HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
December 25, 2006, Herald Journal

Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?

By JENNIFER GALLUS

Most people, I would guess, have a strong opinion of wolves, either positive or negative.

So much of the time, people base their opinions on hearsay or misconceptions. Who has the time to sit down and research common topics, such as wolves, to see if they are really as bad as they’re made out to be?

My family and I made time last summer when we decided to travel to Ely to the International Wolf Center.

Call me out of touch, but I had forgotten about its existence until I read about it in a brochure.

The facility opened in June of 1993 and offers a variety of educational programs for adults and families.

Afternoon, weekend, and week-long visits include howling trips, radio tracking, snowshoe treks, family activities, dogsledding, videos, presentations, flights over wolf country, demonstrations, and hikes.

Our visit consisted of a presentation about how wolves and dogs are similar, and how to interpret different dog behavior, wolf viewing, and all the touch and feel activities offered in the kids area.

One very interesting tidbit I learned about my dog is why she finds some dead animal, rolls in its’ mushy remains, and eagerly returns to the front door slime coated and stinky.

The behavior can be likened to finding something great and bringing it home (like a souvenir) for everyone to see (or smell), according to the wolf center.

My dog has been famous for this type of thing, but the worst occurrence happened last spring.

If you have a soft stomach, do not read the next sentence. She returned to the house with slime all down her back WITH a maggot in the slime to boot! Blahhhhhh!!!

I got out the rubber gloves, used about 1/2 bottle of doggie shampoo, and hosed her down thoroughly!

Well, at least now I know why she does this.

Back to the wolf center. Wolf behavior was covered at great length. Reasoning behind the fear of the wolf, coupled with the facts, dispelled much wolf-related fears.

Attacks on humans are said to be very rare.

A report that reviewed records of wolf-human encounters called “The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Wolf Attacks on Humans,” edited by John Linnell, documents worldwide wolf attacks during the past 400 years.

The report concluded that there are four factors related to wolf attacks.

These are rabies (a majority of attacks involved rabid wolves), habituation (many attacks involved wolves that had lost their fear of humans, provocation (wolves were provoked into attack when humans cornered, trapped them, or entered their den), and highly modified environments (many attacks occurred in areas where humans have greatly altered the environment).

The report also noted that a decrease in the incidence of rabies worldwide has led to a decrease in the number of rabid wolf attacks.

Good news!

Another respected report concludes that the vast majority of wolves do not pose any threat to human society, according to “A Case History of Wolf-Human Encounters in Alaska and Canada,” by Mark McNay.

“A person in wolf country has a greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting, or a car collision with a deer, than being injured by a wolf,” according to the report.

I really can’t do this topic justice, but you can go to www.wolf.org to view all that the International Wolf Center has to offer.

There’s learning vacations, three live web cams, kid pages and activities, adopt-a wolf, gift store, basic-to-scientific information, plus just a lot of cool and interesting wolf lore.

My favorite saying that I heard at the wolf center, which really stuck in my head is, “Don’t feed the stereotypes.”

Kid-isms

When I was clipping one of my boys’ fingernails he said, “Hey, don’t cut that one. I use it to reach up into my nose!”