AR-News: Fans battle wolf's big, bad image

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Thu Jul 1 13:45:19 EDT 2004

Fans battle wolf's big, bad image

By E.A. Torriero
Chicago Tribune

ELY, Minn. — Groan is the surly one. Grizz already has wisps of gray hair. 
And Nubee is a bit slower afoot than her littermates. Together these three 
pups, just a few weeks old, are being pampered night and day to be timber 
wolf ambassadors to people.
For the privilege of assisting in their upbringing, dozens of volunteers pay 
$795 a week to be wolf "nannies." They monitor the pups 24 hours a day, 
feeding them on demand with a bottle, stroking and burping them, making sure 
they take their vitamins and offering gas-relief drops if the pups drink too 
quickly and become a bit rude.

"We want to make sure the pups are well taken care of," said Lori Schmidt, 
their lead caregiver at the International Wolf Center in Ely. "It's not like 
they are royalty, but we just need to make sure they grow to be healthy."

Admirers the world over chart the pups' progress via a Web cam 
( Tourists have an audience with them 
at least three times a day, snapping pictures of their steely eyes and 
listening to educators lecture about the pups' predatory habits.

To keep the pups' environment as germ-free as possible, visitors must wash 
the soles of their shoes in a chlorine solution before entering their midst.

Is this any way to raise a wolf?

"Are they nuts?" asked Joe Baltich Sr., 72, who used to trap wolves in far 
northeastern Minnesota near the Canadian border for $35 a hide in government 
bounties. "To me, it's like a zoo, what they are doing. The wolves are made 
for the wild, not to be raised like dogs."

For the wolf center, though, there is no question.

Packs of wolves roam Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest in an uneasy 
détente with people. Once hunted and headed toward extinction, wolves have 
been a federally protected species since 1974.

Their resurgence — especially in Minnesota, where 2,200 to 2,500 timber 
wolves live — has left some folks unhappy, particularly those who see wolves 
as dangerous animals that devour deer and livestock.

The nonprofit wolf center opened its $3 million facility here in 1993 to 
educate people about the timber wolves. One of the center's aims is 
debunking myths about the wolf. To do that, people need to get close to 

But taking large groups of people into the wilderness is impractical. 
Bringing wolves in from the wild is impractical, too, not to mention against 
federal law, wildlife biologists said. Wild wolves would not take well to 
being penned up — they normally live in about 10 square miles of land — nor 
would they ingratiate themselves to gawking people.

So in April 1993, the center raised three wolves as part of its educational 
endeavor. In the summer of 2000, two arctic wolves joined the exhibit.

In May, with the initial pack facing retirement age, the center arranged for 
three pups to be born at a game park in central Minnesota.

To care for them, the center recruited 70 volunteers from 23 states and 
three countries who gladly paid $795 a week for room and board and to work 
eight-hour shifts tending to the pups.

As they grow, the pups are being weaned off the high-protein bottle formula 
and will feed more on roadkill. Already, their teeth are developing.

In August, when the wolves will be separated from human care, they will be 
integrated into a 1.25 acre pen with the two arctic wolves, Malik and 

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

So many gods, so many creeds,so many paths that wind and wind, while just 
the art of being kind is all this sad world needs.
-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1805-1919)

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