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By Christine Scott - Campbell River Mirror
Published: April 08, 2010 3:00 PM
I’m standing a few metres away from a huge grey wolf; it’s about two-metres long from nose to tail, and just under a metre high.
Still in its heavy winter coat, the adult wolf – at 110 pounds (empty) – easily out-weighs most domestic dog species. Fully-fed, this carnivore could weigh 30 pounds more. . . .
We’re visiting wolves this week … at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre in Golden, British Columbia (near the Alberta border on the Trans Canada Highway). Open to the public since 2002, the 1.5-acre educational facility seemed like an ideal experience for our wildlife-focused grandson. . . .
The centre’s six grey wolves – imprinted and socialized – live a pampered existence, well-fed on chickens and road-kill. The facility offers a unique opportunity to walk alongside, and photograph, wolves in the wild. . . .
Despite the fact that wolves – throughout recorded history – have been regarded as undesirable and that humankind has sought to exterminate them, it’s hard not to warm up to these dog-ancestors during a close encounter. . . .
“Wolves’ family structure more closely resembles humans than those of many primate societies,” our interpreter explains. . . .
In fact, two of a wolf’s most observable characteristics are loyalty and affection toward kin. . . .
But wolves, we learned, face an uncertain future, and humans are primarily responsible for wolf mortality. Extremely misunderstood, the wolf is only protected within Canada’s national parks. Currently, the Canadian Wolf Coalition is campaigning to establish buffer zones around B.C. and Alberta national parks. . . .
In the wild, wolves hunt in packs and primarily prey on ungulates (elk, deer, moose, caribou and even bison), thus controlling ungulate over-population. Only one in 10 ‘hunts’ results in a successful kill. . . .
Many years ago, at Yellowstone National Park, in order to increase ungulate populations (and thus increase human visitors), wardens killed off all the wolves. Ungulate numbers soared as they browsed all new growth; trees failed to regenerate, beavers and songbirds departed. To correct the resulting devastation, 30 wolves were imported from Alberta in 1998, and the park slowly returned to its previous naturally-balanced state. . . .
WOLF TRIVIA: Coyotes are close relatives. All domestic dogs descended from grey wolves. Wild wolves do not bark. Wolves are timid: if they see, hear or smell a human, their tendency is to run the other way. . . .
Learn more about the important role they play in conservation at the centre’s website: www.northernlightswildlife.com . . . Or phone: 1-877-377-WOLF (9653). Visit the wolves year-round, seven days a week. . . .
The centre, operated by Shelley and Casey Black, aims to promote wolf conservation throughout the natural environment: