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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Our friend Rachel Tiseth in Wisconsin raised an excellent point today calling my attention to the fact that in Europe and in Yellowstone Park here in the USA, Wolf watching and Wolf watching ecotours are generating millions of $$ for business and State and Local Governments..................Instead of looking to institute hunting seasons on the Wolves of the Great Lakes region, State Game Agencies should be encouraging outfitters and other enterprising folks to be promoting wolf watching and tracking.........Far more $$ in these type endeavors and far more appeal to a wider net of tourists than the shrinking pastime of hunting..........By the way, Rachel has created a very fine facebook page about all things wolf which I recommend that all of you blog readers check out at

From: Rachel Tilseth []
Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2013 1:00 PM
To: Meril, Rick
Subject: Re: Wisc wolves

Would like to do that here in Wisconsin as we have excellent wildlife veiwing here.  Would you be willing to blog about it?  Its a way to save predators. 

On Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 2:04 PM, Meril, Rick <> wrote:
Rachel…………… your facebook page……………….I am 100% with you on the ecotourism idea……………….
Gray Wolves in Yellowstone National Park

Since wolves returned to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, the charismatic predators have stimulated significant
economic activity, and clearly having a positive impact on the economy of the greater Yellowstone area.

Visitors to the park now rank the wolf as one of the primary animals they come to see, thereby creating new demand for lodging, guided wolf-watching tours and a variety of wolf-related merchandise.
· In 2005, approximately 94,000 visitors from outside of the
three states surrounding the Yellowstone—Montana, Wyoming
and Idaho—came to the park specifically to see or hear wolves
and spent an average of $375 per person, or a total of $35.5
million in the three states.

· The estimated total economic impact of wolf recovery on the
three-state area outside of Yellowstone is estimated to be about
$58 million in 2005.
From: Rachel Tilseth []
Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2013 11:50 AM
To: Meril, Rick
Subject: Wisc wolves

Hi Rick
I enjoy your blog and pass along many of your articles.  I' working with a senator here to take the dogs out of the hunt.  And I've been researching on wolf watching in Europe.  Boy are we here behind the times.  Spain has 2000 wolves and has made a eco tourism business out of it.  I'm trying to do that here.  I have a company and do have a few wolf how tours scheduled for this summer.  I believe here in Wisconsin we have a diamond in the ruff with possibilities.
What do you think of wolf watching?


 in Spain

A wolf-watching tour in Spain
 suggests that attitudes
 towards the species are changing
Canis lupus, the Iberian wolf©Plain Picture
Canis lupus, the Iberian wolf, is making a comeback in Portugal and Spain
Seven in the morning on a midwinter day in the
 Sierra de la Culebra,
 a remote mountain range in the province of Zamora,
where Spain
turns a corner into northeast Portugal. The sun comes
 up reluctantly
over a landscape that a heavy frost has turned a
 ghostly white, as if in
You might argue that there are better places to
 be at dawn on a
 Saturday morning than this nearly treeless
 heathland where
 the temperature hovers a few degrees below
 zero. Yet here
 we all are, lined up behind our telescopes, a
 group of nature-freaks
 in layers of wool and Gore-Tex, peering into
the far distance.
 The silence is dense with anticipation.

A map of the SpainWe have come, mostly from Catalonia
 and the Basque Country,
 to take part in a weekend event dedicated
 to the observation of
 the Iberian wolf Canis lupus, a species that
 after decades of
near-extinction is at last making a comeback
in certain out-of
-the-way corners of the peninsula, like this
 bleakly beautiful
sierra hanging off the western edge of Spain.
La Culebra is an expanse of rolling country,
 much of it protected
as a hunting reserve covering 67,340 hectares,
 whose harsh climate
 and poor soil have caused several generations
of locals to leave. The
village of San Pedro de las Herrerias – whose
 Veniata rural tourism
 centre was the venue for last month’s weekend
 wolf-fest, with talks
 on conservation, culture and lore, and guided
 sightings – currently
 registers a total population of just eight.
The Sierra de la Culebra – the name means
snake mountains”,
 referring to their undulating topography – is
the setting for avolte-
face in the sometimes awkward relationship
 between rural society
 and wild nature. Traditionally the wolf has
 been the sworn enemy
 of the livestock farmer and shepherd, Spanish
 country lore holding
 that the only good wolf was a dead wolf. But
in a drastically
 underpopulated area with few resources, the
novel concept of
 “wolf tourism” is being greeted as a welcome,
if radical step.
To say that the wolf suffers from a bad
reputation is like saying
 the great white shark isn’t everyone’s
 favourite fish. European
mythology is thick with references to
 the predator. For much of
 its history, Spain’s economy depended on
 sheep farming, so it’s
 easy to see why the wolf might have been
 public enemy number
one. But this doesn’t explain the heady
mixture of hatred, awed
respect and superstition that surrounds
 the animal. In Galicia, it
 was believed that the seventh-born male
son was a likely werewolf,
and the lobao, in Castile, was a persistent
 cough believed to afflic
t an infant that had seen a wolf pass by.
 In some parts of Spain it
 was forbidden even to mention the
 L-word (lobo), as if even that
 might be enough to attract it.
One morning our group visits the village
 of Lubián, at the western
 end of Zamora where it borders on Galicia,
 to see a stone-built wolf
trap (last used in 1960), at the centre of
which a goat would have
been tethered as bait. When a wolf fell into
the trap, it would be
 tortured and paraded around the village
as a grisly trophy.
There have always been wolves in Spain.
 Tales of Twilight-style
 encounters are within the memory of
 most elderly folk in rural
areas. The species once roamed the
 peninsula from the
Mediterranean coast to the forests
of Galicia, before urban
 development, motorway building,
 forest fires, habitat
 destruction and merciless persecution
 nearly put paid to it.
At its lowest point in the 1970s, estimates
Javier Talegón,
 a guide and lecturer at the wolf weekend,
 numbers may
 have been reduced to a few hundred.
Wolftracks in soil
But in the past decade the tide has begun to turn. The wolf
 has returned to Asturias. It has been spotted in Segovia
and Guadalajara, and as far south as Extremadura. There is
also evidence of a population in the Pyrenees, and even in the
 mountains near Madrid. An accurate headcount is nearly
 impossible, but figures of between 1,700 and 2,260 have
 been quoted for Spain and Portugal combined.
The wolf has joined the Cantabrian bear and the Iberian lynx,
 both still highly endangered but holding steady, as one of
Spain’s “star” animal species. Nature lovers both Spanish
 and foreign have been known to “collect the set”, travelling
 to Asturias to see bears, followed by Sierra Morena for the
 lynx and Zamora for the wolves.
And nowhere has this kind of eco-tourism been more successful
 than the Sierra de la Culebra. If the region of Castilla y León has
 more wolves than anywhere else in Spain, with 60 per cent of
the total population, Zamora is undoubtedly the heartland of the
 species and La Culebra, with its relatively high density of five
 wolves per 100 sq km and its wide vistas, may be the best
place in Europe in which to observe them.
. . .
The wolf’s success story here has as much to do with
demographics as conservation per se. Rural society has
 declined, and the wolf population has risen. As shepherding
 becomes a marginal activity, attacks on livestock are less
 common than they used to be. The 10 wolf packs currently
 inhabiting the reserve have more than enough deer, boar
 and rabbit to prey on to keep them from the flocks, and
 local shepherds have partially relaxed their formerly
 harsh opinions. “You say you’ve come to see wolves
and they say, good for you, there’s a lot of them about.
 They might even be a bit pleased that you’re interested
 in local customs,” says Sergi Garcia of Barcelona-based
 conservation group Galanthus, organiser of the wolf-weekend.
Antonio Navarro, owner of Veniata, has been a witness,
 as well as a beneficiary, of changing attitudes towards
the wolf. Navarro, a former economist with Spain’s biggest
 energy companies, retired in 2005, looking for the quiet
 life in back-of-beyond Zamora. What he could not have
 foreseen, when he opened his rustic lodgings, was that
 the wolf would become the pillar of his business. Since
 Veniata’s first wolf-related activity in 2007, says
Navarro, as much as 70 per cent of his clientele has
 come exclusively to see wolves. Despite what he
describes as the “indifference” of Castilla y León’s
regional government, which continues to allow
 wolf-hunting in the region, Navarro believes that
 tourism based on live wolves, rather than dead ones,
 could make a major impact on the economic well being
of the area.
Down in Veniata’s lecture room, where the group
 convenes between sightings and excursions,
Garcia says that almost half of all visits to the
 area are attributable to the “wolf effect”, and
 a dozen new turismo rural establishments have
opened in the past 10 years. With the value of this
 new form of tourism estimated at around €176,000,
the wolf is in effect an important generator of profit.
The following talk focuses on natural history. Wolf
poo is handed round in a freezer bag; skins and skulls
are examined. Javier Talegón, Zamora-born and a
passionate defender of the species in its wild state
, shows us grim images of wolves he has found poisoned,
 trapped and bludgeoned to death. Despite the changing
 attitudes, it seems that old hatreds die hard.
The wide vistas of the Sierra de la Culebra, where tourists come to observe the wolves©Paul Richardson
The wide vistas of the Sierra de la Culebra, where tourists come to observe the wolves
That afternoon we head out again to the vantage point,
 where the temperature has plummeted. The huge
 panorama of the moorlands, with the snowy Sierra
 de la Cabrera in the distance, would be worth the
detour even if there were no rare wild animals on
the agenda. As it is, I am beginning to lose hope of
 seeing them, and lose feeling in my feet.
Then a golden eagle is seen perching on a crag. A
 group of roe deer, grazing nearby, appears nervous
. A whisper goes up from one of the Catalans. He has
 spotted a pack at some two kilometres’ distance. A
 dozen telescopes swivel and zoom as one. It is a family
 group, says Javier, formed perhaps of an adult and
several youngsters from last spring’s litter.
The animals are grey-brown and grizzled. They could
 not be dogs: they are thicker-necked and thicker-coated,
 the face unmistakably vulpine, eyes piercing. Trotting
through an open field, they stop at the slightest sound,
evaluating the danger. The atavistic thrill of the sighting
 seems to reach back deep into the history of our species
 – and of theirs.
And there is more to come: that night, on a stroll around
 the village, I hear them howling in an eerie chorus,
alarmingly close.
On my way home I explore the sierra, stopping in villages
that seem but a whisper away from total abandonment.
Villar de Ciervo, a handsome small town whose stone
houses are shuttered, at least has a bank, a bar or two
 and a handful of shops.
At the Pensión El Remesal, the bar is decorated with
portraits of Canis lupus. Posters advertise wolf-watching
 tours; a cupboard displays wolf-themed merchandise.
Time was that to mention the wolf in anything other
than derogatory terms was to incur the wrath of your
fellow drinkers. Now Maria José, manager of El Remesal,
says “wolf tourism” has thrown her business a lifeline.
“All the fear we used to feel, that’s all in the past. What
 do I think about the wolf? I think it’s the only future
we’ve got.”
More European safaris: The call of the wild
Lynx in Spain
With around 300 surviving adults, the Iberian lynx is
 the world’s rarest cat. Naturetrek offers a six-day tour
of two lynx habitats: Coto Doñana and Sierra Morena,
 both in Andalucía, promising an 80 per cent chance of
 spotting a lynx. There is plenty of other wildlife,
including wild boar, otters, and the wild, curly-horned
 mouflon sheep. The tour costs £995, including flights from
Brown bears in Finland
The wetlands of Lake Lentiira, in the vast pine and
 spruce taiga forest of northeast Finland, is home to
 a number of European brown bears, as well as wolves,
elks and foxes. Night-time vigils in observation hides
are held to maximise the chances of spotting the
 reticent nocturnal creatures, while daytime activities
include guided forest walks and canoeing. A four-day
 visit starts at £775, including flights, accommodation
 and meals.
Bison in Poland
On Poland’s border with Belarus lies the forest
 of Bialowieza, home to more than 470 bison. Tourists
can visit the protected area of the park – a Unesco
world heritage site – with a three-hour guided tour
starting from £77 per group. Alternatively, High and
 Wild offers an 11-day group trip of three national parks
 (including Bialowieza) from £1,250 per person, excluding
 flights. As well as bison, visitors can expect to see wolves,
elks, stags and lynx.
Elk in Sweden
Wild Sweden offers overnight walking tours in the
 Bergslagen forest in central Sweden to track wild elk.
 The company has been providing guided excursions for
 more than 10 years and elks have been spotted on every
 tour since 2002. After a lakeside meal cooked on an open
 fire, you’ll be taken on foot to the glades where elk come
 to feed, following trails of hoof-prints, droppings
and bite-marks. Prices start at £150 per person
including an overnight stay in the Kolarbyn eco-lodge,
 known as “Sweden’s most primitive hotel”.
Clara Tait
Paul Richardson was a guest of Veniata Centro
de Turismo Rural ( Other
 companies offering wolf-watching trips include
 Wild Wolf Experience (
at Veniata; Speyside Wildlife (
 in the Sierra de la Culebra and Somiedo in Asturias;
and Nature Trek ( at the Sierra de la Culebra.

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