Courtesy of the Endangered Wolf Center
Endangered Wolf Center
The Endangered Wolf Center houses about 40 to 50 endangered wolves, such as this Mexican gray, one of theworld’s two most endangered wolf species.
Edge of the Wild
Calling itself “the alternative to extinction,” the Endangered Wolf Center sits just off I-44 in Eureka. It began as the wild canid sanctuary back in1971, shepherded by Carol and Marlin Perkins. Marlin was director of the St. Louis Zoo at the time. This nonprofit center gets much credit for helping keep at least one wolf species from going extinct.
Five Mexican gray wolf pups were born two years ago at the center, to proud parents Perkins and Abby. That’s a big deal, because the Mexican gray wolf is the most endangered species on the North American continent, according to Pamela Braasch, education director at the center. Only 42 such Mexican gray wolves live outside captivity in the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona.
It used to be worse: at one point, only seven Mexican gray wolves were surviving in the wild. This center has been the key to increasing that number. Along with Abby and Perkins, other residents—including Anna, Apache, Bob, Frijole, Redford, Rocky, and Picaron—are doing their best to propagate the species.
Everyone hopes Inapa will bear pups, too. She used to be the lone red wolf here, and she walks on three legs, due to a mysterious injury to her left foreleg. Inapa won’t be released back to the wild. But if she has pups, they could eventually be released into a refuge in North Carolina. Recently, the center received two red wolves from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Maybe Inapa will start a family.
“Our procedure is hands-off,” Pam explains. “We have minimal contact with the animals and only touch them when they’re vaccinated.” The hands-off approach gives the animals a better chance to acclimate back to the wild. “They don’t even know their names,” Pam says.
If you’re wondering how the wolves get their names, think Betty White. “Betty is one of our strongest supporters,” Pam says. “For a benefit a few years ago, she challenged supporters to pony up and name a wolf.” The price tag: $2,500 per name. She put her money down and named Perkins for you know who and another male Redford, for, well, you know who.
If you like a cappella voices, don’t miss the center’s Campfire Wolf Howl. Several times a year, registrants gather around a campfire and hear Pam and others tell tales of wolves—not the tales your mother read to you. These are tales from the wolves’ points of view, about family life and working together. Then it’s time for a concert.
The group leaves the campfire and walks past the wolf habitat. As most dog owners can attest, it’s usually easy to get a canine to sing. The howl you hear is the real McCoy.
The howl of the wolf fell silent in Missouri’s remnant wilds as civilization pushed them from their habitat. But you might still hear a stray howl, even in the city. Coyotes, close relatives to wolves, roam the metro St. Louis area. City coyotes adapt to the urban lifestyle and can be seen by humans often more readily than their country cousins.
But like the wolf, the wolf center itself is endangered, as a tough economy makes things hard for a menagerie of canids that depend on the kindness of strangers.