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Wolf Conservation Center Welcomes Two New Pups

LEWISBORO – Their names are Zephyr and Alawa and they are just a cute as you might imagine.

The 10-week-old wolf pups have joined the staff at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in Lewisboro to become its next line of “ambassador” wolves, charged with the task of helping to educate the public about their species.

“Ambassador wolves are bred specifically for education,” said Deb Heineman, the WCC’s executive director. “They are socialized but not domesticated. Socialization helps them overcome their fear of humans.”

Right now the lead ambassador wolf is Atka, and he takes his job seriously.

“He’s been everywhere,” Heineman said. “He’s been on the Intrepid, and he’s been before Congress. He knows he has a job.”

The Wolf Conservation Center, which was founded 15 years ago by French concert pianist Helene Grimaud and environmental photographer J. Henry Fair, has two missions: education and conservation. It boasts its own classroom for visitors and it also takes road trips where ambassador wolves like Atka help people understand that he and his kind are not out to devour Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. In fact, they are generally shy, reclusive creatures.

The center also helps with the preservation of wolves, a species that has been teetering on the brink of extinction for decades.

“We shelter and breed those wolves on the premises and then repopulate them in areas where they are indigenous,” Heineman said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department in conjunction with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program decides which animals should be bred and which should be returned to the wild.

“They decide where the different wolves should go,” Heineman said.

Right now, the WCC is dedicated to working with the Mexican gray wolf, and the red wolf.

“They selectively released into the wild,” Heineman explained. “When they are, they released as small pups. The red wolves are only released down in the Carolinas where they are hopefully adopted by a wild wolf pack.”

In the meantime, Zephyr and Alawa are preparing for their lives as ambassador wolves.

“The pups actually have play dates,” Heineman said. “People sign up and they spend time with the pups. These are people other than our regular caretakers. It creates positive interaction and helps the wolves get used to be being around people.”

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