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Duluth wolf sightings increasing

Wolf sightings around Duluth

Joette Snow got the call from a Lakeside neighbor Monday morning telling her to take a look at the dead deer in her yard.

"It was pretty ugly. The stomach had been ripped open,'' said Snow, who lives on Dodge Street. "And it was still fresh. It hadn't been dead very long."

She said she immediately suspected wolves.

"I don't think it was dogs. Dog might chew a little. But this was a lot more damage than that,'' she said, noting she later walked into the woods and found what appeared to be the kill site.

Snow said city crews picked up the deer carcass (after she had dragged it into the street) and didn't take a photo.

Skeptics could argue the deer may have been hit by a car or partially eaten by any critter. But Snow's report adds to a list of wolf sightings in the city recently.

"I hear reports every now and then. People talk about it when they see a wolf,'' said Steve Marshall at Marshall's Hardware in Lakeside.

In recent weeks, there have been several reports of wolves walking along the North Shore Scenic Railroad tracks, in Lakeside yards and at the Northland Country Club.

"I was 50 feet from one that was walking along the tracks behind my house the last week in March,'' said Peter Salyards, who lives on East Superior Street. "What was remarkable to me is that this was the middle of the day.''

Salyards described a large, light gray canine that didn't look like any dog he had ever seen. Another Lakeside resident saw possibly the same animal a week later and snapped several photographs that made their way to Martha Minchak, assistant area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"I wasn't sure ... I thought it might be a hybrid husky/wolf or something,'' Minchak said. But when the photos were forwarded to a renowned wolf expert, "he said it could well be a wolf.''

DNR Conservation Officer Kip Duncan said he has taken several reports of wolves in town, including a recent account from a woman saying she and her dog were followed by one when walking through Northland Country Club golf course.

"She said the wolf really wouldn't stop following them. She thought it seemed interested in her dog,'' Duncan said.

Reports filter in on occasion from Duluth's far west near Magney Snively Park, and from the east, near Hawk Ridge or Hartley Nature Area. Park Point residents also have reported seeing wolves on the frozen harbor on occasion.

Duluth is blessed, or some might say cursed, with an abundance of wildlife unheard of in most cities of 85,000 people. Deer are so common they are a nuisance with a special urban hunting season to trim their numbers. Eagles and peregrine falcons nest in town. Black bear thrive here, some year-round residents and others seasonal visitors. Moose wander into town on occasion.

Fox, beaver, fisher, skunk, coyote -- all are common residents. But wolves, with all the emotions they conjure, are not as commonly seen in town. Many wolf reports turn out to be dogs or coyotes.

"We get a handful of reports of wolves in Duluth [yearly], usually around the end of winter,'' said Rich Staffon, DNR area wildlife manager. "They certainly do come into the outskirts of town on occasion, but I don't think they are staying in town like bears do."He said wolf packs are well-established within 20 miles of the city limits, and it's not unexpected for them to occasionally edge into town looking for deer.

So far, Salyards, Snow and Marshall said their neighbors seem more interested than scared over the wolf reports.

"I'm not really concerned about them. Then again, I don't have small children or small pets,'' Snow said. "It seems like we are either dealing with wolves or bear or raccoons around town ... Duluth has it all.''