Thursday, November 22, 2012



With wolves increasing in number year by year, it might be time to visit the past and see how wolves were seen by our ancestors.  The wolf has always had a diabolic reputation, hence the stories of wolf men ( or loup garou as the French called them) - men transformed into beasts who killed by night.  There are many who discount not only stories of lycanthropy, but tales of wolf attacks.  The DNR assures us that we would be lucky to see a wolf, let alone be attacked by one. Nevertheless, our history abounds with stories of wolf pack attacks upon both humans and domestic animals.
    One of the Wisconsin's earliest tales of a wolf attack occurred in Jefferson County in 1837.  While walking from Aztalan to Milwaukee, Rev J. F. Ostrander, after crossing the Rock River on a raft, became lost as night fell in the dense forest.  Fearing he would lose his way in the dark, he decided to sleep in the top of a fallen tree, the best shelter he could find.  He started a fire to warm himself.  Soon he heard howls all about.  He heard the leaves rustling near him, and then saw the wolves staring at him.  He fed the fire, and threw burning sticks at the beasts.  For hours the wolves advanced - and retreated when pelted by firebrands. His fuel began to run out and he decided to make a break, carrying the burning branches he could carry.  He ran, turning to shove his firebrand at the wolves close on his heels, and then he set the dry leaves on the forest floor afire.  This delayed the pursuing pack, and allowed him to make the home of a friend seconds ahead of the beasts, denying them their intended meal.
     It seems from the accounts of wolf attacks that they occur when hard conditions have driven them to the edge of starvation.  In 1836, Isaac B. Judson was pursued by timber wolves while walking home at night from Milwaukee to Prairieville (Waukesha).  He was wearing a heavy coat, and was able to fend them off as he fled to a tavern by shaking the garment.  In 1891, a lumberjack named Peters was attacked by three wolves near the Nemadji river in Douglas County.  He received a number of ugly bites, but was able to fend off the creatures, which were described as "starving" with his heavy walking stick.  Similarly, in December of 1915, 17 year old Mabel Henderson of Downing near Menomonie, seeing her dog engaged with a wolf dispatched the predator with a mop handle. 
     Not all encounters with wolves ended well.  On November 19, 1891 three children in New Brighton Minnesota were attacked and killed.  The Duluth Evening Herald reported it as follows:

“St. Paul. Nov 19.— Wolves killed three children of Andrew Gulick near New Brighton, 10 miles north. During the great fires in Pine County in September, droves of wolves were driven south and have been living on sheep in the neighborhood of the stock yards at New Brighton. The Gulick children wandered away from home into the woods at noon and were attacked and devoured. Their cries were heard but before help could reach them they had been killed and partially eaten. Thirty-five armed men with hounds set out after the wolves and killed eleven in a swamp. Three hundred men will attempt to surround and exterminate the wolves.”

Two days later the Weekly Argus News of Crawfordsville Indiana reported:

“A reward is offered for every wolf scalp taken.  $50 will be paid to the man who kills the largest number of the beasts.”

     Grisly stories of wolf attacks abound in the old newspapers:

JUNE 1887- ARKANSAS:  “John Howell and James Thompson were killed by wolves in Fulton County, Arkansas.”

MARCH 1890-WINNIPEG, MANITOBA: “Loggers stumbled over a lot of bones…that were the silent and ghastly record of the terrible death of some human being.  The bones consisted of a human skeleton and the skeletons of seven wolves.  A revolver and seven empty shells were lying near the former”

NOVEMBER 7, 1891-Austin Minnesota:  Two children of Jerrard Jenson,  living near Austin. Minn., were torn to pieces by wolves.”

DECEMBER 1, 1909, OSHKOSH DAILY NORTHWESTERN: “Article: HUNTING AS BAD AS WAR – Thirty-Three Persons Killed and Many Wounded During Season Just Ended in Wisconsin - (first name unknown) Bielby. Sidnaw, Mich., disappeared on November 16, and suspected of having been eaten by wolves.”

JULY 15, 1911-MORRELL MINNESOTA: “Attacked by wolves in a swamp near Morrell, Minn., and escaping only after three of the pack had been killed and one wounded  by the heavy revolvers which they carried was  the thrilling experience of Frank Mikals and Frank Seidl related when they returned from a trip to northern Minnesota.”

MARCH 1912-MICHIGAN: “Mrs. Thelma Makklenien, wife of a farmer living near Austin is believed to have been killed and devoured by wolves last night.”

    As if the re-introduction of wolves into Wisconsin were not enough cause for worry, we now have werewolves terrorizing the countryside, according to a considerable number of people who allege seeing them:

“November 2006: Holy Hill Road in Washington County: Steve Krueger, a DNR worker, is on his daily routes picking up deer carcasses. He parks his truck and throws a small doe in the bed. When he climbs back into the cab to fill out the paperwork, his trucks starts to shake. Added Krueger, "At first I didn't think anything of it and it shook a little bit more vigorously a second time. I just glanced up into the rearview mirror of my truck and I saw this big, hairy, black I don't know what it was."

Steve threw it in drive and slammed on the gas.  "It was big, it was stocky," recalled Krueger. "It had big pointed ears on the top of its head, and a bigger snout than what a bear has. I guesstimated it was between six and seven feet tall." Steve filed a report of an aggressive animal to the sheriff's department. It didn't take long for the media to pick up on it.

     Linda Godfrey, an Elkhorn native has been studying reports of “wolf-men” for years.  She has written seven books on the subject, her first being “The Beast of Bray Road”, which is also the name of a movie released in 2005.  Sightings of this creature are reported as far back as 1936. An internet search will give you more information than you probably want.

       HALLOWEEN !

From the Dubuque telegraph Herald of January 22, 1922
Prairie Du Chein, Wis., Jan 21, 1922:  Mrs. Henry Chamberlain of Steuben, Wisconsin is the champion wolf hunter of this section of the country.  She is the leader of a wolf hunting squad over in the Kickapoo valley where wolves are still quite numerous and she is a sure shot with a rifle and can set a trap as good as any man.  This is the first instance where a woman has undertaken to kill off wolves in this section.  Years ago it was not uncommon for a woman to protect her home against wolves, but in those days they didn’t have to go out and look for the beasts – they prowled around the cabins.

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