Wolf sightings in Ogle County

Richard Benning (pictured), youth environmental educator at Severson Dells, made a presentation about wolves of the Midwest for the Ogle County Prairie Preservation Society's spring meeting at the Kickapoo Nature Center March 21. Photo provided

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President Illinois Renewable Energy Association

We had two visitors last fall who reported seeing what they believed to be a wolf on our property in Daysville, southeast of Oregon, Ill. One observer mentioned the lower portions of all four legs were white, and the rest of the animal was gray with scattered white. On a different day, the second observer provided no descriptive details beyond that the animal was much larger than coyotes he has seen.

We gave the observations little thought as other concerns filled our minds. Later, it was suggested that we have Richard Benning, youth environmental educator at Severson Dells, make a presentation about wolves of the Midwest for the Ogle County Prairie Preservation Society’s spring meeting at the Kickapoo Nature Center March 21.

The evening before the meeting, a friend called and asked if we had seen an article in the Chicago Sun-Times of March 18 about a wolf being photographed by a trail cam near Oregon March 9. Later, we looked at the heartlandillinois.com Web site for both the photo of the wolf and an article covering the observation.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) officials agreed the animal in the photo looks like a wolf. Now, Ogle County joins Henry, Pike, Lake, Stephenson, Whiteside and Kane counties as locations where individual wolf sightings have been confirmed.

Wolves and pumas, which have also been sighted in Illinois, are on top of the food chain. As top predators, they benefit from the energy stored in their prey. So far, the wolves are not thought to be in packs, although a breeding pair would meet the definition of a pack.

If their numbers increase and packs occur and grow in size, some controversy could arise as to the appropriateness of their presence. They are protected in Illinois under the federal Endangered Species Act.

While their presence arouses fear in some, others support their return to Illinois. Several years ago, we spent a delightful weekend at the International Wolf Center in northern Minnesota learning about wolves, mimicking their calls in anticipation of being greeted by the howl of packs in the area and taking a small plane flight to observe them in the wild.

Benning reported on the enjoyable times he spent at a wolf center in Wisconsin and observing wolves on Apostle Island. His presentation was informative and delivered in an interesting manner. It was an afternoon well spent.

While the economy remains in the doldrums, attendees at the session appreciated the opportunity for an affordable, informative presentation and follow-up conversations. Wholesome afternoon presentations and nature walks help to take our minds off our stressful economic conditions.

Such educational activities remind us of the powerful impact humans have on the environment. It was the passage of the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s that brought wolves back from the edge of extinction in the lower 48 states. Their return will present us with new management challenges, which we trust will be based on the kind of information presented by Benning at our recent meeting.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the March 31-April 6, 2010 issue

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