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Teen's experience leads to successful trapping

Nov 19, 2012 1:01am

TOWN OF KING, Wis. (AP) — Maegan Loka knows trapping. She has taught hundreds of children and adults how to trap an animal and then skin it.

She has hunted and trapped nearly every animal you can imagine in Wisconsin — raccoon, coyote, beaver, otter, muskrat, weasel, fox, fisher, skunk, deer and yes, wolf.

At age 14, Loka has accomplished what most hunters could only dream of in a lifetime. On Oct. 18, just four days into Wisconsin's first modern day wolf hunt, she trapped and harvested a wolf.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to harvest this animal," Loka told the Wausau Daily Herald ( ) at her parents' town of King home, east of Tomahawk.

Much of Loka's brief life was spent preparing for that wolf. Her parents, Mark and Tammy Loka, grew up under the influence of hunting, fishing and trapping by their families. It was natural that Maegan and her sister, Macey, 12, be raised the same way. The Lokas brought Maegan and Macey bear hunting with them before they were able to walk.

The Lokas live on a 20-acre parcel of land inhabited by the very creatures they hunt. Deer, bear and wolves are common. The Lokas spend weekends, evenings and holidays outdoors, enjoying their natural surroundings.

"When you have families like us, we're busy all year round, whether it's deer hunting, bear hunting or fishing," Tammy said.

Wolves were extirpated from Wisconsin by 1960 after nearly a century of state-sponsored bounties to eliminate the predator. The wolf was given federal protection in 1974 by the Endangered Species Act and was declared an endangered species in Wisconsin in 1975.

The Department of Natural Resources began in 1979 using radio collars to track wolves and implemented a species recovery plan after the wolf population dropped to 14 animals in 1985.

Wolves were reclassified in 1999 in Wisconsin to a threatened status when the population reached 205 wolves. By 2004, the population reached 373 wolves, and the animal was removed from the state's threatened species list.

Years of legal challenges by animal rights groups over the protection status for wolves ended after wolves officially were delisted by the federal government on Jan. 27, 2012. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now allows the state to manage the wolf population, which had grown to roughly 850 wolves, according to the DNR.

With a wolf population at a modern day all-time high, hunters and landowners asked for a wolf hunting season. The Legislature in April passed a law that created a wolf harvest with strict limits on the number of wolves that could be hunted or trapped.

Up to 201 wolves will be harvested in Wisconsin, 85 of which are reserved for the state's American Indian tribes. As of Saturday, 67 wolves have been harvested in six designated wolf hunting zones, according to the DNR. Each zone has a quota, and wolf hunting will close in that zone once the quota is reached. All zones were open as of Saturday.

Maegan was one of 20,272 people who applied for one of the 1,160 permits that were issued for the remaining 116 wolves. She was not chosen.

Richard Clark, a member of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress from Oconto County, did get a permit. Clark knew of Maegan as president of the Future Trappers of Wisconsin and her work with the Wisconsin Trappers Association, which included a successful petition to the Conservation Congress for lowering the cost of trapping permits for youths. Clark decided to transfer his permit to her with two conditions.

"(Clark) said if I got a wolf, I had to write about it for the Wisconsin Trappers Association and have a picture of the wolf," Maegan said.

The wolf season opened Monday, Oct. 15. That day after school, the Tomahawk High School freshman and her dad set four dirt hole traps on her grandparents' land near her home. The land was known to have wolves, and wolf prints and scat indicated this was a promising location. On Tuesday, the traps were empty, so she set out two more traps. On Wednesday, the result as the same, so Maegan set up two more traps, bringing her total to eight traps.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the Loka family again piled into the pickup truck after school to check the traps. This time, they saw something moving as they approached one of the traps.

"I think she had jumped out of the front seat before Dad had the truck stopped," Tammy said.

In the trap was a 62-pound female wolf. The trap, which is the same kind of trap used by the federal government to live trap wolves for radio-collaring, is designed to not injure the animal, Mark Loka said.

Maegan used a .22-caliber rifle to dispatch the wolf.

"I said it it would take me three days to trap a wolf," Maegan said while flashing a smile at her father. "I was right."

The wolf was brought home, but skinning was put on hold for a few hours. Maegan, a member of the high school pep band, had to play clarinet at a volleyball game that night.

When her band obligations were done, Mark and Maegan spent about 90 minutes carefully skinning the wolf, taking extra precautions around the toes and eyes. The pelt is in the process of being made into a full mount.

While Maegan's name is on the permit, and the wolf always will be Maegan's, trapping the wolf will be considered a family accomplishment. The hundreds of hours spent with her family in the woods trapping other species, in the shop skinning animals, performing demonstrations and speeches to teach others how to trap and prepare pelts had paid off for Maegan and the entire Loka family.

"This was truly a family event," Mark said.

___

Information from: Wausau Daily Herald,


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