Sunday, August 30, 2009
Let's Get Wild!
As an animal lover, I always look forward to putting animals front and center in my Intrigues. I’ve written quite a few Intrigues with horses, but I’ve written about other animals, as well. Two of the McKenna books featured wolves—NEVER CRY WOLF (book 4) and WOLF MOON (book 8). Note that WOLF MOON not only had wolves but werewolves, as well.
Before writing NEVER CRY WOLF, I took a weekend wolf ecology workshop from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. The workshop was at a camp (indoors, thankfully, though we had to bring sleeping bags for bedding) an hour north of Stevens Point. So while it was “almost” Spring, there was plenty of deep snow and plenty of cold.
A couple of the workshop leaders were real outdoorsmen. They wore buckskin outfits, knee high mocassins and coyote headgear. Those weren’t just hats made of the skins, they were the coyote heads with skin flaps. Hum, how could I resist modeling my heroes after these guys?
As part of the workshop, we learned to cast and duplicate wolf prints—I still have mine—and then to go out in teams looking for prints and wolf scat. Since the snow was probably 3-4 feet deep, we had to learn to use both snowshoes and cross country skis. Our team found prints and scat that one of the workshop leaders confirmed as coming from a wolf. High excitement! Too bad we didn’t spot the actual wolf. We also learned how biologists tracked wolves by capturing, collaring and releasing them. It gave them the information necessary to see how packs moved through the state.
We learned a lot about wolf migration back into Wisconsin and Michigan from Canada and Minnesota. The emphasis of the group giving the workshop was on educating the public so the public wouldn’t shoot the wolves on sight. Did you know a single wolf pack (perhaps 6-8 wolves) needs a 100 square mile territory? Or that one wolf is only responsible for eating 8 deer in a whole year? Or that wolf pups are raised by all members of the pack? Or that only the alpha male and female mate and have pups?
My weekend in Wisconsin was one of the most fascinating research trips ever.
Some of the future McKenna books are sure to have more animals. But what kind of animals--domestic or wild--do you think would be fun to read about?