Tribune Chronicle, BAZETTA - "We share the planet with all forms of life," Sharon and Michael Sandlofer say of their traveling exhibit, Wolves of the World.
The pair tour with one of "the world's only traveling pack of wolves," rescues from "fur factories," poor caregivers and other situations. This week, they are at the Trumbull County Fair.
All of the wolves in the show were in captivity previously, unable to live in the wild, they said. But the animals retain their "fiercely independent nature. The animals do not do tricks," Sharon said. "They aren't trained, domestic dogs, they are wild animals." Nonetheless, the wolves have learned that certain behavior will earn them a treat - raw meat - they need about five pounds a day to live.
Fairgoers today can watch and learn about the alpha male and female - LaKota, a 10-year-old Eastern timber wolf that recently selected 4-year-old Eastern timber wolf Zephyr for her mate. "Wolves of the World" is also home to five adolescent males, about 3 years old, from West Virginia. The pups are 2 percent Alaskan Malamute, giving their tails a curve. "Hanging out with 'the boys' is kind of like hanging out with a group of kindergarteners," Sharon said.
The wolves in the pack cared for five wolves previously without a pack. Sharon said some female wolves will even begin lactating to take care of pups she did not give birth to, demonstrating a tight-knit pack.
Behind a metal cage, the wolves come out into a "playground," where Sharon encourages the animals to jump for meat, sit up tall on platforms and even cross a thin ladder 12-feet off the ground. The animals splash in a large, flowing pool and playfully run circles around each other. The wolves demonstrate innate features of strength, focus and concentration, the Sandlofers said.
There is more to the Sandlofers' purpose than giving the public a real-world look at some of the most elusive and notorious animals in the country. "The native Americans really respected the wolves," Sharon said. "They watched them and learned from them, adopting their some of their hunting practices."
But wolves have got a bad name of late. The Sandlofers ask those that view the exhibit to write their congressmen and women about the plight of an animal recently taken off of the endangered species list. They want them back on. "They are being killed by the hundreds," Sharon said.
Wolf eradication programs were the norm in the United States from the start, the couple said. Even into the 20th century, wolves were considered a threat to livestock and people, and hunted. Traders and big game hunters also had an interest in hunting wolves, for their skins and to keep as trophies.
Large swaths of wild wolf populations began to decline and they were completely eliminated from areas like Yellowstone National Park. After the Endangered Species Act of 1973 was passed, plans to reintroduce wolves to the areas they were previously eliminated was discussed. In 1995, an official program began to reintroduce wolves to some areas of the country, a program some said had devastating impacts on other wildlife populations.
In 2009, wolves were taken off the endangered species list, opening the door to quota and permit hunting. The Sandlofers say there is a lot humanity could learn from a pack of wolves, especially when it comes to family values. "They are one of three species on earth that care for the elderly," Sharon said. "The whole pack helps to take care of the young."