Saturday, April 11, 2015

My experience as a tour guide at #Wolf Haven International

By Eric Burnham 
Published this 1 day ago

I started working as a guide in the mid-1990s. The most wonderful things about that experience were: (1) getting all kinds of questions about gray wolves, and (2) growing to know the resident wolves. Wolf Haven would get visitors from all over the world as well as the U.S.. It was very humbling and gratifying to be able to disclose truthful information about these animals, and to be able to share my own interest in and passion about them.

Many visitors (at least initially) viewed wolves as fairy tale animals. That is, they had the ideas that wolves are ferocious and dangerous toward humans, and that they are undiscriminating toward prey animals. There has never been a historical record of a healthy, wild wolf seriously attacking a human in North America, and in reality, wolves exercise a great deal of discretion regarding which animal they will attempt to chase down and kill.

Captive wolves really are dangerous to humans, and people have been attacked and even killed by wolves held in captivity. I think the difference between captive and wild wolves is the captive ones have had a chance to learn about humans, and they lose their fear of them. Nevertheless, the experiences I had with captive wolves was very positive, and after awhile, as they got to know me, they would recognize me and some would squeeze their eyes at me, which is a wolf greeting they exchange with each other. One or two of the female wolves would rub up against the fence for a pet when I was near it; their male companions made it very clear to me (with a growl) that they didn't like this. So, I quit doing that.

I remember once I was asked if wolves howled at a full moon; my answer was - I don't know. When I've heard wolves howl at night in the wild, it has always been on a night that was very dark with no moon, but this could just be coincidence. I've also heard wolves howl during the day in the wild.
I'm very grateful to Wolf Haven for giving me the chance to be a tour guide. The experience led to my work as a wolf field technician in the northern Rockies, and helped me build my career. Thanks Wolf Haven!!