Created: 08/23/2013 10:24 AM KSTP.com By: Jennie Olson
Photo: MGN Online
Worried about wolves becoming too bold around humans, Minnesota wildlife officials have stepped up warnings to residents to not feed the animals that are increasingly wandering along northeastern Minnesota roadways.
The campaign has taken on special significance north of Duluth, where tourists are looking to catch glimpses of wolf pups sometimes by leaving food on the roadside. The pups have readily approached vehicles Minnesota Public Radio News reported Friday.
Assistant Department of Natural Resources wildlife manager Nancy Hansen said the pups use the stretch of forest near the intersection of two county highways as a rendezvous site while adults in the pack leave to hunt. She said officials cannot relocate the pups, because they would either die away from the pack or just return to the area.
"They are at a very busy intersection," Hansen said. "It's going to get busier, with hunting season coming up, so I'm concerned."
Area residents are also worried about the negative consequences of having the animals get too comfortable.
"You'll notice they have no fear here," said Gary Hepola, who runs a bar and general store in Brimson, which is 40 miles north of Duluth.
Hepola said the wolves have grown steadily bolder over the past six weeks and he has had to scold people for leading piles of food as an enticement so they can snap better pictures.
"People don't realize they're going to become adults. They're cute now -- not so cute when they're big," he said.
News of the wolves has spread on Facebook, and more and more people are flocking to see them.
The International Wolf Center in Ely is dealing with a similar situation on the Echo Trail near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, said information director Jess Edberg. Wolf pups casually walk across the road or sit on the side as vehicles go by rather than fleeing. She said even a passive observer can encourage wolves to frequent an area.
"We want to make sure that wildlife have a healthy fear avoidance of humans, so honking your horn or yelling, not encouraging the animal to be there is going to be helpful for the survival of that animal," Edberg said.
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