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Wolf expert lopes into area Friday

Naturalist Stan Tekiela will speak at the Frazee High School gymnasium Friday. Submitted Photo

“For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to write nature books,” says Stan Tekiela, famed Minnesota naturalist and wildlife photographer.

And that, he has done — a lot.

“My first book came out 25 years ago,” he adds.

“Since then, I’ve written about 120-130 more — and they’re all natural history books and field guides.”

Indeed, Tekiela is considered one of the state’s foremost experts on its natural history — particularly plant and animal life.

He will share some of that knowledge with Becker County residents on Friday in a free presentation at the Frazee-Vergas High School gymnasium in Frazee.

His appearance in Frazee is being hosted by the Laurentian Lakes chapter of the North Country Trail Association and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, as part of a joint celebration of the grand opening of a new segment of the North Country Trail through Becker County, and the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the National Wildlife Refuge at Tamarac.

Beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, Tekiela will be talking about “The Lives of Wolves, Coyote and Fox.”

His enthusiasm for the topic is obvious.

“We have the largest indigenous population of wolves in the lower 48 (states),” he says — about 3,000 at last count.

In fact, the wolf population in Minnesota has thrived so much that the gray wolf was taken off the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region — prompting the first state-sanctioned wolf hunting and trapping season to be held last year, despite the vocal opposition of American Indians and other anti-hunting groups.

“I think people are genuinely interested in Minnesota’s wolves right now,” he says. “This talk will look at wolves and their biology — who they are, what they do and how they do it. There’s some really cool information about the family structure within wolf packs, what they eat and how much.

“I love doing it — it’s a fun talk, very lively and energetic. I have a lot of fun with it — and it should be fun for anyone who has an interest in wolves, as well as coyotes and foxes.”

Having just returned from a trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons on Tuesday morning, Tekiela noted, “there are 60 to 80 wolves in Yellowstone, and we have 3,000. That’s a big difference.”

Yet in the Yellowstone area, “people just hate them (wolves),” while Minnesota’s residents “seem to be coexisting with them just fine.”

While Tekiela’s talk on Friday will focus mainly on wolves, people will also have the opportunity to learn more about “the other canids of North America” — the coyote and fox.

His presentation is free and open to the public. In addition to Friday’s talk, Tekiela will also be doing a book signing on Saturday at the Backyard Birding Station in Frazee, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Since earning his bachelor’s degree in natural history from the University of Minnesota, Tekiela has spent more than 20 years as a professional naturalist.

“I spend an enormous amount of time in the field,” he says.

But he also finds plenty of time for writing, not only books, but also a syndicated newspaper column.

In addition, he does a variety of radio talk show appearances each year — including KFGO in Fargo, where he has been a regular on Jack and Sandy’s morning show for about 20 years now.

“I also give about 60-80 talks a year, on a dozen different topics,” he adds.

“I’m a naturalist, I do a little bit of everything — plants, animals, insects, birds.”

And of course, there’s the books.

“I have a brand new book that just came out, on bears — black bears, brown bears and polar bears,” he said.

“It’s very similar to my wolf book.”

His next project, which he’s working on right now, is a book on elk, moose and deer.

“I’ve been traveling all around looking for elk, moose and deer, to photograph them,” he says.

“I’m a self-taught photographer. I’m fascinated by animal behavior — how it happens, why it happens — so even as a wildlife photographer, I’m not interested so much in the picture as I am in the behavior of the animal.”

In short, Tekiela says, he’s not so much concerned about photographing pretty images as he is about capturing an animal’s unique behaviors on film.

“I come at it from the biology end, which is a very different approach from most photographers,” Tekiela says. “I find it (animal behavior) endlessly interesting. That inner child is still alive and well inside me.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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