AR-News: Fans battle wolf's big, bad image
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 1 13:45:19 EDT 2004
Fans battle wolf's big, bad image
By E.A. Torriero
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
(www.kare11.com/wolf-pups/wolfcam.asp). 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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