Howling with Wolves Assistant Professor of Natural Resources Erik Olson serves on the board of the Timber Wolf Alliance and has conducted and collaborated on research regarding wolf-human interactions, landscape predictors of wolf attacks on bear-hunting dogs, and how pendulum swings in wolf management lead to conflict, illegal kills, and a legislated wolf hunt.
He has worked closely with Adrian Wydevan, former wolf biologist at the Department of Natural Resources and director of the Timber Wolf Alliance. In the spirit of scientific inquiry, education, and wonder, Olson and Wydevan take students and the general public out in the wilds of northern Wisconsin to experience the “primitive and unchanged” landscape Sigurd Olson talks about in The Singing Wilderness.
“I can talk all day about wolves and will never have the impact taking students out has,” Olson said. “Hearing a wolf howl changes lives.”
The following is one story from one student—Bijit Khadka, senior:
As part of my Wolf Ecology and Management class with Professor Olson, we went out in the field one weekend and used radio telemetry and howl surveys to track wolves around the Chequamegon National Forest area.
As a class, we drove around the forest roads, stopping every couple miles, getting out of the van and howling, in hopes of getting a response. We had been driving around for over two hours and only the owls and the tree frogs responded to us.
It was past midnight and we were about to head back. Professor Olson stopped the van for the last howl. Everyone was sleepy and only a couple of us got out. We were at the corner of a forest road, it was a clear and crisp night and the moon was bright.
He howled twice and loud. And then the forest on our left side reverberated with howls; coyotes—probably around fifteen individuals— and then came the yips and barks of pups. I was smiling wide. We just stood still for about five minutes.
Then from the right side of the forest we heard really loud howls. It was wolves responding to Professor Olson’s and the coyote’s howls. I was delighted to hear them and to feel their presence.
We howled again in excitement. As we stood there, quietly waiting for responses, we heard something trotting in front of us. So, we all looked, trying to figure out what it was. It was a wolf! Just two hundred meters ahead of us. He likely picked up our scent and came to check us out. We slowly backed off towards the van and watched the shadow disappear into the forest. It was an amazing night.