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Keepers of the Wolves: The Early Years of Wolf Recovery in Wisconsin

Overview


It was 1978, and there had been no resident timber wolves in Wisconsin for twenty years. Still, packs were active in neighboring Minnesota, and there was the occasional rumor from Wisconsin’s northwestern counties of wolf sign or sightings. Had wolves returned on their own to Wisconsin? Richard Thiel, then a college student with a passion for wolves, was determined to find out.
    Thus begins Keepers of the Wolves, Thiel’s tale of his ten years at the center of ...
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Overview


It was 1978, and there had been no resident timber wolves in Wisconsin for twenty years. Still, packs were active in neighboring Minnesota, and there was the occasional rumor from Wisconsin’s northwestern counties of wolf sign or sightings. Had wolves returned on their own to Wisconsin? Richard Thiel, then a college student with a passion for wolves, was determined to find out.
    Thus begins Keepers of the Wolves, Thiel’s tale of his ten years at the center of efforts to track and protect the recovery of wolves in Northern Wisconsin. From his early efforts as a student enthusiast to his departure in 1989 from the post of wolf biologist for the Department of Natural Resources, Thiel conveys the wonder, frustrations, humor, and everyday hard work of field biologists, as well as the politics and public relations pitfalls that so often accompany their profession.
    We share in the excitement as Thiel and his colleagues find wolf tracks in the snow, howl in the forest night and are answered back, learn to safely trap wolves to attach radio collars, and track the packs’ ranges by air from a cramped Piper Cub. We follow the stories of individual wolves and their packs as pups are born and die, wolves are shot by accident and by intent, ravages of canine parvovirus and hard winters take their toll, and young adults move on to new ranges. Believing he had left his beloved wolves behind, Thiel takes a new job as an environmental educator in central Wisconsin, but soon wolves follow. By 1999, there were an estimated 200 timber wolves in 54 packs in Wisconsin.

This is a sequel to Dick Thiel's 1994 book, The Timber Wolf in Wisconsin: The Death and Life of a Majestic Predator. That book traced the wolf's history in Wisconsin, its near extinction, and the initial efforts to reestablish it in our state. Thiel's new book looks at how successful that program has been.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Dick Thiel’s exciting story of the return of wild timber wolves to Wisconsin shows the difference one person can make in the conservation of wildlife and wild places, and the enormous difference that can be made when government policymakers support conservation efforts."—Gaylord Nelson, former United States Senator and founder of Earth Day

"Told from the heart by the person who was most involved in the recovery of the wolves."—Diane Boyd, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

KLIATT
Thiel has created a most entertaining book, full of anecdotes and insights into wolf behavior and into human issues in relationship with wolves. All wolves were believed to have disappeared from Wisconsin in the 1950s, but Thiel, even in high school, was intrigued by the presence of wolf signs he taught himself to recognize. Later, as a wolf biologist, he supervised the rebuilding of the population in a complex operation that involved the welfare of both wolves and humans. In this book, he tells of the sociology of the packs, the prey the wolves fed upon (mostly deer), and the causes of wolf deaths. The reader gains a feeling for the day-to-day work of a wildlife biologist, including the need to deal with controversy, such as seemingly mundane decisions as whether to give wild animals numbers or names. Public opinion, Thiel feels, is often misguided, and sometimes journalists' reports focus more on sensationalism than fact. As director of the wolf recovery program in Wisconsin from 1980 to1989, Thiel wrote a book called The Timber Wolf in Wisconsin: The Death and Life of a Majestic Predator (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1993). After his retirement, he wrote Keepers of the Wolves to complement his earlier work. The large number of high school students and adults who are intrigued with wolf behavior and who enjoy works of art and fiction built around wolf mythology will enjoy it. Naturalists, others who care about the preservation of wildlife, and persons who have to deal with real wolves "on the ground" will also appreciate it. Illustrated with pen and ink sketches, maps, and wolf graphics. Category: Nature & Ecology. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior highschool students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Univ. of Wisconsin, 227p. illus. notes. index., $19.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Edna M. Boardman; Minot, ND SOURCE: KLIATT, March 2002 (Vol. 36, No. 2)
From The Critics
Biologist-wildlife educator Thiel relates how the wolf recovery program he directed in 1989 helped the endangered wolf rebound in Wisconsin. Supporting the text are local wolf distribution maps, graphs charting the population increase, and sketches. He concludes that only continued compromise between wolf advocates and opponents will ensure the future of the species. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299174743
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Richard P. Thiel is coordinator of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Sandhill Outdoor Skills Center in Babcock, Wisconsin. He was team chairman for Wisconsin’s wolf recovery plan in the late 1980s. He is the author of The Timber Wolf in Wisconsin, a history of wolf extermination in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Phantoms of the Forest 3
Beginnings 18
The First Winter 25
Dust, Mosquitoes, and a Few Collared Wolves 34
Trying Times 62
What's in a Name? 91
Deer, the Wolf's Bread (and Bane) of Life 105
All in the Family 123
Murphy's Law 147
Boy, Would I Love Your Job! 157
They Shoot the Messenger, Don't They? 168
Life in the Shadow of Civilization 180
Farewell 200
Wolves in the Twenty-first Century 205
Notes 219
Index 225
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