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OUTDOOR HAPPENINGS: Emotions run high when wolves are involved

Gray wolf.

Recently the Eastern Gray Wolf was delisted, and the first modern day harvest season was held in both Wisconsin and Minnesota last season. The harvest allotment and timing was very well controlled and everything went off with very few problems.

Before, during and after the season, however, there was and still is much controversy. The Native Americans went on record as being opposed to the harvest and several activist groups continue their efforts to block future harvest seasons. When the subject of wolves comes up, there appears to be no middle ground. People either love them or hate them.

Contrary to what many people believe, wolves were not relocated into Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service but were allowed to come back in on their own from neighboring states.

Recently I overheard a friend of mine talking about the wolf hunt and, when the alpha animal is removed from the pack, the pack disbands and scatters. Wolves have a very delicate life style. The harvest needs to be stopped.

While the whole situation is very controversial, there is a need for the harvest to continue. The best thing that can happen to an animal species is to be managed.

Before delisting, many wolves were being killed illegally. In wolf country, some folks considered them vermin and abide by the philosophy based on the three "S's" -- shoot 'em, shovel 'em and shut up.

I have several friends who live up north where the feelings run high. When I ask them about the wolves, they told me that people who don't live where they live don't understand the impact they can have on wildlife populations. They said to move up into the area and I'd understand.

While I do think that position is a bit overstated, I know that the opposition to the wolves' presence by some is not.

A few years back, my wife and her good friend attended a Timber Wolf Information Network (TWIN) outing at Treehaven near Tomahawk. Before any of the outdoor activities commenced, they were advised not to mention that they were affiliated with the group to any of the locals. Tensions were running high.

I feel that the wolf belongs in the state but needs to be elevated to the level of a prized big game animal. Keeping the numbers in check is extremely important but over time, hopefully, the wolf will be afforded the respect it deserves.

Controversial activities

While on controversial subjects, I'd be remiss if I didn't address a very disturbing situation that has been festering over many years but has recently resurfaced and is nearing the boiling point.

Back in the early 1980s, Native American treaty rights were broadly defined allowing various tribes certain rights which extended off reservation into the ceded territory. Spearing of fish and the taking of game under tribal authority was granted.

Methodology of harvest at times varied greatly from what was deemed normal by standard methods. The spearing of spawning fish was very contentious and numerous confrontational incidents occurred between tribal members and non-members.

Over the years things seemed to have settled down some and negotiations were made on certain lakes within the area to be speared by tribal authorities and the DNR. Lakes of a certain size within the ceded area could be speared and an allotment of harvestable fish would be declared by the tribes.

If a certain number were actually speared, then the bag limit on the lake during the normal fishing season would be adjusted to accommodate the number speared. Each lake has a renewable level of fish that can be taken and this would affect bag limits on the lake. Over the last several years this system seemed to be working reasonably well.

Recently, due to several disputed decisions on both sides, the situation has drastically soured. The wolf harvest season, mining legislation and prohibition of the tribes to hunt at night using an external light source has led the tribes to impose actions of their own.

They have harvested an elk from the struggling elk restoration area despite the objections of the DNR, they have held a musky spearing tournament on March 16 on five northern Wisconsin lakes calling it the "Honoring Our Treaty Rights Spearing Tournament" and recently they have declared increased levels of walleyes to be speared on a large number of ceded territory lakes. This will greatly reduce the bag limit in these lakes from the normal bag of five fish to one or two.

Our own Cedar Lake is annually speared but this year, if the declared number of fish from the lake are taken, the bag limit will be one walleye. All of the declared Polk County lakes except one could also have a bag limit of one.

I think that the numbers of fish to be taken is a bit of posturing by the tribes and if the declared numbers are not taken, the bag will be adjusted upward.

In the past, the spearing activities have occurred prior to opening day of the regular hook and line fishing season. What really worries me, however, is that due to our abnormally late spring, the fish spawning will be delayed and the spearing harvest will roll over into the regular season. This could be a very big problem.

Bird Day

On Saturday, May 4, the St. Croix Valley Bird Club is holding its third annual International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the River Falls City Hall and the White Pathway located on the scenic Kinnickinnic River. In 2010, the City of River Falls acquired the "Bird City Wisconsin" status.

The SCVBC has many activities planned including bird identification classes, bird banding demonstrations, guided birding hikes, face painting for the kids and lots of arts and crafts which will provide something for everyone.

Spend some time in the early morning catching a few fish on the fishing opener, and then spend some time at this truly fun filled event. This is multitasking at its finest.