Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A wealth of inspiration at Wolf Conservation Center

 As you, my dear readers, might know, I love animals. And in the realm of wild animals, I'm especially partial to wolves and big cats. For the longest time, I have wanted to visit a wolf preserve. My dream is to see the wolves in the wild at the Yellowstone National Park, but that will have to wait awhile. For now, I'm excited visiting the local wolf preserves in New York and New Jersey.
This past Friday, I finally got a chance to go to the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY with two of my dearest friends, Tina Moss (also knows as my super-amazing writing partner) and Melissa C.(also a fellow karate dojo practitioner). At the Center, we started out with a brief 15 minute introduction by one of the instructors/staff there. While I already knew a lot of wolf facts from my previous research, I still learned a number of facts.

 One of the saddest facts was how few wolves, especially certain kinds, are out there in the wild today. At the time of Columbus discovering America, there were wolves in every single of today's states, and the numbers totaled in 500,000. Today, only 3-4 states have wolf population, and certain kinds of wolves number in merely hundreds or less in the wild, though often more in captivity. The good news is that there are a number of successful programs designed to re-introduce captive wolves and their offspring into the wild.
One of the funniest facts we learned at the Center is that there's a book called Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, which I thought was adorable.

After the introduction, we came outside and our tour guide had us (along with 15 kids who were there) howl at the top of our lungs. Not 30 seconds later, we heard the wolves howl back, which was an unbelievable experience. The wolves howls always give me chills, and this time was no exception. It's interesting to note that not all wolves howl the same. In the Center, there are Gray Mexican wolves and Red wolves and their howl is completely different.

Alawa as a pup (image credit: nyuwolf.org)

Alawa eating her birthday cake (last Friday)

Zephyr  (image credit: nyuwolf.org)

Once the wolves howled back at us and gave us the "go ahead" to come visit them :) we moved towards the enclosures. The first enclosure contained two wolves, a brother and sister team, Zephyr and Alawa, who had their first birthday that day. The staff of the Center baked them two peanut butter pies, which they demolished in a matter of minutes. There was also a big box of birthday goodies, which took them a little longer to figure out. But finally they had it open and had a blast with the goodies inside. These wolves were more socialized then others in the Center.

Next, we went to visit Atka, who is the star ambassador of the Center. Atka is the most socialized wolf there and gets to go on trips to schools, museums and other fun places. Atka is the star of the show and knows it - he's a diva. But who can blame him, just look at what a beauty he is!

Atka, the Ambassador Wolf  (image credit: nyuwolf.org)
Atka asking for food (last Friday)

Me with Atka...well sort of

Atka with Tina Moss

 After Atka, we proceeded to visit an enclosure where the Gray Mexican wolves live. These wolves are less socialized and are part of the program where their offspring will hopefully be released into the wild. Right now, the staff believes two of the wolves there might be pregnant, although they don't know for sure yet.

One of the Gray Mexican wolves in the program (she might be pregnant)

We also learned that the life expectancy of wolves in the wild is pretty low, sometimes only 3-5 years. In captivity, the life expectancy increases drastically. Some of the wolves at the Center lived to 18-20 years. It is important for people to understand that wolves cannot be pets. They are wild animals that needs the freedom of large spaces and cannot really be domesticated. They may look like adorable dogs, but they are not. Unfortunately, there are people who do not heed this advice and try to raise wolves as pets. Many of those wolves then end up in rescue and conservation centers because their owners finally realize they cannot keep them. Our tour guide said that the conservation centers are running out of space because of these situations. Education of the public about wolves is imperative for their survival.

A pair of Red Wolves in the program at the Center (image credit: nyuwolf.org)
Don't forget to visit the Wolf Conservation Center website. You can learn about all the wolves they have, and you can also watch these wolves on  wolf cams (warning - it gets addictive!). And please support them if you can.

Next, I'd like to visit the wolf conservation centers in New Jersey. As a writer, these trips give me a wealth of inspiration and supplement my research about these beautiful animals.


  1. How fantastic! I've never had the chance to visit a wolf conservation center, but I'd love to. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. It's terribly sad to think that there are so few left.

  2. Great recap of the day. It was so much fun! I cannot wait to go back. Melissa said all of the overnight's are booked, but maybe we can go on a waiting list?

    1. I know, she told me yesterday! That's crazy, 8 weekends over the summer, all booked. I guess there's a lot of demand for it. Yeah, we can find out about a waiting list.

  3. We have a wolf sanctuary a few miles from where I live in Colorado. It is so awesome. We howled and they howled in return. We paid extra to go inside the enclosures and got to feed and pet them. There were certain rules, of course. We couldn't wear leather or fur and had to sit down so we weren't intimidating. One of the wolves liked a lady so much that he grabbed her pant leg and dragged her all the way down a hill. It was amazing how strong he was! Lovely post, Yelena:)

    1. Wow, I would love to do that, to actually interact with them! I'll have to visit the sanctuary by you! What happened when the wolf dragged the lady by her pant leg? Did the staff interfere? lol


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