Another ‘What is it’ animal in northern Illinois
By William W. O’Leary
With winter 2010 giving way to the warming to spring, I was patrolling the northwest portion of O’Leary Forests. I spotted what I thought was a fox trotting westward. I called out “Fox,” and it turned around and trotted back to me. At less than five feet apart, I was surprised by the size of this animal. It was a very pregnant female and must have weighed nearly 90 pounds. The foxlike color and distance had fooled me.
We stared at each other at close range. Her expression seemed to say, “I know you. Don’t you recognize me?” When she turned and slowly returned to her trail, I noted that her bushy tail was solid color without a white tip as a fox would have. She held her tail level with her body. Foxes usually hold their tails vertically.
It took me some thought and a little research to figure out who this big, friendly, intelligent animal was. Animal Planet video to the rescue! This video showed a very large wolf pack with all color combinations and appearances. There were several perfect matches to my visitor. Her comfortable familiarity was the second hint as to who she was. She is the alpha female of our wolf pack. I had never previously seen anything of her but her eyes and the tip of her nose from the entrance of her den. She was usually guarding her pups.
I’m pleased to know that our wolf pack is still close enough to visit our west woods. They are valuable to us by helping to control the rabbit population.
The last visit from “Alph,” the alpha male of our wolf pack, was Nov. 4, 2009. Prior to that date, Alph and “Boomer,” our son’s golden Labrador, would occasionally tour Bluffside Heights subdivision together. Alph had a neck chain he would wear, but it didn’t fool some neighbors into thinking he was a domesticated dog. A couple of them asked, “Is your wolf dangerous?” In 45 years of having close or direct physical contact with wolves, I have never experienced any aggression from them.
William W. O’Leary is a resident of Rockford.
From the Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2010 issue
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