Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dancing with Wolves

Roger here....   Dianne and I love being outdoors.  It is one of the reasons we enjoy our RV lifestyle.  We have always been intrigued by Wolf Park.  It is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of wolves in captivity and in the wild through behavioral research and education.  It is located just a few miles from West Lafayette, Indiana, but for one reason or another, we have never been there for a visit.  

Side bar ----  I almost visited twenty years ago when as a school principal I accompanied a group of 8th grade student leaders to an overnight leadership camp at nearby Camp Tecumseh.  One of my 8th grade teachers (Laurie) organized the trip and, as a science teacher, was excited to include a trip to Wolf Park on the way to the camp.  Unfortunately, this occurred in the days before GPS. We got lost and never did find the park.  Our poor bus driver (Tom) took us down nearly every gravel road in Tippecanoe County, crossing several bridges, and frequently finding dead ends at the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers.  It really is too bad that we missed it, because our kids would have loved it.  

Sorry for the digression, and on to the fun.  It was early Saturday evening when I searched the computer to see what programs might be available.  OMG, there was an evening "howling" program, and it was only  available on Saturday evenings.  We'd have to hurry if we were going to make it.  We walked the dogs and dove into the car.  When we arrived (at the right location this time), the gate was closed.  I misread the time.  The program did not start for another hour.  My bad.

We drove around the same Tippecanoe County roads that were so confusing twenty years ago, checked out a possible kayaking access point on the Wabash River, and went back.  Glad we did.  The program was fascinating.  While two different docents talked about the wolf pack and wolf behavior, I listened, but was more fascinated by watching the four wolves on the other side of the wire enclosure.  They were soooo close.  Kind of eerie when the four wolves of the main pack stared back at me. 

 They were frequently focused on a crying toddler - hmmm, dinner?  They trotted.  They jumped up on a log to establish dominance.  They ate a pumpkin.  They over-peed on the same pumpkin to claim it as theirs.  They growled.  They attacked each other.  Oh, and they often trotted over to kiss the docent.  Then they fought over who was going to kiss him next.

We did not dance with the wolves, but we did sing with them.  The docent urged us to howl.  We howled.  The four wolves howled.  And then.....  the invisible wolves and coyotes on the other side of the lake howled back.  It was amazing. (Dianne here:  When the wolves become too old or are unable to be in with the "main pack" for any reason, they are "retired" to a different section of Wolf Park to live out their days in peace.  These were the wolves we heard from across the lake.  They also have several coyotes, and at the end of the following video you can hear them chime in, as well as the wolves from across the lake.)

 Turn off all the lights in the room, watch the video below and have a listen.  You won't be sorry.  

This experience was every bit as cool as I thought it would be.  On our way back to the car, we made an obligatory stop at the gift shop to get a refrigerator magnet of Wolfgang, the leader of the pack.

For our daughter, Amanda, and granddaughter, Kaia, "Team Jacob" would love this place :-)

(Dianne again:  We've published two blogs today, so scroll down if you missed the last one.)


Karen and Al said...

Very interesting. I was surprised that the people would be inside the fence with the wolves during that aggressive behavior. Thanks for sharing.

roger and Dianne said...

Karen and Al... Thanks for the comment. The wolves were actually vying for the trainer's attention. The alpha male was letting the other wolf know that he was in charge and that only he could seek the attention (petting) of the trainer. All the aggressive behavior was wolf to wolf and none to the trainers. The docents explained that the aggressive - submissive behavior among the wolves does not result in injury to the wolves. Looked scary though - didn't it?