On the weekend of August 16-18th, I participated in a Wolf Ecology and Conservation program that included a howl study held by the Timber Wolf Alliance.
In 1987, only eighteen wolves were estimated to live in Wisconsin and fewer in Upper Michigan. That year, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute began the Timber Wolf Alliance to assist twenty-one organizations and many private individuals in promoting wolf recovery in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through public education, citizen science, and volunteer activities.
The Timber Wolf Alliance is committed to investigating the facts and relies on research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves. TWA provides training in wolf biology and ecology, develops and disseminates educational materials on wolves, and supports volunteers to help with wolf monitoring efforts.
The TWA Mission
To use science-based information to promote an ecologically-functional wolf population within areas of suitable habitat, and promote human coexistence with emphasis on Michigan and Wisconsin.
So, you may wonder why focus on this group since they are not western-based. One is because I believe we can learn from other’s efforts to protect our wildlife and resources but also because there is something in participating hands-on. In this program, we not only had wolf biologists presenting, but we got to hike in national forests to find evidence of wolves, learn how to plaster cast prints, see traps close up, and try our hand at telemetry. But the highlight for me was the evening howls.
We went out into the evening as a group into the forest. We would stop where we had earlier seen evidence of wolves. Three volunteers were chosen to perform a set of howls. Volunteer 1 would howl a softer howl 4-5 times and then pause to listen for a response. Then volunteer 2 would howl 4-5 louder howls and again a pause. If still no reply, volunteer 3 would howl 4-5 loud howls. Now while wolves can hear a howl from about 6 miles away, humans can only hear about a mile or so away. On one such stop, we had adults reply!
We subsequently moved on to where we had seen evidence of puppies in both scat and tracks on the forest road. Prior to getting there, I had tried my hand at howling and was told I had a beautiful howl of which I found amusing given that I can’t sing! So, when we got to the area where we hoped to hear puppies, I howled. In the middle of the third howl, the puppies went off, it was amazing! I cannot begin to explain the feeling in that beautiful setting.
I share this experience because I encourage everyone to participate in various programs. Learn, enjoy, and share. It’s through education that we can help others care about wolves. You can bet I shared my experience at work and got folks intrigued.
You can look up the TWA at: https://www.northland.edu/sustainability/soei/twa/ . There you can find info on programs, a podcast by Adrian Wydeven (he was a speaker in our program and an author) and more!
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Not far from Calgary in Alberta, Canada, is a wonderful wolfdog sanctuary – Yamnuska. The sanctuary is located on 160 acres on a rolling hillside. I arrived on a sunny Saturday morning shortly after they opened. Upon entering the area to register for tours, I was greeted by a Giant Alaskan Malamute named Skookum. I have a malamute and she is not near his size, but what a big love!
The sanctuary offers various tours to suit the levels of engagement a visitor would like. The most inclusive tour is known as the Interactive Tour and it requires advance booking. I was fortunate to score one of these tours. The tour started out with our guide Scott who was very knowledgeable about wolves and wolfdogs. We were taken into an enclosure of high-content wolf dogs. We were instructed to sit and were given treats to toss to the wolves. Because they are high content, they are not likely to come up and want to be pet. Wolves are naturally wary of humans and you could see that attitude with these wolfdogs. It’s one reason why they don’t make good pets. While we sat and observed, Scott informed us about how to tell whether an animal is high. mid, or low wolf content by phenotyping as well as asking questions such as when was the animal born? Wolves only come into heat once a year usually around February and give birth in April-May. We also got to spend time in a low content wolfdog enclosure and I could immediately tell the difference in interaction. These individuals wanted contact with us.
The enclosures at the sanctuary are 1 to 2 acres and contain usually two individuals – a male and female (no breeding though). This is to keep interactions positive between individuals. I spent the entire day there participating in the introductory tour, watching individuals get feed, as well as howling along in a pack howl. It was hard to leave at the end of the day!
Please visit their website at: https://yamnuskawolfdogsanctuary.com/. It is well done and chock full of information. And of course, if you get the opportunity to visit, please do! I think their mission of educating folks about wolfdogs is an important one.
A Canadian Wolf Centre
I recently got back from a wonderful trip to Canada! I spent time in Alberta as well as British Columbia. During my trip, I visited the Northern Lights Wolf Centre in BC.
The mission statement of the centre is as follows:
“Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf centre promotes wolf conservation throughout the natural environment. We value the role these carnivores play in nature. We strive to provide a one-of-a-kind, quality experience to the public as we support conservation through education. “
The center loves to educate the public about wolves! They do interpretive talks and interactive school presentations/field trips about wolves and their role in a healthy environment.
Their wolves live in a 1.25-acre enclosure. Their interpretive talks take place right at the fence. Plus, their wolves are exercised regularly, off-leash in the wilderness so they are happy and healthy ambassadors for their wild cousins.
It is during the exercise hikes through Blackwolf Photography they are able to offer people the unique opportunity to photograph and walk with wolves in their natural environment. Nestled between the Rockies and the Purcell mountains, we are blessed with plenty of wilderness around here, and the scenery is fabulous! A photo session with the wolves requires a reservation and some restrictions apply.
I was able to walk their grounds and hear their staff talk about wolves. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go on an exercise hike as they are booked until September! I highly recommend visiting their website at: https://northernlightswildlife.com/ to learn more. And if you get the opportunity to visit, even better! I know I certainly left with not only a great experience of seeing their wolves, but also taking a few unique items from their well-stocked gift store!
One thing I learned while at the centre is that British Columbia sells hunting licenses that are very inexpensive and allow for the bagging of several wolves on one license. Canadians were urged to contact their local government and ministers while non-Canadians were encouraged to contact Canadian Tourism to voice opposition. Take a few moments out of your day to do so and you could save many lives.
A Trip to the International Wolf Center!
The air was crisp and it looked to be a beautiful day. As I looked out over the lake from my window in the Grand Ely Lodge, I was filled with the anticipation of a visit to the International Wolf Center (IWC). The IWC is located in Ely, Minnesota. It’s a quaint little town full of friendly folks, trails, and natural beauty.
Upon arriving at the center, I anxiously awaited the doors opening. I have been a member of the IWC for many years. One of the founders of the center is Dr. Mech – a world re-known wolf expert. The mission of the center is: “The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.” It is through their educational efforts that they make a difference. In this day and age when folks are distanced from nature, the center hopes to open eyes by providing folks the information to do so.
Once in the center, I immediately headed to the back of the building where there, you can sit and watch the exhibit pack. The pack currently consists of four wolves. In 2020, two pups will be added to the pack – adhering to the cadence of adding new pups every four years. I could not help but smile at seeing Denali, Boltz, Axel, and Greyson. The viewing area extends to an amphitheater where every hour, on the hour, sessions are held for guests to learn some aspect of the center and wolves.
The center also just opened a newly refreshed exhibit on wolves that is both interactive and educational. A visitor can wander through at their pace. There are also films you can watch. But for me, the bulk of my time was spent glued to the windows watching the wolves. Their grace and beauty enthralls me. I spent the two full days I had there mostly watching them until the center closed each evening.
I highly encourage you to look them up at: www.wolf.org. Become a member, attend a webinar, read the news, and watch the webcams. I think you will be glad you did. If you have any questions about the IWC, please let me know (email@example.com)
Wildlife stories, guest posts, and discussions. If you would like to have your story featured please contact us.
In 2014, when the Utah Wildlife Board was considering instituting a crow hunt, I made related this true story as part of my testimony against the hunt.
In 2008, I was camping on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. For breakfast, I was toasting some bread over a camp stove. While setting up my cooking gear, I noticed a crow in a nearby tree but thought nothing of it. While the bread was toasting, I turned away for a few seconds to retrieve something out of my car. When I turned back to tend the bread, the bread was gone and so was the crow I had seen a little earlier in the tree. After a moment of puzzlement, I realized that the crow must have swooped down when I wasn’t looking and took my toast!
Though I was annoyed at having lost my breakfast toast, I was not angry at the crow. Rather, I was amazed at how smart, quick, and cleaver the bird was to snatch the bread from me in the few seconds I wasn’t guarding it. I admired the crow’s intelligence and skills.
I told the Wildlife Board that crows, like other animals, play an important ecological role, and there is no good reason to institute a crow hunt. I explained that since I wasn’t angry at the crow and I did not want to kill the bird that took my toast, the Board, who had less reason to be hostile toward crows than I did, should not authorize the hunt.
As usual, the Wildlife Board ignored my point of view and voted to start the crow hunt. Science does not matter to the Wildlife Board. Ethics do not matter to the Wildlife Board. Public opinion does not matter to the Wildlife Board. The only thing that matters to the Wildlife Board is “expanding hunting opportunities” for the “good old boys” who are the only constituents the Board cares about.
This sorry state of affairs is the direct responsibility of the governor who appoints the members of Utah Wildlife Board. This unhappy situation will likely remain until a governor is elected who is not beholden to the hunting lobby.