by Cori Hilsgen
When most people look in their backyards, they don’t expect to see a timberwolf. That is why Marcia and Nick Gaetz, who live west of Sartell City Hall, were so surprised Dec. 8 when they spotted one in their backyard at about 3 p.m.
The wolf walked into their yard and hung around for a few minutes before it eventually walked back into the woods. Marcia said it did not appear to be bothered at all by the neighbor’s dog, who was outside barking.
They shared the sighting information with some of their neighbors, but none of them had seen the wolf.
The couple has lived in Sartell for four years and said they have seen a variety of wildlife in their backyard, including deer, turkey, fox, woodchucks, ducks, geese, piliated woodpeckers, owls, sandhill cranes and about a month ago a coyote.
Marcia said the wolf was very big compared to the coyote. The colors, shape of snout, ears and the size of the animals made it clear to them the two were different species. They shared the photo they took of the wolf with several neighbors and did some online research to determine that it was indeed a wolf they saw in their backyard.
“Wolves are big, beautiful animals,” Nick said. “They are much larger in real life than I thought.”
“We certainly enjoy having the woods behind us,” Marcia said. “We have seen more wildlife than we thought we would being we live right in the middle of town. The kids love looking out the windows into the woods to see if they can spot any wildlife.”
Marcia said their children (Claire, 6; Emmett, 4; and Sullivan, 8 months) only saw the photos of the wolf but have spent a great deal of time looking out their house windows to see if the wolf will return again.
Sartell resident Jeff Plemel, who owns property west of Sartell by the St. Wendel/St. Stephen area, said he had five wolves (a male, female and three pups) on his property about seven years ago.
Plemel doesn’t think the wolf dens are on the 290-acre property (of which 250 acres are wetland bank) anymore, but hunters on the property told him they thought they saw tracks again this year.
Plemel’s father-in-law had been riding a large tractor/mower when he first spotted the pups. The pups came in front of the mower and he got off to check on them.
Plemel said the mother wolf, who was close by, growled at him when he got close to the pups as if to say, “That’s close enough.”
“They were pretty cool to have out there,” Plemel said. “I liked having them out there.”
Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes said the department had received a call about a wolf/coyote spotted in the 2-1/2 Street N. area about 9 a.m. that Friday morning, Dec. 8, the same day the Gaetzes saw the wolf. An officer went to the location and was unable to locate the animal.
He said they had received no other complaints about this but did speak with a Department of Natural Resources officer.
The DNR officer said it’s not unusual for them to be seen in the central Minnesota area, adding they usually will stay in an area for a short period of time and then move on. He said the department typically does not do anything with them unless they are causing a problem or are a threat to people because normally they just move on.
Nick Gaetz is a senior information-technology manager for a local company and also owns a property management company. Marcia Gaetz is a speech-language pathologist for the Sartell-St. Stephen School District.
Plemel installs machinery for Park Industries.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.