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Arctic Wolf to Visit Bryant University

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Next Monday, eight-year-old Arctic gray wolf “Atka” will visit Bryant University in a presentation by the Wolf Conservation Center of New York, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the reintroduction and protection of wolves in the wild by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in protecting their future. Sponsored by Bryant’s Department of Science and Technology, next Monday’s program discusses the history of wolves in the United States, the importance of wolves in a healthy ecosystem, and the latest wolf conservation efforts.

Rare Opportunity

“It’s such a compelling presentation,” said Dr. Gaytha Langlois, professor and chair of Bryant’s Sciece and Technology Department. She became acquainted with Atka in two previous appearances at the school, and said that since then, this has become one of the department’s most widely-attended programs. “One of the things that happens to you when the wolf is walking down the aisle with the handler, is that it stops and looks into your eyes–it’s like the essence of life,” she explained. Langlois understands why people have fear of wolves. “We’re scared of them because we’ve read Little Red Riding Hood!” she laughed. But in all seriousness, even though some wolf populations have been restored, enough for some species to be taken off the endangered list, others face serious danger.

Ongoing Threat

A number of hunting groups out west, she says, have organized aerial wolf gunning trips, the controversial practice of shooting wolves from an aircraft, while others orgainze land-based hunting excursions. According to a recently published article in the New York Times, 250 wolves were killed in hunts in Montana and Idaho last season, and both states had increased the number of wolves that could be harvested in 2010. “You realize some people don’t value wolves as a species,” she conceded. While the Wolf Conservation Center of New York concentrates its efforts on reintroducing wolves to the wild whenever possible, Atka, she explained, is part of the center’s Ambassador pack of three Gray wolves who are unable to be reintroduced and thus, when they have the right disposition, can be ideal representatives. “Atka is a beautiful animal with a snow-white coat,”she described, adding he’s exceptionally tall. “He’s allowed to walk around with his leash on, and he just has this presence.”

The event is free and open to the public on November 8, 12-1pm, at Bryant University’s Janikes Auditorium in Smithfield.

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