Lorraine Woiak
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The Eastern Timber Wolf

What I Learned During My Time at a Wolf Reserve

I volunteered at the Timber Wolf Preservation Society (TWPS) from 2012 to its closing in 2014. As a tour guide, I learned things I never thought I would. My first-hand experience showed me that much of what I thought I knew about wolves before was false. They are a beautiful species that I think everyone can learn from. 

Wolves are not aggressive by nature. In fact, they are quite gentle.

The wolf is often portrayed as an evil, violent creature in movies, legends, and children's books. One of the biggest rumors we tried to end was that wolves attack humans. There has never been a documented case of a healthy wolf attacking a human. They are shy by nature and will avoid people as much as possible. 

Many people will claim to have seen a wolf but most have probably actually seen a coyote. Coyotes are known to attack outdoor pets and livestock, often giving wolves a bad reputation with animal owners. Few wolves will even wonder into city limits.  Also contrary to popular belief, wolves are pack hunters. They will survive on small rodents on their own but will rarely attack larger animals unless they are in a pack.

The owner of TWPS, Nancy, had many interesting stories about her life with the wolves, including after work hours as she lived on the property too. One of my favorites was how one of the wolves before my time, Mona, reacted when Nancy came into the enclosure wearing makeup. This was not normal as Nancy only wore makeup when she was going out. As she was getting ready to go, she forgot she had to feed the wolves. Mona approached her and Nancy sat still. The beautiful creature used her teeth to slowly pull the mascara off her eyelashes. She was very careful and patient. Although inconvenient at the time, Nancy recalled the event with amazement at the gentleness of the animal.

Wolves are loyal.

One well-known trait of wolves is that they are loyal. Most people know that they are pack animals. Although they will occasionally fight for leadership of the pack, wolves often hunt for and protect the pack. They are a family, only leaving after a fight to be alpha. A lesser-known fact is that wolves are mate for life. If their mate dies, they will not take another. During life, they protect each other fiercely. The female can often be seen close by her male during a confrontation. Should the male choose to leave the pack, the female will follow. This pair will either join another pack or form their own. 

Wolves are strong.

Wolves are one of the strongest species—both physically and mentally. A wolf's biting pressure is about 398 pounds per square inch. This is very strong compared to a domestic dog's of 320 and a human's of 120. They also are strong distance runners. While it is often difficult to tell what an animal is feeling, it is clear that wolves do not let their emotions dictate their lives. Wolves rely on their instincts and therefore do not take time to grieve. They carry on with their duties to feed and protect the pack. Humans need to take time to sort out their feelings. That is not to say, however, that we do not have something to learn from the nature of wolves. While it is important to pay attention to our feelings, we need to remember how our reactions impact everyone around us.

Wolves are misunderstood.

As stated earlier, wolves are often seen as an evil or violent creature. Yes—they are predators and hunt. But it's that any different than any other species trying to survive? Wolves are often hunted for sport or are tracked down after being accused of killing livestock. Being misunderstood is no stranger to a person. The eastern timber wolf shows us how it is important to live your own life and play your part in the community regardless of how others view you. 

Every wolf is different.

One thing that was noticeable to everyone that visited the TWPS is that every creature had their own personality. Timber Wolf Jim was shy and timid while Comet was friendly and almost dog-like. Each reacted differently to strangers or unusual events. It is hard to accurately judge someone when you don't know their story or personality. A single event can cause a variety of reactions. The opinions of someone can be different for everyone. Every living being is unique, and that is what makes nature beautiful. 

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The Eastern Timber Wolf
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