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Sunday, July 3, 2016

The "Extinct is Forever" Story

Grandson Caden with friend Cody walk
toward the first wolf pack.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country listening to our tour guide, Chuck, tell us about the history, the residents and the habitat of what is known as the Wolf Sanctuary of PA.  With me today is my grandson, Caden, and one of his best friends and teammates on the Mountville Braves baseball team, Cody.  I made reservations a few days ago and we were anxious to visit the only wolf sanctuary in the state of Pennsylvania.  A little over 30 years ago the Darlington Family established a wildlife refuge in Lititz, Pennsylvania for wolves who had been abused, abandoned or were no longer wanted by their former owners.  They established this refuge on about 30 acres of their property in the wooded hills of northern  Lancaster County.  
Our guide Chuck being corrected by his friend.
The refuge is now operated in loving memory of William H. Darlington, founder and executive director, who died in 1998.  His wife still lives on the property and helps with the organiza- tion.  The refuge originally was opened as a private rescue, but today educates visitors who travel from around the world to see the wolves that call the Wolf Sanctuary home.  
Chuck prepares to feed one of the wolves.
The last wild wolf known to have existed in Pennsylvania was over a hundred years ago.  The Sanctuary, which is registered as a non-profit organization and manages to survive on donations and the loving care of its many volunteers, currently provides not only a home, but food and veterinary care for the 47 wolves which we had the pleasure to visit today.  After arriving we were checked in and met our tour guide Chuck.  Chuck spent his working life in the military and after retirement dedicated his life to the wolves at the Wolf Sanctuary.  He talked as if they were his children and knew the names of each one, their individual idiosyncrasies and had stories to share about each one.  
The markings on each of these wolves is quite different.
He led us from one pack to the next, many of different sizes.  He told us the differences between the gray, timber and tundra wolves as well as explaining the hierarchy system of the wolf pack which includes the Alpha male and female down to the lowly Omega member of the pack.  
This wolf is very angry about something.  Click on the photo
to enlarge it and you will see the troubled eyes of the other.
The males tend to dominate other males while the females dominate other females.  The wolf's only predator is the human and therefore fiercely dislikes humans.  At times dogs can resemble wolves and if a new member is brought to the rescue, it is necessary to test the animals DNA to determine if they are a dog or wolf.  A few other facts I learned today are: wolves don't attack humans in packs, the wolf's fangs can be 1 3/4" in length, they tend to spend 50% of their day resting, their brain is larger than a dog's brain, they tend to bite with their incisors, a pack can skin a dead dear in a matter of minutes, in the cold weather a third of their weight is their fur, it is illegal in Pennsylvania to own any animal which has any part wolf in it, they can smell scents 4-5 miles away and can hear up to 11-12 miles away, and they hate domesticated animals.  
This wolf is rather shy and prefers not to associate with humans.
Chuck told a story of a couple that wanted to visit the refuge, but needed the use of their service dog.  When they arrived and opened the car door, the wolf packs smelled it and all began to howl.  Scared the couple enough that they decided to leave.  We got to meet Thor today who happens to be a blind wolf.  
This is Thor, the blind wolf.
Chuck told our group to be quiet, threw a piece of meat about 50 yards into the woods behind Thor and within seconds the wolf put its nose in the air, turned in the direction of the food and followed the scent until it found the meat.  Truly amazing!  Chuck told us that there hasn't been a record of a wolf having rabies since the 1800s.  Many of 

This wolf is willing to allow Chuck to touch him.  There
aren't too many who will allow human touching.
the wolves at the refuge do have lime disease, but it doesn't seem to affect them.  At times you could hear a few wolves howling which he said was their method of communicating with other wolves in their pack.  Chuck was very careful with all his moves around the wolves and only reached through the metal fence to touch a few who he has known for many years and who trust him as well as who he trusts not to grab him.  
This is an Arctic wolf who can devour an entire frozen
chicken leg, swallowing the entire bone and all.  The
stomach acid is extremely so strong it will dissolve bone. 
They are beautiful animals. but ... I can see how a wolf could easily kill another larger animal if it was in need of food.  I was very impressed today with the knowledge our guide exhibited as well as the compassion for, and knowledge he had of the wolves. It was obvious that he loved his job as well as those on the other side of the fence, who I believe felt the same affection for him.  Thanks, Chuck, for a fun and informative visit to a truly remarkable place.  It was another extraordinay day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - If you care to donate to this amazing wildlife refuge, click here: https://wolfsanctuarypa.org/donate/

This at one time was the family home of the Darlington's
Sign at the entrance to the Wolf Santuary.

A beautiful arctic wolf.

The wolves look so approachable, but beware!  That's the reason for the metal fence.  
One of the pathways that connect the wolf packs.
Another photo of tour guide Chuck who constantly looks over his shoulder at the wolves.

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