Pack Of 17 Wolves Faces Eviction Threat
FRANKLIN, Wis. (AP) _ The full-grown, full-blooded wolves looked wary but calm as they cast amber-eyed stares at a visitor.
″They’re always wild,″ James W. Rieder said of the 17 Eastern timber wolves threatened with eviction this month from the suburban Milwaukee property.
″My relationship with these wolves is strictly mutual trust and respect. I’m not the boss. You can’t train wolves but you can develop mutual trust.″
Rieder, 56, a former trucker, has been raising endangered wolves on the 2 1/4 -acre site on the outskirts of Milwaukee for 20 years.
But he faces eviction Nov. 22 by Richard L. Brown of New Berlin, who bought the property from him in 1979. The eviction, citing about $3,800 in unpaid rent, was ordered last month by Milwaukee County Court Commissioner Thomas R. Cooper, who gave Rieder 30 days to evacuate.
The problem, Rieder said, is that he and his nonprofit Timber Wolf Preservation Society don’t have the time or the money to rebuild the wolf farm, with its series of fenced enclosures and outbuildings, at another site within that time frame.
Moving the wolves ″would be very traumatic for these animals. They’d have to be sedated,″ Rieder said, ″and if they wake up in a different surrounding, they’re just going to be traumatized - how bad I don’t know.″
Still, publicity over the eviction order has resulted in offers of new sites, and Rieder said one possibility being investigated would have the farm move to county-owned property, also in Franklin.
Government agencies rejected Rieder’s proposal for using his wolves to repopulate remote areas, but he contends his animals could eventually be valuable for such a project.
″We have here probably the purest viable breeding gene pool of timbers,″ Rieder said.
The 17 animals range in age from 2 1/2 years to 15 years and weigh as much as 140 pounds. The property is licensed by the state Department of Natural Resources as a game farm; Rieder holds an endangered species permit from the state.
Rieder, who lives in a small house on the property, said the operation’s funds come from membership fees in the Timber Wolf Preservation Society, honorariums for talks he gives, a $1 admission fee for weekend visitors and revenue from a one-room gift shop.
He speaks to school and other groups and also has worked with a juvenile restitution program in which delinquents help with chores at the wolf farm as a community service, he said.
″I think we’re a valuable asset to the community,″ he said. ″What better way to get the story across and destroy the ‘bad wolf’ myths.″
Irene Lange, secretary-treasurer of the Timber Wolf Preservation Society, said group members were worried about the eviction order.
″It’s a shame because he really takes good care of the wolves,″ she said. ″I just hope for a miracle. I don’t know what we can do. If I had the money, I’d pay it.″