A year ago we wrote the story “Wolf fraud photography.”  Hunting seasons this year have continued to produce some photos of wolves that look just huge.  A number of photos  this year have been of a “giant” wolf killed in the first Wisconsin hunt.  The dead wolf poses with the hunter and on top of the deer the hunter shot first, using all tricks of enlargement.  And as could expected the giant wolf only weighed 95 pounds, which, of course, makes us realize the buck the wolf rests on top of is smaller than we might have thought too.

The website, Coyotes, Wolves, and Cougars . . . Forever! has the story and the photos.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

76 Responses to Photos of remarkable 165 lb. Wisconsin wolf turn out to be 95 lb. average wolf

  1. Ida Lupine says:

    Surprise, surprise. Along with our ‘unique’ ability to feel emotion, we seem to have the unique ability for lies and deception.

    • ma'iingan says:

      “…we seem to have the unique ability for lies and deception.”

      The practice of intentional deception is well-documented across the natural world, from primates to insects.

      • JB says:

        You bet! In fact, some species make their living by disguising themselves as something else. Deception at its finest!


        • Mark L says:

          Understood…but that’s not a conscious effort at deception, that’s instinctual i.e. it doesn’t vary in each generation’s attempt at it. For example, we don’t wear camoflage, we put it on.

          • JB says:


            Yes, but I wasn’t the one making blanket claims. To disprove, “we seem to have the unique ability for lies and deception.” All that was needed was an example of another organism using “lies” or “deception.”

            Regardless, there are countless examples of purposeful animal deception! Brown-headed cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of others, deceiving other bird species into raising their young; angler fish use part of their body as “bait” to lure in unsuspecting prey (there’s a deception that ends in death); green frogs purposefully lower the pitch of their croaks to make themselves sound larger and scare off potential rivals, the list goes on and on…

            Our ability to deceive does not make us unique in the least.

            • Immer Treue says:


              “Yes, but I wasn’t the one making blanket claims. To disprove, “we seem to have the unique ability for lies and deception.” All that was needed was an example of another organism using “lies” or “deception.””

              In a sense, you have anthropomorphised here. Do the organisms that camouflage in order to survive, make a conscious effort to “lie” or deceive? Or is it a product of natural selection, of which they have no conscious control, whether tha cowbird, angler fish… Or a Canid who’s hackles rise.

              • JB says:


                The answer to your question depends upon whether you think those behaviors are under conscious control–if the animals mentioned have “free will”. Note, if you don’t believe that animals have free will, it gets kind of hard to praise or condemn any behavior–they are merely what they are “programed” to be. I don’t have an answer to this question; however, the prior thread contained a link to a letter written by prominent scientists claiming many animals had “conscious awareness”. In any case, “deceipt” seems the most appropriate terminology to describe the behaviors I listed above.

              • Immer Treue says:


                But to toss it back your way, is that “deceit” performed by the animal, the same as the deceit practiced by humans?

                What is free will? Had many conversations with a devout Christian friend who asked why, as a non believer, have I not lead a life of complete hedonism. It must be because of God. I don’t know. I’ve got a free will to do whatever I want, yet there exist societal norms, that if. It followed, one ends up a pariah or in jail. Are we, as just another animal on the earth any more or less “programmed” than a Canid?

              • Mark L says:

                Starting to remind me of Kiplings’ “how the leopard got it’s spots”, with the anthropomorphizing.

              • JB says:

                “…that “deceit” performed by the animal, the same as the deceit practiced by humans?”

                Are any two deceits “the same”? Honestly Immer, it is my belief that they are totally different, just as animal emotion and human emotion are different. Of course, “you can’t compare humans to animals” isn’t a very satisfying way to address Ida’s claim.

                Re: Free will– I think the extent to which humans have free will is largely determined by their social environment (and how this environment limits our choices). But honestly, you should ask a philosopher, not a scientist.

              • Immer Treue says:


                I’m becoming confused. Are we on the same side or polar opposites in this dialogue?

                Philosophical, perhaps, but when one ventures into the unknown, one must be prepared for said philosophy. What happens if, for the sake of discussion, science proves beyond a doubt that animals in nature form complex social ties and the emotions associated with them. Does that stop the killing? Probably not, when people can’t stop the senseless killing among themselves.

                NRA solution: armed guards in every school.

                Gun advocates solution: teachers should pack heat.

                Anthropomorphisms with how we look at animal’s emotions? What animal would aspire for our emotions. They’re better off as they are.

                Sorry, just read the NRA recommendation and a couple other nuggets. We are becoming the savages.

              • JB says:

                Immer, Ida:

                Ida placed humans and animals on the same moral playing field when she commented: “…we seem to have the unique ability for lies and deception.” My comments’ (along with Ma’s), were meant to show that this statement is false–other animals deceive as well.

                I actually agree that comparisons between human and animal behaviors are inappropriate here, but not because animals don’t have a choice (though the extent to which they have a choice is an interesting topic, ergo the free will conversation). Rather, the comparisons are faulty because animals lack the ability for moral reasoning. Thus, while we may recognize certain deceptions as morally wrong, an animal won’t; the ability to perform deception is simply a tool provided by evolution to improve individual fitness.

                So to return to Ida’s comment (“we seem to have the unique ability for lies and deception”); what makes us unique is not the ability to deceive, but the ability to PERCEIVE our deception as morally wrong.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          Wait a minute – for survival and protection is different! Making up stories to scare folks into agreeing with your agenda and ulterior motives to get rid of wolves is another thing altogether.

  2. ma'iingan says:

    The hunter in the photographs could be cited – WDNR regulations require that the harvest tag be validated and affixed to the animal immediately. That means before any photographs are taken. In two of the photos the tag is clearly not affixed to the wolf, and in the third it’s in the wrong place – it’s supposed to be attached to the upper jaw.

    • Tim says:

      Maybe the hunter didn’t want the tag in the way of his photo. Just curious but why do you have a rule of where the tag must be affixed. Seems as long as it is attached to the largest portion of the animal that should be good.

      • ma'iingan says:

        “Seems as long as it is attached to the largest portion of the animal that should be good.”

        The carcass tag has to remain with the carcass, which becomes the property of WDNR. The hunter/trapper is issued a separate pelt tag that allows him to possess the pelt.

        • Tim says:

          Interesting. I didn’t realize you issued two different tags. Does the hunter have the option of keeping the carcass and if so have any kept it?

          • ma'iingan says:

            I believe hunters and trappers can request that the skull be returned after morphological data has been gathered.

  3. CodyCoyote says:

    I’ll bet somethings else we can’t see are much smaller, too….

    • Salle says:

      Most likely. And if it isn’t a physical “thing” it’s surely a psychological self image thing.

  4. Carter Niemeyer says:

    Few wolves are weighed in the field with the exception of wolves handled by field biologists, so I take no credence in the weight of wolves expressed by hunters. It takes a hefty scale to weigh animals approaching 100 pounds in weight and few people tote a scale (or own one) in their field pack. Any wolf over 130 pounds would be an unusually large animal and often contain several pounds of their most recent meal. I am a total skeptic of hunter’s estimates of body weights although fisherman often come equipped to weigh their fish.

    • WM says:

      I don’t want this to sound too gross, and my apologies to those who find it so. I have never given any thought to how a wolf is “field dressed” with most eviscera (entrails and organs) removed. One would presume this would be done if the carcass had to be moved very far (and if the animal is not reduced to just a head and hide).

      There are calculators (some reduced to charts) to estimate live weights of deer and elk based on body weight of the animal with entrails removed.

      If these guys are so obsessed with this animal size thing, I suppose there will eventually be measurements of cranium, tail length or other characteristics which allow them to be entered into some sort of record books. Disgusting or not, it will be inevitable. It is a part of the human condition to recognize such characteristics.

      • ma'iingan says:

        WM – no reason to field-dress a wolf, unless one plans to eat it. They must be skinned within a few hours of death however – their thin skin allows stomach acids to leach through the membrane, turning the abdominal skin greenish and allowing the hair to slip.

  5. Moose says:


    Do you think that since quotas were reached so quickly in most wolf zones this year, there will be raised quotas next year? or was that a forgone conclusion before the hunt.

    Weren’t tribes allotted a 100+ quota as well on reservation lands, I know most publicly declined to participate in the hunt this year..but is that a realistic quota?

    Sorry to bombard you, but you seem to be in the know for WI

    • Harley says:

      Yes, I am interested in that one to Ma. Will they extend the hunting season for next year??

      • ma'iingan says:

        There will be political pressure to increase the quota.

        • jon says:

          Does the Wisconsin DNR have any idea how many wolves there actually are in Wisconsin?

          • ma'iingan says:

            The 2012 late winter minimum count was 832-880 animals.

            • WM says:

              And, of course, “minimum” usually means an official undercount by as much as 10-20 percent, according to Dr. Mech, and apparently the discrepancy can increase over time as wolves expand range.

              • Immer Treue says:

                But do take into consideration the illegal take. In MN estimates range as high as 400, or > 10% of population.

              • WM says:


                I did not realize that illegal take was that high in MN. Is that an indication of lack of tolerance by some, or is there a commerical black market for pelts?

              • Immer Treue says:


                Doubt much a black market for pelts. Lack of tolerance, you know, the wolves are killing all the deer…

                I believe it was Stark who said that during the MN wolf season, that the 400 harvest quota(which is still open in one zone,the NW)may still be attained as the season extends until 1/31/13; that the hunter/trapper take would be largely compensatory. But less than 2% of deer hunters had a wolf tag. Soooooooo might it be an assumption, with statistical support, that over harvest will occur in MN, and most probably WI as well?

              • WM says:


                Would you believe it to be reasonable the illegal take will go down as the legal harvest goes forward, or that it would stay the same or increase as now delisted wolves would be a state game violation rather than a more serious federal ESA violation?

              • Immer Treue says:


                There may be some “defusing” of wolf hate, but what I fear will happen is that the quota will be adjusted upward next year. Think about it. 267 wolves removed by DNR, perhaps 400 during the legal season, and let’s give a margin of 200 to 400 removed illegally, not to mention natural mortality, inter pack strife, and automobiles, and if I remember somewhere around 16 killed by property owners protecting stock and pets. This pushes somewhere around 1,000 wolves in the mortality mode per year.

                More to your question, I just don’t know. There are a lot on folks in MN that just don’t like wolves. But the counter movement to them is very strong. Will probably come down to $$$ next season. More tags = > $$$

                Guns are always going off, and in rural forested areas, I would not predict any great changes to the status quo.

            • JEFF E says:

              Not to speak for Immer, but my considered opinion is that the number of individuals that “legally” kill wolves are the minority.

              • ma'iingan says:

                “Would you believe it to be reasonable the illegal take will go down as the legal harvest goes forward, or that it would stay the same or increase as now delisted wolves would be a state game violation rather than a more serious federal ESA violation?”

                My (strictly WI) perspective – I don’t think the wolf hunt will do anything to mollify the real wolf haters. They’ve been killing wolves for years, and certainly aren’t going to pay $100 to harvest one legally. And for someone who genuinely hates wolves, what would be the appeal of a wolf mount or pelt?

                Maybe an affluent wolf hater (if there are any) would buy the $100 tag thinking it would allow him some level of protection to kill as many wolves as possible during the season, but I think this scenario is somewhat unlikely.

                In terms of penalties for illegal kill, even under state management the miscreant, in addition to a fine, will lose his hunting privileges for several years and be subject to having his equipment (up to an including his vehicle) confiscated.

                The wolf hunters and trappers I’ve met have been interested in harvesting a wolf as a big game animal, not as an object of hatred. Keep in mind that the ones who are having a full-body mount done are going to be investing upwards of $2000.

  6. Mark L says:

    I’ll argue each of your examples are from an animal that we see as deception ( not lies,BTW) and that the animal has no choice not to deceive…instinctual only in that they can’t “turn it off” and not affect their survival rate. Lying implies some concept of truth and conscious attempt from it for a goal. Most animals don’t do this (some may). Mimicry isn’t lying.

  7. Ida Lupine says:

    Sigh. I know I shouldn’t, but here goes anyway:

    What animals do is not lying or deception in the deliberate way humans do – “hiding” to protect oneself from being killed by predators is not the same thing. Deliberately lying to someone to steal their money, or to make “those scrawny wolves appear to be those bigger made-up Canadian ones so we can kill ’em off” I think we can see the difference. Humans take things to an entirely different level.

    I would say that if you believe JB that animals’ emotions are not on the same level as human, their deceptions could not be either?

    Either way, I never said that one group was better or equal to another, only that the non-humans have been shown to have emotion, problem-solving intellect and perception. This is not just a bunch of animal lovers anthropomorphizing. Just because it may not be at the same level as a human (sometimes it’s the human level that is lower or non-existent sometimes as well, you have to admit) doesn’t mean it should be disregarded. To do that is very callous.

    • Immer Treue says:


      Well said. Now… This is the type of cyber conversation that would be better served by being conducted around a table with holiday “cheer”. It’s about as philosophical as one can get, at least at this time, with what is truly known about the cognizant abilities of the critters with whom we share this world.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        Thanks you – I totally agree! Looking forward to that holiday cheer too. Hope you are enjoying the season, it’s a nice time of year. Even though some recent events are giving us pause – I like to appreciate small things like first snow, the solstice.

    • ma'iingan says:

      Wolves surreptiously take pieces from a kill and deliberately cache them for their own consumption at a later time. Male breeder wolves have been observed sneaking off and clandestinely breeding with receptive females. These activities certainly can be explained as survival strategies, but they are deliberate acts of deception by an intelligent animal.

      Corvids are masters of deception, sometimes using elaborate ruses to cache food for themselves. Scientists have observed individual crows sounding an alarm call (serious business) in order to provide cover while they “steal” food and cache it.

  8. Mareks Vilkins says:

    Immer, TC, Savebears, Elk275,Ma’iingan, etc.
    what’s your first impression about wolf management plan if it postulates that it’s ok to leave 200-300 wolves after 200 harvest bag?

    • Nancy says:

      Good question Mareks.

    • Immer Treue says:


      You put me in pretty lofty company. First a question. To which state do you refer? MN could lose up to 30% of its wolves( from all causes)this year out of 3,000+/-. I don’t know of a state with 200-300 wolves remaining after a take of 200 other than

      The idealist: I’d rather wolves not be hunted / trapped.

      The realist: wolves will be hunted and trapped, but I don’t really think any state conducting wolf seasons is doing it correctly .

      Your question: a 40 to 50% take is much too high and has nothing to do with management, and everything to do with population reduction.

      Yet, will that sort of take result in more breeding, more wolves and more depredation? Conservative seasons are, in my opinion, important. Observe and then adjust accordingly. Interesting data should come from the states this year. Let’s see if the politicians can keep the hell out of it.

      • Mareks Vilkins says:


        that’s how wolves are ‘managed’ in Latvia(and maybe similar policy will soon be implemented in Lithuania and Estonia as well).

        Right now 70% of adult wolf females are breeding every year (6 pups per litter)- so the policy basically comes to this: 1) make local wolves to become breeding machines and then 2) kill every single wolf within 5…6 years time (as director of Hunting department explained to me – ” demand for wolf and lynx hunt is bigger than a risk to damage predator population’s structure”)

        “Wolf conservation plan” , especially pages 12-23 (management policy is referenced to Dr Dave Mech)

        one can compare this breeding rate with wolf population which is not harvested (in Poland the ban on wolf hunting is since 1998 and now they have only 700 wolves or in YNP in 2009 were 124 wolves and only 6 breeing pairs)

        livestock depredation (usually happens to the same owners due to negligence):

        2005 – 9 sheeps, 5 goats, 6 cattle

        2008 – 39 sheeps, 6 goats

        2010 – 5 cattle, 41 sheeps, 2 goats

  9. CodyCoyote says:

    Reminds me of the story about the woman in a small Scottish fishing village who gave birth in the middle of the night . There was no doctor on duty at that wee hour ( he was passed out drunk ) so the deed was done by freelance midwifery. A day later, the proud father took his new son down to the docks to find out what the swaddler weighed. He put the kid on the scales at McGillicuddy’s retail fish market , and the ruddy 22 inch Rory Robert McGoon still wet behind the ears weighed in at a strapping 27 lbs. 8 ounces.

    Retail. Product sold by the pound.

    What we have here is a retail wolf story.

    • ma'iingan says:

      Just to set the record straight, the hunter never claimed that the animal weighed 165 pounds – that was the product of someone who grabbed the photos from an online article and launched the hoax.

      It’s unfortunate that modern day biologists have to spend time debunking these kinds of Internet myths. Hopefully the morphological data gathered from this year’s wolf hunt will help squash the belief that 150-pound wolves roam the WGL states.

      • jon says:

        Ma, what is the Wisconsin DNR going to do about hunting dogs to be used on wolves? What do you think will happen if dogs are allowed to pursue wolves?

        • ma'iingan says:

          WDNR has forwarded proposed permanent rules re hunting/training with dogs to the Natural Resources Board. The NRB will either vote to adopt the rules as presented or send them back to WDNR for revision.

          Keep in mind, there is a temporary injunction against the use of dogs to train on or hunt wolves. A hearing is scheduled for January 4th, at which time the injunction will either be lifted or made permanent.

          • Louise Kane says:

            why does the WDNR keep pushing for this unpopular form of hunting wolves? Supposedly it was because wolves would be hard to kill, this season disproved this theory so what is the justification now? Not enough ways to kill them on the table already?

            • Ida Lupine says:

              They need to give it up. 🙂 Money is a very powerful force, put taxes on something or take away state funding so that they have to pay for it themselves, and you’ll soon see interest dry up.

            • ma'iingan says:

              why does the WDNR keep pushing for this unpopular form of hunting wolves?

              THe use of dogs to hunt wolves was written into the stature – it did not originate within WDNR.

  10. ZeeWolf says:

    Regarding the photos: That fellow must be pretty “buffed” if he can lift up 165 pounds. It is difficult enough to pick up a 80 pound sack of cement, now try picking up two of them. Not that it couldn’t be done, but it does make the 165 claim a bit dubious.

    Is there any proof that these specific photos were altered? I have always been under the impression that a wolf is about 6 feet tip of nose to tail. In the first photo the wolf is about the same length as the person, which seems to me that the photo and wolf are “normal”. In the second photo both the wolf and deer fit easily into the bed of the UTV; those beds are not all that large. The hunter next to the UTV seems small but that could just be perspective of the photo.

    I used to work extensively with captive wolves and was continuously impressed by how large they appeared. Their heads always seemed large compared to a human head. These particular photos seem about right, to me.

    We weighed wolves for veterinarian work and knew our captive animals’ weight; on educational tours with visitors who had never seen live wolves I would often ask how much a certain wolf weighed. I knew the answer to be 95 pounds; time and time again the general public would estimate the weight to be 200 or 250 pounds. Some would even say 300. I’m just trying to point out that estimates are just that: estimates. They are unreliable.

    • jon says:

      I agree with you estimates are reliable. One of the most common talking points you hear from hunters and ranchers who hate wolves is how big the wolves are. The 150-200 pound monster wolf is like the lochless monster, something that some people exists, but can never find real proof of. Holding up a 150-200 pound wolf would be a challenge I would think. Most people on here have seen stories about the picture below. Some have claimed this wolf was 230 pounds, when in reality, it was around 130 pounds.


      • jon says:

        Weight estimates range from 197 pounds to 230 pounds, far larger than the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s figure for the average weight of an Idaho wolf—120 pounds. But wolves always look bigger when hanging in that position and alongside a hunter, Grimm said.

        “That guy is not a real big guy,” he said, adding that much smaller wolves usually look larger in photos. “The biggest wolf that we’ve ever weighed was 135 pounds. When you hung it up, it looked that big.”

        • Immer Treue says:

          I remember carrying someone’s German Shepherd back to her car after the dog was hit by a car. Unfortunately, there was no sign of life from the dog. Had to weigh in the 90 pound range, and it was tough to carry as it was just limp weight.

          Last two shepherds I have had have peaked at about 105, but averaged ~ 95 or so. Folks always thought they were 120 +. Figure a wolf with bigger head, thicker coat, yet leaner body. Gonna be in the 100 pound range

          • CodyCoyote says:

            I have a photo of renowned anti-Wolfer Toby Bridges onstage rallying the troops at the Anti-Wolf Rally in Cody WY in May of 2010.

            After careful examination of those pics and comparing him to his surrounds, I postulate that Toby Bridges weighs 425 pounds.

  11. Mark L says:

    I suspect the price of a wolf tag may go WAY up the year after also.

  12. jon says:


    Could this be because there are less wolves or because wolves are starting be afraid of hunters? Ma? immer? anyone?

  13. Ida Lupine says:

    The states’ claim already that they follow a “scientifically” derived decrease in wolf numbers that is not enough to harm genetic exchange and that takes into account other things that could affect their numbers such as harsh winters, disease, pack competion and poaching. I am curious as to how they will make a case for an increase in these numbers when they are supposedly already at an agreed upon limits, especially out West. What about pups and how long does it take for a pup to mature in the proper amount of time, not the convenient, accelerated version?

  14. Mark L says:

    if the scientist sets aside his ethics by calling it philosophy what does he become?
    A tool (like any other tool…just like a weapon).
    I think we all need to struggle with moral delimmas, with ethical questions, because oftentimes we relegate the ‘tough’ decisions to people we believe are better informed than us. They may be, but we are still responsible for the decisions they make by relegation, like it or not . Its still our choice to not decide.

    • JB says:


      Science is a tool, as are scientists. We are tools for answering “what is” questions.

    • JB says:

      And I should have added that I agree with you about struggling with moral dilemmas. In fact, you can’t be in the business of wildlife conservation and not (at least implicitly) make some ethical choices. For me, I don’t believe that INDIVIDUAL animals deserve moral consideration (the position of many animal rights groups). I do believe that as the dominant force shaping the ecosphere, that we have an ethical duty to do everything we can to prevent the extinction of species and the loss of animal populations.

      • WM says:


        If you don’t think “individual” animals have rights that puts you in the same stink tank with hunters and those who raise livestock. Oh, no, a scientist doesn’t think animals have rights. Wonder how many scientists are in there with all us misfits? Mech, Smith/Stahler and most of the rest of the wolf researchers, and those who study other predators or their prey world-wide?

        • JB says:


          My reasoning is purely pragmatic. Assigning individual “rights” similar to humans could [would?] grind conservation efforts to a halt. How would you prioritize conservation if all animals were essentially considered equal? How could you justify efforts to save endangered species when they come at a cost to abundant animals? How would you handle non-native/invasive species?

          • WM says:

            I understand your thought, and was merely playing “devil’s advocate.”

            The difficult part is that everything that lives has a desire to continue doing so, and from that organism’s perspective it is an “individual.” Then there is the value assigned by some humans that determine whether each of those individuals deserves to continue its life in the face of competing human values (doesn’t really matter whether the life of that individual may also determine the life of others dependent on it).

            Heck, come to think of it, we humans even go through that though process with wars or other conflicts among humans (and really fail to examine the impacts that flow from the death of one individual on the others).

      • Ida Lupine says:

        This sounds fair to me. Alpha 06, as an ‘ambassadress’ for her species, should have a little more consideration than just to be shot on sight? But I don’t know how the park wolves can be protected.

  15. Ida Lupine says:

    Hi JB,

    I didn’t put humans and animals on the same moral playing field, but the rest of your post is exactly what I meant. We have the ability to percieve morally wrong acts and yet we do them anyway.

    • JB says:


      When you compared the behavior of humans and animals, and judged our behavior, you put us on the same moral playing field: “Along with our ‘unique’ ability to feel emotion, we seem to have the unique ability for lies and deception.”

  16. Ida Lupine says:

    Something fun – we were talking about animals’ ability to hide and ‘deceive’ and I came across this:



December 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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