Bearing the News: Wolf Hunt Revived in Minnesota

The two pieces that follow came to me unbidden in the fall of 2012 after I read a local article about a young mother who won a license to kill a wolf in the state-wide lottery for the first hunt in Minnesota in almost forty years. The protests of the Minnesota Ojibwe for whom the wolf is sacred, concerned citizens across the state, and many environmental and conservation groups had been to no avail. Nor was the substantial research questioning whether a newly de-listed species should be subjected to the pressures of hunting and trapping. The hunt would go forward a mere nine months after the Great Lakes Western Grey Wolf was removed from the federal Endangered Species List.

A cry that seemed not entirely my own rose inside me as I gave voice to grief that seemed to come from more than me. I felt intense pain as I wrote these pieces—a grief more ferocious and insistent than my usual sorrow for the decimation of earth’s sentient beings.

The poem came with a pounding, a felt sense of long grey legs and strong feet racing toward their doom. I could not stop the poem’s coursing onto the page. I offer it as it came, without revision.

The creative non-fiction piece mostly wrote itself, too, a few hours after the poem. It weaves three voices/points of view—the third person narrator, the reported and quoted voice of the young woman, and a voice that speaks for the wolf—into a brief episode laced with grief, anger, irony and loss. The final scene, after the hunt, is an imagined one, but expresses the pointless waste that often follows the taking of a “trophy” animal, and the responses of children who still retain, on some level, their bond with animals as kin.

Cry Ravens

A carcass draws the ravens in
Cry ravens, cry
Some tug at the flesh; some hover and wait
They’re unaware this meat is bait
Cry ravens, cry.
You’ve told the wolves there’s food for all
Cry ravens, cry
But it’s not for you the table is laid
It awaits the wolf that is unafraid
Cry ravens, cry.
What do you see as you circle the feast?
Cry ravens, cry
Wolves approaching on silent feet
not knowing it’s death they run to meet
Cry ravens, cry

They pause at the carcass; something’s not right
Cry ravens, cry
Poised and wary, ready for flight
But unaware of the focused gun sight
Cry ravens, cry.

Fire explodes from a shuddering tree
Cry ravens, cry
The chosen wolf drops, the pack wheels and flees
A black feather floats on a silent breeze
Cry ravens, cry
Cry ravens, cry

Local News

On Saturday, November 3, 2012 a shot will find its mark, killing the first wolf in a legal hunt in the State of Minnesota since 1973. Unless the experiences of their ancestors are indelibly coded in their instincts, the grey wolves following the scent of deer carcasses left as bait that morning will approach the feast without fear. Six thousand hunters will carry licenses issued by lottery to kill a total of four hundred wolves in the “harvest.” It is estimated that three thousand wolves now live in Minnesota.

(Will wolf #401 understand that its death was unfair—the hunt was already over? What about #402? #403? Who will call halt? Will Wolf’s partner Raven cry to the hunters to put up their guns? Announce that wolf #400 is now a trophy?)

Kelly, the only lottery winner in her northern Minnesota town, smiles from the front page of the local paper as she holds up her license to hunt wolves. She will forego opening day and hunt later in the month, so as not to miss deer season.

She says she has hunted deer since she was twelve, but that she sat in her grandfather’s deer stand before she could hold a gun. She says she has brought her ten- and four-year-old daughters to her deer stand with her since they each were one-and-a-half years old. “It is very important to me to continue that deer hunting tradition,” she said.

Kelly thinks that the wolf is a pretty smart animal and that this hunt will require different techniques than deer or bird hunting. She will begin by looking for trails and tracks near her family hunting shack. Cameras they have placed along game trails already show the presence of wolves nearby. (Their startled eyes shining as the flash explodes.) She’ll have friends leave their deer carcasses for her to use as wolf bait, since baiting is legal in this hunt.

“I don’t gut the deer I shoot,” she said, “so my brother and dad will have to gut the wolf for me if I shoot one.”

Kelly knows the wolf hunt is controversial, but she accepts the local wisdom that a hunt is needed because of the number of wolves and their decreasing fear of humans. They’ve become so overpopulated, people say, that they are less timid. She worries about the kids and dogs when they’re at the hunting shack.

She says that if she’s successful, she’ll have the wolf mounted and sacrifice the place in the living room where her treadmill now stands. “I think that would be pretty neat,” she said.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected a request for preliminary injunction to stop the state’s inaugural wolf hunting and trapping season. The court ruled that the petitioners, including Native tribes of Minnesota, did not meet their burden of proof of irreparable harm, even though wolves were taken off the federal endangered species list only nine months before.

(Will Kelly attract a wolf to her bait pile? Will she falter just a moment faced with the magnificence of the animal? Will her finger shake on the trigger when she sees the gangly pups trot up alongside their mother? Their mother? Will she meet the ancient knowledge in its eyes before she shoots—and never be the same?)

* * * *

Kelly places her wolf mount in the living room. Her four-year-old stands by it quietly. She sinks her hands deep into its fur and hugs it. Was it okay to kill the wolf, Mommy? she says. The ten-year-old walks into the room, pauses, and walks out. It looks like a dog, she says.

Now the wolf’s glass eyes stare out at Kelly’s living room. When she’s alone in the room she feels them follow her. This is ridiculous, she thinks. Why am I creeped out by a stuffed animal?

When it’s time to bring in the Christmas tree, she puts the wolf in the basement.

About the Author

Kate Lidfors Miller retired from a career in the National Park Service and is now fully engaged with writing, completion of a second master’s degree at the Goddard Graduate Institute, and her new professional practice, WordPow! writing that empowers. Her writing has appeared in the literary journals Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Connotations, Dust & Fire and scholarly publications, including Pacifica, The Public Historian, Alaska History, and the exhibition catalog for Russian America: The Forgotten Frontier. She lives on Rainy Lake near International Falls, MN.

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