at a disturbingly fast rate. With endless lawsuits blocking efforts to remove the wolf from federal protection, we may someday be forced into finding ways to mass kill wolves. Proper management can prevent that from happening.

My efforts here in bringing you these historic documents of how people have dealt with wolf problems worldwide, isn’t to advocate for the construction of wolf ambush slaughtering sites but only to educate people that protecting the wolf isn’t the same as protecting a non-predator. History shows us the devastation wolves can cause. We should have no desire for any of that.

If ever the day arrives that we can properly manage wolves, it will be a learning process to determine what tools will be required to control wolf populations. Sending one licensed hunter into the woods with one rifle believing this will be a viable tool to control populations is foolhardy and born of ignorance. Initially there might be some success but it won’t take long before the wolf figures this out. This is why Teddy Roosevelt said that the only way to hunt wolves was with a pack of well-trained hunting dogs.

Tom Remington

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To Catch A Wolf – Part III

Links to Part I and Part II and Part IV and Part V.

We have learned greatly from the previous writings that wolves were not only a real problem for people in many parts of the world but also the animal was despised and feared, mostly for justifiable reasons. We’ve discovered that often it was only the wealthy barons owning the resources to take up the hunt for the wolf, while the peasants were left to their own devices, sometimes their lives ending in death from wolf attacks against them.

They say necessity is the mother of invention and often out of the desperate act of survival the peasants created some ingenious contraptions to capture and kill wolves.

In Part II, we spent most of our time taking a look at how France dealt with wolves, from an outing with a local baron and teaming up with peasants to lure wolves into a makeshift but very effective palisade, to the design of a self-attending wolf trap.

Before we leave France and travel further north, I would like to also share from “Saint Pauls Magazine” as edited by Anthony Trollope (1868); specifically one chapter called “Wolves and Wolf-Hunting in France“.

Trollope’s accounting of how locals dealt with wolves very closely follows those I shared with you in Part II, however the author seems to show a bit of disgust, perhaps at times pity on the despised wolf, while offering up some humor as well. What is clear is that the wolf is no one’s friend, despised and abused.

In this account and several others I have read, it is often mentioned that the dogs that hunt the wolf will not touch a dead wolf after they have killed it. During the chase, as part of the hunt, the dogs will fight and bite and hold, doing whatever is necessary in order to take down and dispatch the wolf. Once the feat is accomplished the dogs will not touch a dead wolf.

Trollope describes for us certain aspects of the wolf.

“Ah! the unclean beast.” ” Peuh, the son of a polecat, how he stinks ! ” This last compliment alludes to the wolf’s offensive odour, which, as Buffon remarks, is truly disgusting, and which issues with overpowering strength from any place he may have occupied for several successive days.

We see that people are yelling their abuses toward the wolf as they “beat” through the forest in an attempt to chase the wolf from his cover. Trollope tells us the wolf “stinks”, has an “offensive odor”, is “truly disgusting” and whose smell “issues with overpowering strength”.

Later on, we are given a glimpse at how the hunting dogs react after the wolf is dead.

The conduct of the dogs is peculiar; the small ones howl strangely, hiding their tails and trembling with convulsion. The large ones appear transported with a kind of rabid ecstasy, their jaws grind and chop, their eyes become wild and bloodshot, and their hair bristles on all their limbs. When once, however, the dogs have fairly killed the wolf, they refuse to touch his dead body.

What is interesting about this aversion to a dead wolf by the hunting dogs, doesn’t seem to be the same in the reverse. Often I have read that wolves like the taste of dogs and in this book, the author claims that wolves will pass up an easy chance at a sheep in order to sink his chops into a dog.

Imagine if you can, which I realize may be difficult to do, after reading what you have, what wolf meat must be like. I would suppose that growing up in a time and place where encounters with wolves consumed a fair amount of your time, it wouldn’t take long to build up a dislike for the animal. The wolf caused death and destruction and clearly was hated to no end. The descriptions of the wolf being “the son of a polecat”, “stinks”, having an “offensive odor” and the “rankest carrion in creation”, among others I’ve shared above, leave us little hope that wolf meat would be good to eat. Combine that with the actions and reactions of the dogs who refused to touch the wolf after it was dead. All of this and the built-up resentment, fear and hatred over the years, real or imagined, how could anybody bring themselves to eat wolf meat. (rational thinking)

Even Trollope alludes to the fact that most of this aversion to wolf meat was, “less fact than imagination”. Yet through all of this, we find that people still, well at least some anyway, were able to retain a good sense of humor.

The flesh of the wolf may be taken certainly to be about the rankest carrion in creation, not even excepting that of the common vulture and the turkey-buzzard. Yet all this in reality is less, fact than imagination. M. Charles Gauthey, a well-known sportsman in the Cote-d’Or, relates that the landlord of a country inn, himself a sportsman, and wishing to play the brethren a confraternal trick—or as it is called in French, leur jouer un tour de chasseur,—had a piece of wolf’s flesh cut into small square morsels, and stewed up with veal and mutton cut into pieces of a different shape. The landlord helped the ragout himself, and being careful to serve each guest with one of the square morsels, was enabled to inform them after dinner that they had all been eating wolf. Two of the guests were thereupon seized with horror, and one to such a degree that he was compelled to retire from the table with precipitation. The others took the joke in good part, and one an all declared they had detected nothing in the dish to excite suspicion in the least degree.

Once again, in this quest to discover the true character of the wolf, I want to make it clear I am not advocating that we Americans need to learn how to massacre wolves. We do however need to learn about them because the depth of that knowledge runs shallow. In future times as the wolf continues to expand and grow, it is most certain that we will have to deal more and more with similar wolf confrontations as those in Russia, India, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Alaska and Canada have come to know.

It is unclear whether the imported Canadian gray wolf or any other wolf for that matter, will ever be removed from federal protection. States such as Idaho have preliminary rules that will govern a wolf hunt (found in Part I) should the time present itself. Unfortunately the rules strip the hunter of most tools needed to successfully hunt and kill a wolf. He essentially is allowed to go into the woods with only his rifle.

If you have been reading Parts I and II, you have learned through several accounts that it is impossible to hunt the wolf by any means other than with “powerful and well-appointed” hounds, as Teddy Roosevelt attested. It is believed that initially there will be some success but as the wolf adapts and learns that humans want to kill him, his avoidance skills will out last that of a lone hunter.

Hunting is and has been a readily accepted tool for population control in wildlife management. When the time comes that we need to control wolf populations (which is now), hunters will need the proper tools to accomplish that task. We have learned that no management of the wolf over the years in other countries, often where guns are outlawed and only the wealthy can hunt, wolf populations were always a problem. We can’t let that happen here in America.

Gaining further knowledge from these historical accounts of wolves, wolf hunting and the tactics used against them, can help to further our understanding of this creature. With better knowledge we are better equipped to properly manage this beast.

Tom Remington

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To Catch A Wolf – Part II

If you missed part one of “To Catch a Wolf” you can find that at this link. This link for Part III and Part IV and Part V.

As I mentioned in Part I of “To Catch a Wolf”, wolves are not easy game to hunt. As I surmised also, had Russia been interested enough or financially capable to employ a steady dose of decent wolf management, perhaps some of the tactics used by wolf hunters wouldn’t have become necessary. I’m referring to tactics that resulted in mass killings of wolves.

Needless to say, some day into the future, I’m sure that one way or another, the United States is going to be faced with a dilemma on what to do about too many wolves. Initial plans are being made in some states (I mentioned Idaho in Part I) as to what rules will govern the wolf hunts if they are ever removed from protection. As in Idaho’s case, the rules essentially ban every means of hunting except for a man and his rifle. Historic documents tell us that this will not work. Initial wolf hunts may see some results but once the crafty canine discovers he is being hunted, one man and one rifle will not be any challenge to the wolf.

Previously, we discovered that in Russia, the wealthy (barons) people undertook wolf hunts utilizing pigs in canvas bags as decoys. We also read in great detail how the barons teamed up with the peasants, who had crafted a great palisade (elaborate trap) in order to kill several wolves at one time.

Let’s move our journey westward into France. In 1814 the state granted the Louvetiers permission to hunt wolves. Louvetiers were public officers appointed as superintendents in the “wolf districts”. Their job was to “encourage” the destruction of the wolf.

Roderic O’Connor writes in “An Introduction to the Field Sports of France” that the most difficulty realized by wolf hunters was finding a way to get them out in the open so they could be killed.

I should remind readers that in writings about wolves and wolf dogs of Teddy Roosevelt’s he says the only way to hunt wolves is with the use of hunting dogs.

The wolf is one of the animals which can only be hunted successfully with dogs. Most dogs however do not take at all kindly to the pursuit. A wolf is a terrible fighter. He will decimate a pack of hounds by rabid snaps with his giant jaws while suffering little damage himself; nor are the ordinary big dogs, supposed to be fighting dogs, able to tackle him without special training.

O’Connor says that the only way to get wolves out of the thickets is with a “powerful and well-appointed pack of hounds”. As a matter of fact, it is suggested that no fewer than 100 – 120 hunting hounds are necessary. Still the challenge is daunting.

In wolf hunting, they enter the forest as quietly as possible, and thus endeavour to get near the wolf before he starts, which is a matter of considerable difficulty , as he is always on the alert, and has so quick a perception of their approach that he generally steals off before they come up with him. If the forest is large and sufficiently dense to afford him protection, he can seldom be forced to quit it: he then twists and doubles through all its intricacies with which he is thoroughly acquainted, and exerts all his subtlety to baffle his enemies. The hunters have no remedy but to press on the hounds, and thus endeavour to overpower him and compel him to bolt, or to hunt him down in the forest: but if he is found in a less extensive forest, or one which does not afford him sufficient scope to play off his cunning dodges, he saves them all trouble on that score, at once decides on starting for some distant forest, perhaps some 15 or 20 miles off, where he knows he will find ample protection, and dashes away like lightning ; they then come in for a splendid run,

We learn that having 100-120 “powerful and well-appointed” hounds is rare and so other methods are employed. For instance, the hunters may gather as many hounds as they can get and head into the forest to find the wolves much in the same manner as is described above. The hunters set themselves up in ambush.

They are obliged to observe the strictest silence, and to conceal themselves with the utmost caution, for the wolf, who is peculiarly quick sighted, proceeds with great circumspection, and carefully examines every object before him.

If hunting dogs are not available and the louvetiers need to rid the community of the wolves, they commandeers as many “chasseurs” (chasers) as possible and head for the woods.

When it is ascertained that a wolf is lurking in a particular locality, the louvetier of the district assembles as many chasseurs as possible, and, assuming the command of the party , proceeds to the cover, stations his chasseurs in the best positions he can select, and then enters the wood with a few beaters.

As soon as the wolf perceives them advancing, he endeavours to steal off unobserved , finds all the passes guarded, and meets with a warm reception from his concealed enemies. They generally aim at his shoulder, but if there is any bungling, and he returns into the wood, it is quite hopeless to think of forcing him out a second time. It would be easier to hunt a rabbit out of an acre of furze, (which is no easy matter, I can assure you), than to compel him to break cover again : he must then be dealt with in some other manner , and the difficulty of getting at him, is considerably increased.

As you can now well see, when wolves became a problem in certain communities, depending upon the urgency of the situation, depended somewhat on what methods were used to kill the wolf or wolves. When too many wolves became a real problem, serious tactics where used. This one is called the wolf battue.

The most effectual method of destroying these detestable animals, when a neighbourhood is infested with them, is the general wolf battue: it is called traque in many parts of the country, from the word traqueur; the synonyme-of our word beater. This wolf battue- is conducted by the louvetier of the district, and is a very formidable and curious proceeding. He assembles several hundred persons armed with guns , staves , pitchforks, swords and all manner of destructive weapons; and, after disposing a long train of shooters and placing them so that nothing can escape without coming under their fire; he then forms his traqueurs into lines, placing them sufficiently near to each other to preclude the possibility of any wolves passing between them. When they are thus arranged, he gives the signal, and they immediately commence striking the trees and bushes with their sticks and pitchforks, firing oil guns and pistols, blowing horns , beating drums, and making all manner of hideous noises, advancing at the same time in a slow and regular manner, so that nothing can get through their line, and thus driving all before them. The wolves thus frightened by the din of war, lay aside their repugnance to the open country, and break cover in all directions. The slaughter then commences, and they are shot while endeavouring to make their escape.

Not always are communities so overrun with wolves but make no mistake about it, wolves are always present and looking for a quick and easy meal – goat or sheep, poultry, pet or most anything that will stave of hunger.

It was often left up to the individual farmer to devise ways to capture and/or kill problem wolves on his own. To watch a flock of sheep or protect the barn all night required a lot of man power and time, seriously putting a cramp on anyone’s lifestyle.

The following ingenious description of an unattended live trap, I found quite fascinating.

When wolves are not sufficiently numerous to demand such tumultuous proceedings; or when the forests are too extensive for the adoption of the battue system , various contrivances are set on foot to entrap them. Of these, the tour a loup which is considered very destructive, is worthy of notice: it is constructed as follows: some convenient spot is selected in the vicinity of a farm house, or in some locality where they are in the habit of committing nocturnal depredations: a circle is described, of from 8 to 10 feet in diameter; good strong stakes of, at least, 10 feet in length, are then procured; they are pointed at one end and driven firmly into the ground in the circumference of the circle, at a distance of 5 inches apart from each other, leaving one open space of 18 inches only for an entrance.

A second circle is then described with the same centre, so that its circumference may lie within 16 inches of the outer circle. Similar stakes are then firmly driven down in the circumference of the inner circle, at a like distance from each other, and without leaving any aperture for an entrance: the circular path lying between the two rows of stakes is well trodden down to represent a beaten path: the door, which should be made of good strong timber, is then hung on easy iron hinges, and so contrived that when shut from the inside , it will remain fast, by means of a latch falling into its proper place. A goose, or a sheep, is then placed in the central space, from whence it cannot escape, and the door, (which opens inwards), is left open, and stops up the passage on one side.

The wolf, attracted by the animal within, approaches with his usual caution : and, at length, seeing the door open, and the beaten path before him, enters. Once in, he cannot turn in the narrow path, and goes round until he comes behind the door which he pushes on and closes upon himself.

Not only do we learn of the cleverness of the farmer or whoever it was that designed this trap, we also see things that give us hints as to the intelligence of the wolf being trapped. They had to actually make the ground between the two circles look like a well worn path otherwise the wolf might become too suspicious and not enter.

The author also offers up an interesting observation, one of which I have never heard before this reading.

When wolves once taste human flesh they become perfectly ferocious and will ever afterwards attack a man when they meet him alone. They pass by the flock and fly at the shepherd.

I have read about quite a few wolf attacks on humans in several parts of the world and this is the first reference I can recall exclaiming that wolves like the taste of human flesh.

As I pointed out at the conclusion of Part I, I am not advocating for people in America to take up their staves and pitchforks and become part of a wolf drive that will force wolves into an ambush with the intent of killing every wolf possible. The point I’m making is that it has always been a very difficult task for wolves and human to live together in peace and harmony.

Historic documents from Russia, Italy, India, France, Scandinavia, America and Canada should tell us that a steady dose of good wolf management, which includes strict controls on populations will go a long way in avoiding what people had to go through years ago in order to protect their communities and personal property.

The wolf is an intelligent and highly adaptable creature. When the time comes to hunt them, I’m afraid we will learn that setting a man with only his rifle afoot to catch a wolf will make for a tedious effort with little result.

Tom Remington

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Trapping Lawsuit Dismissed In Minnesota

A lawsuit filed against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources by the Humane Society of the United States that would ban trapping has been dismissed by a federal judge. According to the United States Sportsmen’s Alliance, trapping will continue.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz dismissed the suit brought by the Humane Society of the United States against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to ban trapping for abundant game wherever endangered or threatened species exist. The anti’s had argued that since the state holds a population of Canada lynx, a species protected under the Endangered Species Act, all trapping of any species should be stopped to prevent incidental catch of lynx. There is no data proving this to be a problem.

The dismissal was in accordance with a settlement in which the DNR agreed to apply for a federal incidental take permit. The permits are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for activities that could possibly result in “take” of threatened or endangered species. Trapping will continue while the permit process moves forward.

This should come as good news to trappers in Maine as a similar lawsuit has been filed there by the Animal Protection Institute to ban trapping because of the Canada lynx.

Tom Remington

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Maine Trappers And Sportsman Groups Won't Fight Bear Trapping Changes

The Maine Trappers Association, The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and others told members of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Game‘s advisory council that they will not fight against the new proposals to outlaw steel-jawed leg hold traps and limit the number of traps to one, down from two.

Kevin Miller, Bangor Daily News.

Representatives of the Maine Trappers Association and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine told DIF&W’s advisory council on Wednesday that the one-trap limit is acceptable. But they questioned the need to ban all steel-jawed traps, arguing that many modern foothold traps are just as effective and humane as the more common cable foot snare traps.

Nonetheless, Skip Trask with the trappers’ group acknowledged that old, steel-jawed traps now considered unsuitable and inhumane for bear trapping are still legal in Maine.

Trask told members of the advisory council that he believes very few of these “obsolete” and “archaic” traps are still in use. Instead, most antique steel-jawed traps are kept around as collectors’ items, he said.

But Trask accused animal activists of “deceiving” the public into believing they are commonly used by Maine’s trapping community. As a result, the organization has agreed not to fight the proposed ban on foothold traps in hopes that DIF&W will eventually legalize modern foothold traps that are deemed safe, effective and humane.

The Maine Trappers Association would support language outlawing the use of obsolete, steel-jawed traps, he said.

Trask said that the group’s leaders recognized that if the issue were put to a public referendum or a vote in the full Legislature, trappers could lose the right to trap bears at all.

Roland Martin, Commissioner for MDIFW, has been accused by some of playing politics with the animal rights groups in order to appease them and give them what they want. He has denied that but at Wednesday’s meeting he had this to say.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Martin rejected statements that the proposal was a political move meant to appease anti-trapping groups. Martin said the recommendation is based on DIF&W’s best information. He added, however, that something needs to be done.

“We’ve got to send a message out there,” Martin said.

And exactly what does that mean? What’s the message? Is he saying by giving in to these groups we welcome more opposition? Is he saying MDIFW is willing to give in to your wants? Or is he saying that MDIFW is on top of this and is going to make changes with or without their influence? That’s a pretty open-ended statement to make without further clarification.

I wonder if he had more to say about that?

Tom Remington

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U.S. Sportsman's Alliance Joins Maine To Fight Trapping Lawsuit

The Animal Protection Institute filed a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to ban all trapping in areas where endangered animals live. Joining in that fight now is the U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance, who will side with MDIFW.

It is believed by many, including the USSA that the only goal that organizations like the API has is to use the manipulation of the Endangered Species Act to ban hunting and trapping. A ruling in favor of this ban would set a very disturbing precedent nationwide that could have a devastating effect on hunting and trapping and the economic support these two activities bring.

Read the entire article here.

Tom Remington

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