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Man encounters wolf while working under deck

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Mike Olson was repairing a deck for his dad, Erling, on Monday afternoon in Thief River Falls, when he came across a sight could have come straight from "Little Red Riding Hood."

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Olson was replacing the 2-by-8 studs that hold the decking and said he already had been working under the deck about 20 minutes, pounding away with a sledge hammer.

That's when he realized he wasn't alone.

"I cocked my head back, and I saw those two eyes looking at me," Olson said. "I got out real fast."

The younger Olson had encountered what appeared to be a gray wolf. It might not have been by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin, but the animal definitely was too close for comfort.

"He came flying out of there like someone shot him from a gun," Erling Olson said of his son.

Mike Olson said he doesn't know how he didn't notice the animal earlier.

"It was probably 6 feet away," he said. "It was just laying down. It had its head up and was just looking at me."

Olson says he suspects the animal was sick because it didn't move.

"In hindsight, you get a little queasy just thinking about it," he said.

The Olsons called the police about 5:30 p.m., and authorities responded, expecting to find a large dog that looked like a wolf under the deck.

Not this time.

"They put their head under the deck, and sure enough, it was a wolf," said Craig Mattson, deputy chief for the Thief River Falls Police Department.

According to Mattson, police and the city's animal control officer tried without success to put a noose around the wolf's neck and capture it live. The animal was growling by this point and appeared to have mange, he said, so a section of planking was removed, and an officer shot it.

The animal also posed a risk to people and pets, Mattson said.

He said the wolf was a 104-pound male.

While bears occasionally wander into city limits, Mattson said this is the first time he can remember a wolf in town. Erling Olson's home is on the 300 block of North Crocker Avenue near the Red Lake River in the heart of Thief River Falls.

"I've been here for 20 years, and no -- not in Thief River Falls open country," Mattson said. "We don't have big woods around this area."

It's only speculation, but Mattson says the wolf may have followed the Red Lake River corridor into city limits.

Mattson says the officers took the wolf carcass to the city's animal impoundment. They also reported the incident to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, he said, but no DNR officers were at the Olson residence.

Doug Franke, area wildlife manager for the DNR in Thief River Falls, said Tuesday afternoon that he would be collecting the animal today to attempt a positive identification. He said he'd know more after seeing the animal.

As for Olson, he was heading back under the deck Tuesday afternoon to finish the repair project.

"I'm going to look twice," he said.

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