International Wolf Center
Ely, Minnesota

or 1-800-Ely-Wolf

July 03, 2000

We had heard so much about the International Wolf Center in Ely Minnesota we couldn't pass up an opportunity to see it first hand. The International Wolf Center is a nonprofit organization that supports the survival of the wolf around the world by teaching about its life, its associations with other species and its dynamic relationship to humans.  The Center offers many programs, a number of them consist of going into the bush on overnight treks. Unfortunately we did not have the time to explore any of those programs, but if you are interested you can get more information from the Wolf Center. image07The timing of our visit couldn't have been more perfect, as they had just introduced to the Center, two 8 week old Arctic Wolf cubs. They had named them: Malik and Shadow. You can see actual video footage of these two on the Wolf Center's website. The Center itself is a beautiful building filled with information about Wolves and their early beginnings. The Indians believed that various animals were their brothers and as such treated them with respect. For the most part Wolves seemed to do the same. It is very unusual for Wolves to harm humans. However, livestock is another matter and that is where they began to get into conflict with ranchers image02as civilization began encroaching more and more into the wilds. It was very interesting to see the different stories that evolved over the ages. Nursery rhymes, such as Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, tend to make the wolf not only a villain but stupid as well. They are neither. Then we have the ancient tales of "Wolf-men", possibly generated by Indians who wore Wolf heads as ornamental dress, believing in that way they could draw to themselves the power and bravery of the wolves. Today the Center is working very hard to show the wolves as they really are, to the public at large, in an effort to save them and what habitat they have left. In addition to the new cubs the Center currently has one male (Lucas) and two female wolves (McKenzie) and (Lakota). The three are all Plains wolves and they are all siblings. As soon as a wolf is old enough they are spade or neutered to keep them docile. LUCASAs a result when a wolf dies, they have to send to a registered breeder to get a new one. The Center just lost one wolf from old age, and felt that they needed to get a replacement. Well, how about two for one? Lucas, as the only male is naturally the Alpha or leader wolf. The two females McKenzie and Lakota also have their own pecking order. McKenzie is the Alpha female and Lakota is the Beta. It was very interesting to find out from Lori that the social or pecking order is very important for the human handlers to observe. If a handler goes into the compound with the adult wolves and should greet Lakota first that would be a very bad social faux pas, kind of like ignoring the Queen of England as you greet her husband first, eh? Not only is a social error on the handlers part, Lakota would actually be punished for it by the rest of the pack. We found out with the cubs, as with any babies, they interact with one another and with their handlers. Lori Schmidt was the curator of the wolves. As such McKenzieshe spends most of her day bonding with the adult wolves as well as the pups. Lori told us in the first couple of days that the cubs were there, she actually slept in the enclosure with them to make sure that they were adjusting to their new surroundings. I think it is amazing when you meet people like Lori and their dedication to animals. In order to obtain the pups for the Center we learned that they contacted a breeder in Minneapolis that had a special license from the State as well as several other agencies. When the Center requested the pups they had to agree to find homes (various zoos, agencies, etc.) for any of the litter they did not take. People may find it cruel or inhuman for beautiful animals like these to be raised in captivity, but as it was pointed out to us, their mission in life is to educate humans about wolves, thereby helping their fellow wolves in the wild. Although it is obvious that the wolves have image06accepted their handlers, they will never be what the public calls domesticated. They don't learn "cute parlor tricks" to do for the public. However, they do learn to interact with humans so that they don't run and hide every time someone comes by to look at them, or when they need to be treated or fed. Since the cubs are so young they have to be fed on a different schedule than the adult wolves and are kept at a distance from the adult wolves for the time being. However, it is beginning to look like Lucas is showing a protective attitude towards the cubs already. Lakota as the Beta wolf is showing some jealousy towards the cubs and anytime she does, Lucas is right there explaining it to her in no uncertain terms that she can't do that. Afterimage03 the cubs were shown to the public, we were allowed behind the scenes with Lori and a couple of the Nannies that help care for the cubs. It was interesting to find out that the Nannies are people who actually pay for the privilege of taking care of these little guys. Not that I wouldn't have paid to do that, but unfortunately in addition you have to have some background in animal care, and hopefully wolf care if possible. One of the Nannies that we met was Nancy Weiss. She actually had a skill in relaxation massage, which helped the cubs when they were first there. We watched as Lori started doing a wolf howl. It was amazing to watch, not onlyimage01 the cubs, but the grown wolves start howling in response. Lori explained to us that the howling was a way of the wolves calling their pack together. It is considered a "gathering" call. Even after Lori stopped the wolves showed a good deal of agitation and pacing before they were sure everything was OK and they calmed down. I applaud the Center for what they are doing and can only hope that they succeed before the earth is devoid of these beautiful, intelligent creatures. Be sure and drop in on their website at: and check up on the new cubs progress.

Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!