I have always had an obsession with wolves. While I have been trekking out to Yellowstone and the Tetons for several years, most of my experiences with wolves in the wild has been very limited. Wolf sightings have always been at an extraordinary distance and photography was not really an option. I did, as my friend Robert says, get to “fill the memory card between my ears.” As a result, most of my first hand experience of wolves comes from books and zoos.
Some time ago, one of our forum members, Kevin Batchelor, started sharing photos that he had been taking at the wolf conservation center near him and I became intrigued with the concept of seeing wolves in a more intimate fashion. I began researching to see if there were any Wolf Conservation centers in NY. I was surprised to find that there was one less than 45 minutes from my apartment in Manhattan.
The Wolf Conservation Center’s mission is to “teach people about wolves, their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting their future.” In addition to the educational programs that they provide on-site and off site, they are involved directly in the Species Survival Plan for the Mexican Gray Wolf and the Red Wolf. Both of these groups of wolves are amongst the rarest mammals in North America.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Services, these two mammals have about 100 or so living members in the wild. For example, the Red Wolf is numbers at approximately 100 living in the wild in North Carolina. There are approximately another 175 red wolves living in captivity throughout the United States. According to Maggie Howell, of NY Wolf, there may be fewer than 58 Mexican Gray Wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. With the numbers of living wild wolves so low, it is not difficult to imagine how profoundly important the work is that is being performed at places like the New York Wolf Conservation Center. I do not believe that it is a reach to say that without their work, the chances of the Red and Gray wolf’s survival would be in even greater doubt.
I have now had the opportunity to go and photograph at the NY Wolf Conservation Center on two occasions, once with my wife and once with my nephew. Both experiences were simply amazing. I had the opportunity to photograph three Gray Wolves (Atka, Zephyr and Alawa) as well as view some Red Wolves. The director, Maggie Howell, is able to howl as well as anyone I have ever seen and one call from her started the wolves in a crescendo that I can still feel reverberating down my spine.
While we were there, I had the opportunity to take my nephew to one of the presentations that they were performing for the various children in attendance. Even though we were – by far – the oldest participants there, the lecture was really good, and I felt that the gentleman performing the lecture did an amazing job both engaging the young and the not so old alike. I left there feeling that while the situations concerning wolves in the wild continues to be dire that there is still chance for them.
Much of the news that I write here at NWP regarding wolves is very negative. While many of us who are environmentally minded see them as being necessary parts of a healthy food chain, there are many who seem them as being much more sinister. Wolves are seen, particularly by ranchers and others in the meat industry, as being threats to their herds. This is particularly true in the areas where the Gray Wolf have been reintroduced near Yellowstone National Park. Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have all recently taken draconian measures to kill off populations of wolves that are spreading from the Yellowstone/Grand Teton region. To say that I am – at best – disappointed by the Federal Government’s failure to step into these situations is an understatement. I hope that programs like NY Wolf will be able to work promote the education necessary to help prevent the destruction of these important and magnificent animals.
To learn more about the NY Wolf Conservation Program, please feel free to go to their website: http://www.nywolf.com.
Also, if you have a few cents that you can part with, please remember them between the heat and the light.