September and October brought a rash of wolf sightings and encounters to the Winnebago County area. Six reports fingered six unconfirmed wolves all within 15 miles and closer to Rockford. All but one of the animals were seen north of Rockford.
Scott Caring, a naturalist from Rockford, may have been closer to a live wild wolf than any humans have been in the last 100 years in Illinois. Scott was in a natural area near Rockford when he had an encounter with a mammal he says couldnt have been anything but a wolf.
Scott was bird watching when he noticed three deer standing still watching him but preoccupied with something over their shoulders. He moved forward cautiously trying to spot what the deer were concerned about. Thirty seconds later, he nearly tripped over a fourth deer in what Caring called the fawn position.
The doe was lying on her stomach with her chin on the ground in the ultimate of hiding positions, said Caring. Then in a small area ahead, birds and small mammals started to chatter loudly in an attempt to warn.
At this point, Caring felt strongly that either a human hunter, a cougar or a wolf was stalking the deer. The mammals sounding off were chipmunks, gray squirrels and fox squirrels. The noisy birds were robins, bluejays, cardinals, chickadees, flickers, red-bellied woodpeckers, song sparrows and white-throated sparrows. The chorus was moving slowly, meaning the mystery stalker was moving slowly. The white-throated sparrows were flying to the tops of the shrubs as the predator walked beneath those very shrubs; thus, the birds were a living pointer. But the stalker was merely flushing the ground-hugging sparows as he moved close to them. The deer hunter was fearful of Scott, and its movement finally caught Scotts eye. Finally, I could see it as it stared at me from a tiny opening, he said. I got a great look at it; it was large80 to 90 pounds with a big bushy tail, big feet, light-colored eyes and fur with typical coloration and color patterns of a gray timber wolf. Everything about it said WOLF, and it looked healthy and muscular. Ive seen wolves at Yellowstone National Park, and Ive seen them in Wisconsin. Ive seen wolf-dog hybrids and know their physical and behavioral characteristics. The magnificent predator I saw on that day was a wolf, nothing else, he stated.
Scott Caring was an estimated 70 feet from the wolf. He said the encounter was somewhat spiritual in nature. Native Americans referred to the wolf as another nation. In the days that followed the encounter, Caring called the Illinois DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His calls and others, plus the fact that Winnebago County is an important link in the I-90 wolf corridor has wildlife officials considering giving Winnebago County a wolf watch status. Winnebago County has other qualities that attract wolves, qualities such as an abundance of deer, beaver and turkey, and lets not forget the four rivers that course our county, said one DNR official.
Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associates degree in science and a bachelors in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.