SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – Workers at the Wolf Conservation Center are optimistic that, with a little help from Mother Nature and a mama and papa wolf, they’ll be welcoming a new arrival this spring.
“We don’t have the pup yet; in fact, it’s not even born yet,” said Spencer Wilhelm, the WCC’s operation manager. “It will be coming from another facility that is breeding a pair of arctic gray wolves.”
Wilhelm said that if the wolves are left alone and given enough space, they will often breed – but there are no guarantees.
“It’s not a slam dunk,” he said. “They’ll usually breed, but there can be complications.”
But the WCC is preparing as if the arrival of the new pup is a done deal. If it happens, the little wolf will be added to the organization’s stable of “ambassadors” – the human-friendly wolves it uses in its myriad educational programs. It has been scheduling “pup socials” for the past week. In fact, the socials are already booked up, but people can still sign up to get on a waiting list. The socials cost $400 for one person, $600 for two.
“We should get the pup a couple of days after it’s born, and we will take over its care and start its socialization,” Wilhelm said. “My German shepherd acts as a nanny or surrogate.”
Those who sign up for the pup socials spend an hour with the baby wolf and can interact with it and let it crawl over them and take pictures.
“We situate the wolf so it’s not like its wild counterparts and is fearful of people,” Wilhelm said. “They’ll see random people come and go and think nothing of it – kind of like wearing an old hat. The registrant will sit in the nursery or play yard and have actual physical contact.”
WCC workers also hope to get the young wolf to accept riding in a vehicle. That doesn’t always happen. While Atka, the WCC’s older, veteran ambassador, has no qualms about going for a ride, Zephyr and Alawa, the pups obtained in the summer of 2011, want nothing to do with it.
“It’s pretty much up to them,” Wilhelm said with a laugh.
Wilhelm said the pup socials let supporters be a part of cultivating an ambassador that will teach visitors about the importance of its wild kin. At summer's end, the pup will join Zephyr and Alawa on exhibit, allowing guests to forge a connection with an elusive predator they would not likely see in the wild.
For more information about the pup socials, go to the WCC's website.