Wolf Encounters Lead To Fear In Ely

By KBJR News 1

August 6, 2010 Updated Apr 11, 2010 at 5:58 PM CDT

Posted by Sara Niklas

For a growing number of people living close to wilderness areas, dangerous wolf encounters and pets being lost to wolves, are an increasing cause of concern.

These reports, plus a recent situation in which a woman in Alaska was killed by a wolf pack, are contributing to mounting fear.

"Can you let your little kids play in your yard? I certainly wouldn't," said Gary Mitchell of Ely.

Many Ely residents are on full alert, keeping a close eye on their children as they play outside; others are thinking twice before letting pets run free.

Ely authorities confirm more than five dogs have been killed and eaten by wolves in the last three months.

One of those beloved pets belonged to Cheryl Anderson.

"It appears a second after she walked into the woods, most likely by the time I got back to the house, she was being ripped apart," she said.

Anderson's Saint Bernard, Missy, ran off as the pair was walking near Highway 169.

Missy's story is one of many but some wolf experts say often the pet owners are to blame.

They say keeping your dog on a leash is just common sense when walking near Northern wilderness areas.

"They don't see them as we see them see as a family pet. They see them as another wolf–like animal that might want to steal their food. So they want to eliminate their competition," said Jess Edberg of the International Wolf Center in Ely.

The brutal wolf attack on an Alaska woman last month has escalated fear in the Northland about pets and livestock, but wolf experts say the fear is generally unfounded.

Officials at the International Wolf Center here in Ely say domestic animals make up less than two percent of a wolf's diet.

Despite the assurances, many in Ely are worried.

"What happened in Alaska...I'd say the odds are that it will happen again," said Ely Mayor, Roger Skraba.

Mayor Skraba says reports of wolf sightings in the area are growing daily.

"I've noticed a lot more wolves than ever before, and we've all tolerated them; we've always put up, 'ok they're part of the fabric and they're protected,' but now it's come to the point where when you have two timber wolves walking down the main street, well Chapman Street, of Ely, and a guy going to work walking to his butcher job and he looks over and sees these two wolves walking with him," he said.

"I see lots of wolves. I see them in my yard. I see them quite often," said Dale Marelau.

The fear has now led to legal action.

An Ely man and an Aitken County cattle farmer have filed a lawsuit asking that wolves be removed from the endangered species list.

They want the state to manage the population.

"This all started probably the day that the wolf was drinking out of my birdbath," said Gerald Tyler of Ely who filed the lawsuit.

Tyler calls the wolf packs "fearless," and says citizens have the right to feel safe in their communities.

He says state experts understand this and would take the appropriate action.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has until early June to answer a Minnesota DNR request to turn control over to the state.

In the meantime, four animal protection groups are threatening legal action if wolves are removed from Federal protection.