Preserve Gives Wolves Room to Roam
It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.
- William R Inge
An Arctic wolf at the 10-acre Latoka Wolf Preserve in Columbia, home to 24 wolves in their natural habitat.
by Allison Freeman
Somewhere nearby a fire department alarm went off. A few minutes later, it was like being in the centre of the pack as 24 wolves howled in unison. And then they were done, and life was back to normal at the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, just east of the Delaware Water Gap.
Hidden away off Route 94, up a steep, steep hill, in the back of the Camp Taylor Campground, 24 wolves make their home. Having grown up in human care, they come when they are called. They hurry to the fence, where co-owner and animal handler Jim Stein calls each by name and throws them I small pieces of meat.
A few wolves are shy and never come to greet the human visitors - who peer through the wire fences at the beautiful creatures. Some play with each other, and others appear to fight, although Stein notes they rarely hurt each other. The preserve has permits from the town as well as state and federal agencies that allow 24 wolves on the premises, Stein said.
Visitors peer through wire fences, about 6 feet high, which surround the entire preserve. The wolves come towards the fence when visitors approach. There are four different sections of the 10-acre preserve, featuring four wolf packs and three varieties of wolves.
There are white Tundra wolves from Alaska; Timber or Gray wolves from Canada or the northern United States, and Arctic wolves from Greenland whose thick coats allow them to survive temperatures as extreme as 100 degrees below zero, Stein said. Stein gives visitors a thorough tour, telling them everything they would ever want to know about wolves. His laid-back demeanor seems to do well with the wolves, who play with him when he enters their enclosed dwelling. He playfully pets one and helps remove some of the heavy winter coat it is trying to shed before summer. One wolf nips at Stein's pager and another sniffs at his pocket, which is full of meaty wolf treats. The wolves eat a lot of deer, and Stein is always finding carcasses on the highway to feed them with, he said.
Stein talks about how he took care of many of the wolves when they were pups, nursing them every few hours with bottles and teaching them to relieve themselves by rubbing them with wet cloths, in lieu of a mother wolf to lick them. Most wolves can smell humans a mile away and stay away from them, Stein said. The stories about wolves eating grandmothers are fairy tales, he told a crowd of visitors last week.
The preserve is named for Lakota, now a grandmother wolf who was picked on by many of the other wolves because she was so weak. Stein gave her two wolf puppies to care for and set her up in her own area. She is now a respected member of her pack.
Stein says his l0-acre preserve is the only one of its size in the Northeast. There are only a few others of this size in the country, he said. He moved the preserve from Colorado to Warren County three years ago because he could not secure the proper permits to open his preserve to visitors. Many of the wolves he has on the preserve he found for sale by breeders at roadside stands in Colorado or in cages at roadside zoos there. The others were born in the preserve.
"Instead of living a life in a zoo, in a cage, these wolves can have a life as a wolf," Stein said. He would like to take in more wolves, he said, but he is only permitted to have 24 on the preserve, which is currently at capacity.
The tour also includes a visit with two foxes and three bobcats. The preserve is a one-mile bumpy bus ride from the campground. People can watch a video on the bus about wolves as they make the trip. For those who don't want to take the bus, it is a half-mile hike to the preserve along a rocky path through the wooded campgrounds. Deer and wild turkeys are sometimes seen. A recent walk down the mountain to the campgrounds did not result in any chance encounters with wildlife of any kind but it was a pretty walk, full of plants, butterflies and a pond.
Source: The Star-Ledger Friday 15 June 2001 top two photo credits Rich Schultz
Where: Camp Taylor Campground, part of Knowlton Township, Warren County
Directions: Interstate Route 80 West to Exit 4 (Columbia).
89 Mt Pleasant Road
When: Wolf watches are held daily at 10:30am and 4pm.
How much: $15 adults, $7 children under 12
Kid quotient: Children who enjoy animals will love the wolf watch. They will also enjoy seeing the bobcats and foxes.
How long: The tour takes about two hours.
Stein presents the wolves within their natural surrounding,
Source: Lakota Wolf Preserve brochure. Visit their website at www.lakotawolf.com for more details.
This page last updated on: Sunday, 18 January 2004
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