Glynn Riley, 78, who worked for 51 years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, primarily trapping wolves, spoke Wednesday to the Rotary Club in Corsicana.
A resident of Brownwood, Riley began his career with the department getting rid of troublesome wild animals. But following the passage of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, his work turned to trapping, studying and relocating wolves of North America.
“All my boyhood dreams came true,” Riley said. “I’ve made my living doing things I’d have gladly done for free.”
Although he’s spent decades wandering the woods, plains and mountains of the nation, Riley said he’s never been a deer hunter.
“Deers got horns, wolves got brains,” he quipped.
He began his short presentation talking about an adventure trapping alligators in which he and his brother in law ended up with a 9 or 10 foot alligator loose and angry in an 18-foot bass boat.
“It was a little crowded in there,” he said.
Riley explained that gray wolves are still found in other states and Canada, primarily because of the preservation and captive breeding programs. And red wolves, that once roamed freely across Texas, were declared extinct in the wild in 1980. They’ve since been reintroduced to the wild in a very small way at a wildlife refuge in North Carolina.
He went to work for the department at the age of 25. Early on, he designed a wolf trap that would drug the animals with diazepam, or Valium, keeping them pliant and easy to work with. Later, as the drug became popular with humans and consequently more expensive, they had to switch over to injections, he said.
After drugging the wolves and coyotes, they would put radio tracking collars on them.
“We learned a lot about wolves and coyotes that way,” he said. “How far they range, and things like that.”
Coyotes will range as far as 30 miles, and wolves can travel 100 miles.
After more than half a century of trapping wolves, Riley said he had to learn how to think like a wolf.
“Wolves are more like dogs,” he said. Wolves are straightforward, loyal to each other and their pack, excellent parents who mate for life, and are very territorial. They eat meat exclusively, and prefer large animals.
“Where they get into trouble is where we killed all the buffalo and replaced them with cattle,” Riley said. “By 1925, there were no more gray wolves in Texas.”
Wolves have been reintroduced to other parts of the country, which is helping control elk and coyote populations in some areas.
“You don’t have to have pristine wilderness to have wolves,” he added. “They’ll survive so long as you let them eat your cattle.”
Since the 1960s, Texas has added more wildlife, increasing numbers of deer, beaver and an explosion of wild hogs, all of which has meant a rise in the population of coyotes. Coyotes are now found in suburbs and urban areas of Texas, which is a problem since the coyotes don’t understand the difference between pets and prey.
Coyotes also mate for life. They’re scavengers, and will eat anything, including plants, to survive, Riley said.
“You’ve heard that curiosity killed the cat? Curiosity killed lots more coyotes. They’re just into everything.”
Although Riley retired in 2011 from the Wildlife Service, he still does contract work on coyote control, he said.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at email@example.com.