Annual Wolf Fest Emphasizes Need to Protect Canids
Eureka-based center helps to repopulate U.S. and international canid species.
The plight of wolves and canids threatened with being obliterated from Earth was highlighted again at the 24th annual Wolf Fest at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka.
Despite rain and mud, Wolf Fest attendees on Sept. 19 were treated to craft demonstrations, information from various service organizations, and presentations from organizations that worked with animals, including the St. Louis police K-9 unit and Support Dogs Incorporated. In addition to these activities, attendees walked through the sanctuary to see the many wolves, wild dogs and canids that live there.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service statistics, the Mexican Gray Wolf was once a formidable predator in the southwest United States until it was hunted and exterminated to near extinction. In 1973, the animal was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Wolf Center is a key player in rebuilding the population of these animals and reintroducing them back into the wild.
This facility, known as The Wild Canid Center until July, is located on a secluded portion of Washington University's Tyson Research Center at 6750 Tyson Valley Road.
Mac Seabold, the center's director, said the organization's mission is to save these species from extinction, educate the public about the animals and their habitats, and help reintroduce the animals back into their natural environments.
"Our center has the largest population of Mexican Gray Wolves in the United States," said Pam Braasch, the center's education director. "In fact, all Grays now found in the wild within the United States are linked to our center"—from the center's breeding program.
Employees and volunteers ban together to study, breed, and raise these wolves. The animals are kept in large, fenced-off areas where they can be viewed safely. Visitors can even watch as staffers feed the animals.
"We were the first of two U.S. facilities to ever exchange Mexican Gray Wolves with Mexico institutions, and we currently work with South Africa regarding wild dogs," Braash said.
Private tours and a number of events are hosted at the center, including "wolf howls." Wolf howls begin with storytelling and presentations on wolves in the center's education building. Participants then take an evening stroll to the wolf habitats where they encourage the wolves to howl for them. The result is a "wolf symphony." After the walk, participants enjoy a snack and time to shop in the center's gift shop.
The wolf center was founded in 1971 by Dr. Marlin Perkins and his wife, Carol. Perkins headed the St. Louis Zoo from 1962 to 1970, when he became director emeritus. He is best known as the co-creator and host of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," which aired from 1963 to 1990. A world-acclaimed zoologist and naturalist, Perkins died in 1986.
The Perkins' daughter, Marguerite Perkins Garrick, serves on the Endangered Wolf Center board, and has helped champion the cause of wolf recovery.
"My parents have been deeply dedicated to reversing the decimated populations of wolves and other canids," Garrick said. "Their legacy is inextricably intertwined to the legacy of wolves as a wild species, and an iconic symbol of the United States."
Braasch said the center's canids are federally owned animals, but that they do not receive any federal funds to maintain them. "The center is operated based on memberships, private donations, and our educational programs," she said.
The center is open year-round, unless one of the wolves gives birth. This occurs in April or May, and when it happens, the facility closes to protect the puppies from being disturbed. Details can be obtained at www.endangeredwolfcenter.org.
During October, new national tension erupted over whether to allow officials in Northwestern United States to start curbing the wolf population, now that at least 1,700 wolves are said to be roaming parts of six states. Senators from Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah said they want to strip wolves of their endangered status, based on livestock killings and dwindling big game herd.