Part Of The Pack–My First Encounter with Red Wolves
By Anita Spaulding, Naturalist Apprentice for Woodlands Nature Station
I am an apprentice at Land Between The Lakes who recently graduated from Murray State University with a degree in Recreation and Leisure Services. Working at the Woodlands Nature Station is my first full-time position post-college. I came to this job with a very strong interest in animals and a little experience volunteering at several different animal shelters and organizations. Red Wolves fascinate me and I get to work with them–What could be better?
Red Wolves are incredible creatures to behold. Agile and elusive, it’s no wonder people never realized they use to be around this region. Red wolves are one of my favorite animals to talk about with visitors. I like discussing topics such as their uniqueness, what they do for the ecosystem, and what we are doing to help them regain access to their natural habitat. This is my first ever experience working with wolves and I am very excited to be sharing my perspective on these amazing animals with you.
What interests me about the wolves is their behavior, or what makes them “tick.” I am curious to know what our wolves think about us, as staff, when we see them everyday. Are they happy or sad, or do they even care at all? I feel they do care…to a certain extent. They are definitely excited when treats are involved. They seem curious to know more about us, but not enough that they want to get too close.
However, we as staff, still give environmental enrichment to the wolves. Enrichment stimulates an animal’s senses and mental activity to promote overall good health and well-being. Giving them toys to chew and play with or rubbing different scents on logs and rocks in the pen keeps them entertained and inclined to natural instincts.
How many of us can say that we get to work with wolves?! It is truly a gift I have been given to work alongside such beautiful animals. I get to see them when they are sleepy, worried, lazy, and energetic. They change moods with the times of day and what the weather is doing. Just like us, they can change how they feel and the way the act when under certain conditions gradually or sporadically.
One of my favorite moments is getting to see the wolves every morning. They always seem to be somewhat enthusiastic about seeing me and it really feels like they know exactly who I am. It seems like we’ve formed a sort of bond with each other. We may not be from the same exact mammal species but I feel like, in a lot of ways, we relate to one another.
In some ways, I have mixed feelings about wolves being in captivity. To be spending their days in an enclosure doesn’t seem like much of a life well spent for a wild animal. However, I understand the need for a boundary. Places like Woodlands Nature Station and other similar facilities help preserve this species.
By being part of the captive breeding program, red wolves can reestablish their population. Young red wolves have an opportunity to live in the wild at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. For red wolves to be back in their natural environment and live off the land, without relying on people, is a great accomplishment.
Being able to work with these amazing creatures on a daily basis is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. The future of this species is bright and I am hopeful for the continuation of the red wolf reintroduction program.
Visit our pack at Woodlands Nature Station! The Nature Station closes for the year on December 1 and will re-open March 2, 2016. There’s a lot to see and programs happening every day.
I hope to see you there!