Perhaps more than anyone else, Dr. L. David Mech is responsible for major changes in human attitudes toward one of the world's most controversial animals--the wolf. Throughout his nearly five decades as a wildlife biologist, David Mech's work has produced a long list of milestones in wildlife research. Respected the world over, he has been a leader in making the state of Minnesota a model for living with wolves and for helping develop plans to manage expanding wolf populations.
This is a remarkable success story. By 1973, wolves had been driven almost to extinction in the lower 48 states. A remnant population lived in northeastern Minnesota along with fewer than 20 wolves on Isle Royale in Michigan. Today, just over 30 years later, Minnesota is home to an estimated 3,000 wolves. This landmark achievement in the recovery of an endangered species was possible because Dave Mech and others like him understood the benefits and costs when wolves and humans coexist on the landscape.
Dave Mech, chair of the World Conservation Union's IUCN Wolf Specialist Group, leads the global scientific community in wolf research. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota and senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. But what makes Dave Mech special is his commitment to sharing his discoveries and knowledge with the general public as well as his peers. His insistence on accuracy and openness is crucial because people, including livestock growers in Minnesota and elsewhere, deserve the truth about these sometimes troublesome predators in order to live with and manage them successfully. Thus, Dave Mech's insistence on providing accurate, science-based information through books, hundreds of popular and scientific articles, public presentations and documentary films gives him credibility with pro and anti-wolf people alike.
To further his aim of "teaching the world about wolves," Dave Mech founded the International Wolf Center (http://www.wolf.org) in 1985, the world's flagship wolf educational organization located in the heart of Minnesota's wolf country. The International Wolf Center has over a $3 million annual impact on the local and regional Ely, Minnesota, economy. Resort owners, for example, benefit from people traveling "up north" to see the Wolf Center's resident wolves and to participate in the wide variety of exciting educational programs.
Without doubt, Dave Mech's work has paved the way for scientists in their quest for knowledge and understanding of predators, and their interactions with prey species as well. He would be a star member of the Minnesota 150 because of the positive changes he has created, from the International Wolf Center to wolf education throughout the United States and the world. Dr. L. David Mech is truly one of Minnesota's living legends.
~Kit Briem, Ely, MN
Dave Mech, University of Minnesota researcher, for his research on the Eastern timber wolf that helped change attitudes about wolves.
Protecting a predator
Early in his career, Dave Mech found himself standing fifteen feet away from a wild wolf. A graduate student in biology, Mech was following a pack of wolves through Isle Royale National Park when he had an opportunity to photograph one of them up close. As he snapped the shutter, the wolf cocked his head. "It was easy to believe that I could have reached out and petted the beast," Mech later wrote. "Although my standing face-to-face with a wild wolf had little scientific value, it certainly helped inspire me to learn all I could about the animal that had such a calm and gentle look yet earned its living by killing."
Mech's early interest developed into a lifelong passion that has resulted in his making Minnesota a national model in teaching how to live with wolves and to protect and manage wolf populations. A senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor in the University of Minnesota's Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Mech is also the founder of the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. Since 1985, the Wolf Center has given adults and children a chance to help advance the survival of wolf populations by learning about wolves, their relationship to wild lands, and the human role in their future. Today, just thirty years after the endangered animal had been driven almost to extinction in the lower forty-eight states, Minnesota is home to an estimated 3,000 wolves. The wolves were removed from the endangered list in March 2007.
"What makes Dave Mech special," writes nominator Kit Briem of Ely, "is his commitment to sharing his discoveries and knowledge with the general public as well as his peers. His insistence on accuracy and openness is crucial because people, including livestock growers in Minnesota and elsewhere, deserve the truth about these sometimes troublesome predators in order to live with and manage them successfully. Because of the positive changes he has created, from the International Wolf Center to wolf education throughout the United States and the world, Dr. L. David Mech is truly one of Minnesota's living legends."
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