Friday, 21 March 2014

visiting the local wolf santuary

My daughter loves wolves so when we found out there was a wolf sanctuary only  a few minutes away from where we lived and the local homeschool group had scheduled a tour, we signed up so we could see the wolves.  Previous places we have visited have been truly rescue sanctuary, whereas this one is used more for breeding and release purposes.  It is part of the selective breeding services of the government to improve the population of released wolves in the wild and in zoos.

When we arrived the facility is behind a locked gate and we were escorted inside by a facility member

I was surprised to find out this facility used to be an old WWII supply center and there are still many bunkers and an old train station on the grounds.  Many are being converted by the university that owns the property.  
We first had a brief introduction to the type of wolves that they care for and what exactly the breeding program does.  There is a SSP program that ensures that the remaining wolves in the wild have the varied genetic pool to survive.  Wolves are entered into a computer site that matches females and males and then the wolves are moved around the country and even abroad to mate and produce offspring.  It sounded very complex but a really great system.  

Kids were introduce to the main types of animals this center breeds, Mane wolf, grey wolf, red wolf, painted dogs and swift foxes.

Next we went out to see their facilities and saw some of the dens the facility supplies for each mating pair

painted dogs--but hard to see here -- are considered a nuisance in Africa where they are from and are often killed by humans.  
A better picture of what the dog looks like:)  These dogs are being used to improve the dogs in zoos.  In fact the St Louis zoo is constructing habitat for a new painted dog exhibit:)
Recently it was discovered that in captivity the painted dogs are developing shorter legs because in the first 10 weeks of its life the young pups gorge eat to get the most nutrition.  In captivity the keepers were stricter with their diets and it was affecting their growth...modifications are now being made to improve the animal to make it more like the wild dogs.  We were also told these dogs have a strong jaw and can consume an animal in about 5 minutes bones and all--this is because in the wild they must complete with lions who will chase them away from their kills if they happen to come by.

There were at one time, only 14 red woves left in the wild (I didn't get the year that was discovered)  however that number has gone up  140  wolves and they are being released in a protective area in North Carolina.

swift fox is now doing well in the United states but the breeding programs continues to help our neighbors to the North (Canda)These animals love to dig burrows and the fencing is built to go completely underground so the foxes can not escape.  A pack of swift foxes is called a skulk:)

Grey wolves have had the hardest time in the wild and at one time there were only 7 wolves known to exist.  Grey wolves have 5 subspecies which includes Tundra, Timberwolves, Prairie, arctic and Mexican wolf (which is the smallest of the sub species and they do not howl or bark)

there are now currently 83 wolves in the wild but they continue to struggle due to  ranchers continuing to blame the wolves for killing their animals.  I didn't realized that there is a government program set up to reimburse any rancher who has lost livestock to a wolf but many prefer to just kill the wolf.
The last animal we saw was the Mane wolf which is not really a wolf.  There were only 7 left in the wild at one time.  This animal is an omnivore.  It also walks differently than other wolves using a pacing gait, which means they move the same front and back leg at a time.  They also have gaps in their teeth which helps them hunt for animals in the tall grass.  The mate for life and do not live in packs only coming together to mate.

We found another 250th St Louis birthday cake!!
We were told that while wolves can live 6-7 years in the wild in captivity they lived about 11 years.  Many of the wolf pups here are released into the wild or sent to zoos.  They do keep special ones for breeding only.  We were told of one grey wolf who is 11 years old and has successfully been breed 9 times.  She is now in retirement and will live her life out at this facility.  Breeding her was extremely important as she was the last in her family line.

We hope to go back in late june when we will be able to see the wolf pups that have been born this year.


  1. Wow, that is fascinating. I don't particularly like wolves but this would be an amazing place to visit. I hadn't realised how endangered wolves are.

  2. That is really cool! I did not know that seven of a species was a enough to provide a diverse enough of a gene pool to save a species. Nor did I realize there were so many types of wolves. It is really sad how many people like to kill wolves.

  3. Wow, I learned a lot on this one. I had no idea that there were places like this. I found this post very interesting. The pictures and explanations were awesome. I am so amazed at the field adventures you take your children on. I do think they are getting a very well rounded education You should be proud of this; you are great parents
    Blessings for the learning moment today.