Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Learning about Wolves at the International Wolf Center

Posted: Monday, July 20, 2015 
ELY — Three of the International Wolf Center’s ambassador wolves drew lots of attention on a recent day, as they took pack-order turns feeding in their enclosure, offering plenty of photo opportunities for visitors.
Boltz and Luna, the center’s two youngest wolves, waited as one of their older pack members took his turn first. Occasionally, Luna got too close and was put in her place with a snarl.
Dominance displays and rank order behaviors are just a few of the many things visitors can learn by observing the IWC’s live wolves.

While the exhibit pack members Boltz and Luna, who came to the center in 2012, and Aidan and Denali, born in 2008, may be the stars of the center, there are many other ways to learn about wolves at the IWC — some that give participants an even more intimate look at the creatures.

One of those programs — the Wild Family Rendezvous Weekend — will take place Aug. 1-2 and again Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5-6.

During the rendezvous, families partake in a variety of wolf-and northwoods-geared activities, including hikes, games such as Wolf Jeopardy, and crafts. They learn about radio tracking and wolf ecology, and observe as the wolves are fed. Families camp out in the center’s auditorium, where ceiling-to-floor windows look out to the exhibit pack’s enclosure, and participants receive their own dinner, along with breakfast in the morning.

Another chance to stay overnight at the center is during the IWC’s Wolf Watch programs, which focus on wolf ethology — interpreting wolf behaviors. The next Wolf Watch will be Aug. 6-7.
This week the IWC is hosting a four-day camp for kids. Each day will focus on a different topic involving wolves and how they communicate, adapt to their environment and hunt, said Kelly Godfrey, IWC program director. The annual camp brings in local youngsters and children visiting the area with their families, she said.

The center has programs not only for kids and families, but also specialty groups, said Godfrey, who is launching a new Women’s Only weekend Oct. 9-11. Programs will be held throughout the year, and women will learn about wolves, northwoods activities such as how to canoe or snowshoe and cross-country ski, as well as camping and survival skills.

Other programs include wolf and night sky photography classes. The next wolf photography session will be Oct. 2-4 and will offer training in wolf behaviors, hands-on wolf and wildlife photography instruction, and an opportunity to learn and share advice about photographing wolves and nature. The night sky classes take place in the winter when it gets dark earlier and focus on how to take photos in the dark, Godfrey said.

The IWC provides resources for Scouts to earn merit badges and children to have birthday parties, including the option of slumber parties at the center.

And during Ely’s Harvest Moon Festival, plans are to have a bus trip from the Twin Cities offering visitors a chance to take part in the festival and head over to the IWC before retuning home, with a stop for dinner along the way.

The center has plenty of programming on-site, Godfrey said, but also “reaches out” to the community at large — to the world, really.

Wolf Curator Lori Schmidt holds webinars at least once a month, allowing anyone around the globe to partake in a virtual visit to the IWC through live video and PowerPoint presentations. There have been viewers from many countries, Godfrey said.

Additionally, the center’s Wolf Link program provides learning experiences to children at schools via technology.

And in September, the IWC will begin a lecture series on deer and moose populations, and a presentation on the red wolf. Red wolves reside in the southern states, and the program will include a southern fried chicken dinner.

But of course, the IWC’s ambassador wolves are always the main attraction, no matter what.
And Aidan and Denali, Luna and Boltz, along with their retired pack member, Grizzer, who resides in his own separate enclosure, will be joined by two new wolf pups come next spring — giving even more chances for visitors to take part in pup programs and observe and learn about wolves.