Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lakota Wolf Preserve (lots of pictures)

For my mother-in-law's birthday, we told her we'd take her to the Lakota Wolf Preserve near us. She and the husband are both big wolf fans, and we thought this would be an enjoyable day. Our first attempt in February was a bust due to weather, but we tried again with success this weekend. J's grandmother came along as well, so it was a nice family outing.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a really neat place. The people who run the preserve have 3 or 4 packs of Arctic, gray, and timber wolves, each with a large spread of land to roam in. They also have a smaller area for foxes and bobcats. All of the animals are rescues from people who either tried to raise the animals as pets (a concept I will never understand) or were in unsavory situations, or in other preserves where pups were born and couldn't be kept permanently. I was impressed at their setup: they made sure they have enough space for the animals, have taken steps to prevent overcrowding, try and provide as natural a habitat and diet as possible, monitor the pack dynamics to limit or prevent injury to the wolves, and they really know their stuff.

Each large area for the wolf packs is surrounded by a double layer of fencing. We were outside the outer layer. If you want to come for a private photography session, you're allowed in the inner layer. Just thought you should know so you'd understand why there is fencing in all of our animal pictures.

Since these are wolves in captivity, they have picked up on a few things. They know what time the tours come, and that means they get to see their keepers and have some snacks, so they were waiting for us when we arrived.

They also know about how long the tour guide is going to talk. Since he ends his presentation by talking about wolf howls, they don't need much (if any) prodding to start calling to each other.

It was quite impressive. The tour guide told us that each wolf has its own voice, and all the wolves recognize each other, as well as the tour guide's howl. They'll even respond to a fire siren, thinking it's a rival pack. I loved the fact that they just hung out and howled rather casually as we watched.

After seeing the wolves, we headed over to the small animal area to see the foxes and bobcats.

Cute, no? They were constantly on the move as we heard all about fox behavior, and the personalities of the foxes at the preserve.

Watching the bobcats was like watching Hobbes on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They roamed around for a while, then decided to flop and twist. Look at those paws!

It was a gorgeous day, so we decided to walk back to the base camp instead of taking the shuttle down. Of course, I had to keep my camera out. Good thing too, since we saw some more common wildlife!

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