ELY, Minn. (AP) — The growing number of gray wolves in Minnesota and other north central states is fueling a backlash against the predator, which is still protected under federal law.
In Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, thriving wolf packs are blamed for killing cattle and household pets. A large number of wolves were shot illegally during the last deer hunting season. Now there are efforts under way to make it easier to legally shoot problem wolves.
For many people, seeing a wolf in the wild is a rare opportunity. To Phil Miller, it’s another day’s work.
Miller is a Wisconsin DNR pilot who helps track wolves here in his Piper Aircraft. On a recent sun-washed morning, Miller was flying along the northern Minnesota-Wisconsin border listening to a radio for the faint pings transmitted by a wolf’s radio collar. These days, it’s getting easier to find wolves.
‘‘I think when we first started you know we were tracking maybe five or six, seven animals, something like that,’’ he said. ‘‘This year we were up close to 30, 32 just out of our station.’’
The radio starts beeping. That means Miller is getting close.
‘‘Right down there, see those tall pines? They’re right there.’’
A string of dark dog-like shapes are following a path in fresh snow.
‘‘Have you got a count on them there yet? There’s kind of a pile of them,’’ Miller says.
This pack has 11 wolves — the largest pack Miller has seen in 18 years.
These days Miller is also finding more dead wolves. Federal wildlife officials say 16 were known killed illegally in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan during the deer hunting season late last fall. That number is probably a fraction of the total number killed.
As impressive as wolves look from hundreds of feet in the air, they can be terrifying a few feet away — and deadly.
Just east of Ely, Minn., Cheryl Anderson has seen them on her property, and last week Anderson’s 5-year-old St. Bernard, Missy, didn’t come home after an outing....
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