International Wolf Center

July 16-19, 2018

The pack

Chloe attended a four day summer day camp at the International Wolf Center in Ely and loved it. She learned all about wolves, wolf packs, humans and wolves, moose and wolves and so on. They spent time every day observing and documenting the wolves. They also went all through the museum and played games and hiked and did other “summer camp” type stuff. Most of the kids were younger than her but one girl was around a year older and those two thankfully hit it off. It seemed that EVERY kid at that camp had been over the moon excited about going.

Chloe is an animal lover and a SERIOUS baby animal lover so her input for this blog is “They’re getting two new cubs in 2020!!!!!!” (please go back and read that in a high pitched, excited girl voice). One added bonus we got when dropping Chloe off each morning was the 8 am feeding time. The center doesn’t open until 9 and camp drop off was 8:15 but if we made it into the parking lot by 8 we could hear ALL the wolves let loose with howls in anticipation of breakfast. It was pretty awesome.

The center has “Ambassador” Wolves which means they have been raised by humans and are pretty much tame (or at least docile enough the handler can enter the enclosure). Their purpose is to educate and deprogram people. Wolves are not evil. Wolves are not good. Wolves are wolves and do what wolves are meant to do. The center keeps the wolves in a pack environment to encourage their natural behaviors. At the time we visited, the wolf center had 5 Ambassador Wolves in the main enclosure. Two others have been retired; one for age and one for attitude. Yes, attitude. One female didn’t like it when the most recent cubs were introduced to the pack. She stopped playing well with others. One example of bad attitude they explained was treats. She would quickly and aggressively gather ALL the treats into a pile and guard them from the other wolves. She didn’t get over it and was moved to an off view enclosure with the other retired wolf. He is an older wolf that had been alpha for the pack, got old, was challenged, and lost. In the wild he would be run from the pack. At the Wolf Center, he gets a cushy retirement. The two retired wolves get along fine but you can’t see them anymore.

Observing the wolves


Observing the humans that are observing the wolves

The rest of the wolves are in the large enclosure behind the Wolf Center with walls of glass to facilitate viewing. There is some kind of enrichment around noon every day and the wolves usually come right up by the glass to get whatever goodies have been put out for them. The yummy of the day when we visited was deer leg popsicles… uh, yum? It was quite hot while we were there so most of the time the wolves were chillin’ in their dens back off in the enclosure where we couldn’t see them. Then it came time for treats and they wandered down looking relaxed and cool like they weren’t just coming for the goodies but we knew better.

Stalking the treat


Score! Yummy deer leg popsicle. Mmm mmm good.

The wolf center exhibits are all about education. They have a ton of information and graphics about wolves and other animals. There is a huge diorama in the center of the exhibit hall showing wolves in natural behaviors… including dining on deer. Wolf/predator + deer/prey= dinner.

Diorama of natural wolf behavior

We saw our first moose there, but he was stuffed… this big fella was on display. We thought “whoa, cool” then we started reading and got sad. There are no moose in the Ely, MN area anymore. In fact there are no moose anywhere near Ely. This probably means there are a lot fewer wild wolves as they have to move to where the food is. One factor for the absence of moose is temperature. Moose start feeling hot at 55 degrees and norther Minnesota is warmer than it used to be. It was in the 90’s when we were there. And yes, the wolves took out some of the moose but the deer and ticks took out far more. Researchers discovered the local deer have brain worms. The worms burrow into the deer’s brain and they don’t seem to have any ill effect. Those same worms burrow into a moose’s brain and it gets confused, wanders in circles, and forgets to eat. It’s like instant Alzheimer’s for moose. The ticks are just bloodsuckers. They’ve found over 100,000 ticks on one moose. This seriously weakens the moose. Weak moose are easier prey and seldom survive the winter. We hope that many moose left the area in search of cooler temperatures so that fewer had to suffer the brainworms and ticks. We’d love to see a live moose wandering along someday in a natural environment.

Moose!!! Alas, still have only seen stuffed ones.

If you love wolves, check out the International Wolf Center The summer camp was sadly only for kids but they have other programs for adults, like dinner with the wolves (I suggest you pass on the deer leg popsicles).


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