Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wolves in the Park!

On Sunday I visited Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana; a Purdue University run facility and wolf sanctuary that has been open since the 1970's. They currently have 14 gray wolves kept on the grounds, a variety of rescued foxes, two coyotes, and a herd of American bison. All but the bison have been socialized to interact alongside humans. Wolf Park is a member of the North American Wildlife Park Foundation and ethology studies are ongoing year-round there by some of the top animal behaviorists in the world.

Here is a wolf being chased away by a bison at Wolf Park. The wolves there are well fed so are not a real threat to the bison, but still instinctually approach the bison out of curiosity. The bison do not seem to be afraid of the wolves, but they still instinctually run the wolves away! This interaction is really fun to watch. Above photo courtesy of Monty Sloan, who is the professional photographer for Wolf Park.

The public can visit Wolf Park to take part in different activities like wildlife walks, and bison/wolf interaction demonstrations. They can also visit during the evening for Full Moon Howl Night, to literally communicate with the pack! I have done this myself, and it was quite special. I love the staff as they are very knowledgeable and well acquainted with the wolves. They go into the expansive wolf enclosure, which contains a lake and beautiful trees and meadows, and the wolves come running over to play! The staff have to remain on guard of course, but the wolves jump and lick their faces and love to have their bellies rubbed. It's really adorable, and makes vet visits very easy for them too!

Here is a picture I was able to take of the wolf Renki while visiting last Sunday. He is the lowest ranking wolf in the pack right now (Placement within the pack can shift, and does if the alpha dog's circumstances change to make it less able to assert confidence and ability). Renki is quite the personality. The staff describes him as incredibly persistent, and keen on pushing the other wolves "buttons". Sounds like a little rascal to me! I noticed that he also likes to show visitors his beautiful smile, and paces in front of the fence to look at each individual.

So who is the leader of the pack, you ask??

Meet Wolfgang, the handsome fellow! Wolfgang is currently 4 years old and seems to enjoy his job as alpha dog very much. He has a knack for pushing the 'buttons' of the other wolves in the pack, but he has a very adventurous spirit and enjoys meeting new people, the staff says.

Above is Kiri, the eldest of the wolves. He is a black wolf, and is currently 16 years of age! He spends his days in Wolf Park's retirement community where he still gets plenty of attention and has a beautiful home - he is not able to roam with the main pack anymore due to his age and the fact that he was never fully initiated into the pack by the dominant wolves. Kiri has a sweet spirit, and holds a lot of fur! He looks like a giant teddy bear when he sits!

Here is a fun moment I was able to capture with my camera through the fence. One of the wolves cooling off in the water! He swam to-and-fro, just to get out of the 94 degree heat that day! It looked enticing to me!

I recently found out about Wolf Park photography seminars, something that might interest people who want to learn more about nature photography. These yearly seminars are held amongst the wolves, taught by Monty Sloan, photographer extraordinaire. The class cost is $195, and sounds like an amazing day! Just take a look at what class participant Gary Borland ended up with below - a gorgeous photograph!

But don't be intimidated ... you are not required to have a fancy camera! As long as you have enough film handy, you're all set! So, click here to read more about this unique opportunity. I'm thinking about going myself! What a treat, to be able to interact first-hand with such important animals. Where else in this world would you be able to stand 'in the ring', with wolves?!

Now on to the rest of the park, and what other magnificent creatures they have ...

This is one of Wolf Park's foxes. Basil is a beautiful white fox with shadings of orange on his coat. He loves to climb on top of people's heads and kiss them all over! I haven't had the pleasure, but I've seen his sweet little face and I love him. Basil is a funny guy - and a real stinker. (Pun intended! I learned from the staff that foxes have musk glands just like skunks do ... and that sometimes when driving at night when you think you smell a skunk, it could very well actually be a fox!) Another interesting fact is that, unlike a skunk's scent gland which can be removed, fox glands cannot, as they are located around the throat area and would likely kill the animal if operated on.
Basil has been through a lot since his days as someone's pet! The person who owned him ended up not caring for Basil's nocturnal ways, not to mention the musky smell, so they dropped him off at an animal shelter. Foxes are enchanting creatures, and their wild ways do not mesh easily with a human's. Basil is better off at Wolf Park - rarely would a human be able to provide a fox with the proper environment for living a happy life. He is currently 13 years old.

Since I LOVE foxes so much, I decided it wouldn't be fair to not post the other two that make Wolf Park their home. Here is Devon, a gorgeous silver-phase female who loves a good belly rub, and a nice lunch of whole, fresh rabbit. The eating habits of the foxes in the enclosure are fascinating, as they each make sure the other fox has a rabbit too, before they eat their own. How considerate of them!
Devon was rescued as a pup and so has spent her life at Wolf Park. She is 9 years old.

Last but not least, here is Ember, Devon's foster sister. She is a red fox, and the shyest of the bunch. She will still eat from people's hands, but prefers to keep to herself. What a little darling! Foxes are so enchanting.

Now for something completely different! Here is one of the coyotes they have! His name is Willow, and he was so full of energy and vigor that he NEVER held still for a shot! I snapped a picture anyway :0)

And yet ... Wolf Park's professional photographer was able to get Willow to pose perfectly! Wow, what a little cutie pie - look at that little ornery face. Actually, they're really sweet animals with big hearts.

And to tie it all together, a photograph of two that have recently passed away ... I end with photos of Echo and Orca, who died this year.

Orca 1994-2009

Echo 1992-2009


luke said...

Incredible post, Katie! Thank you for all the info and pictures. I would love to visit Wolf Park. Do you think it is something the kids would enjoy as well?

Katie Grace said...

I think kids love this! A lot of parents bring their kids, and the howl night is great for that. Sometimes the wolves don't show up right away, so you can't be guaranteed a great show or anything, but everytime I've gone it's been great fun. The fox dens are good too. And the bison demonstration is really cool, but only takes place on Sundays. Bring water in case it's hot. It's a quarter mile walk to see the bison. I'm glad you liked the post, it was so much fun to write!

Katie Grace said...

Oh, and bring your camera of course! I ran out of battery power, otherwise I would have had more shots! :P

Peng Peng said...

How amazing are those canines! The foxes, oMG... breathtaking creatures.

Eva Marie Sutter said...

Katie, this has to be one of my favorite posts ever! I love the photos and your commentary. I was smiling the whole time! I learned so much too! I'm definitely going to visit this place when I get home. We should go together, I'd be honored if you'd serve as my guide. p.s. Take the photography course!

Maria Madonna Davidoff said...

This is an amazing post and great photos. Thanks for sharing

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Amazing story and photos, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

Anonymous said...

Hello! I am a recent intern from Wolf Park and I randomly came across your blog page! I am so glad that you loved your visit to the park and were able to teach others of the information that you learned while you were there. I do want to comment though on a few of the pictures that you posted. The picture of the wolf that you said was Renki, is actually Wolfgang (you can tell by his eyebrows) and Renki has a Harry Potter mark on his nose. Also, the alpha male is Wolfgang, not Woton. Just a few small things I thought I would let you know! I hope you are able to make it back to the park soon! Those wolves are beautiful and amazing animals!

Katie Grace said...

Thank you for clearing that up! I'll change those facts immediately. I suppose I got confused on the website. Thanks!

ArtSparker said...

I have seen a wolf with a man who travelled with one from a preserve, he was doing a demonstration at a resort in upstate New York, wonderful to watch them move, and he encouraged us to howl (he was giving her a run on the tennis court). She checked us out, but determined we weren't members of her pack.