Voyageurs National Park Re-Routes Snowmobile Trail Due to Wolf Activity

A gray wolf.
A gray wolf. (National Park Service photo)

A lone wolf has been getting a little too close for comfort to snowmobiles on the Ash River, in Voyageurs National Park. The strange behavior has led park officials to re-route several miles of snowmobile trails around the area to keep people and the wolf apart.

In three incidents in less than two weeks, a single wolf has followed snowmobilers. It is unusual behavior for wolves, which usually avoid human contact.

Park superintendent Mike Ward says the wolf is not necessarily aggressive, but they are keeping people out of a two to three square mile area to prevent any incidents, and give biologists a chance to understand the animal’s behavior.

Ward told the Pioneer Press that a team was going to try to track the wolf on Tuesday to investigate, but there are no plans to kill the animal.

Wolf researcher David Mech said it is most likely a young wolf practicing at pursuing prey, though he didn’t think it would actually attack anybody.

“My guess is it’s practicing, practicing its hunting behavior, which is running fast after fast prey.¬†There’s no food reward in this. I don’t know if we can call it playing, just practicing. But we really don’t know,” Mech told the Pioneer Press.

Mech ruled out several other explanations, from rabies to defending territory. Rabies would have killed the animal by the time of the second sighting, and territorial defense always happens with a group of wolves. Mating season is also over, while denning won’t occur until April.

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