WOLF AWARENESS WEEK SPOTLIGHT
October 18, 2010
Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?
Not Maggie Howell, 37, who traded in her Wall Street job years ago to run the Wolf Conservation Center in the sleepy Westchester suburb of South Salem, about an hour’s ride from Central Park.
Howell’s bumper sticker reads, “Got Wolf?” But she’s not kidding.
Atka, a stunning white 85-pound arctic gray, rides in the back of Howell’s work van in a crate, traveling to schools, the Museum of Natural History and other events acting as an ambassador for his endangered species.
The 7-year-old wolf was in town recently to promote National Wolf Awareness Week, beginning Oct. 11.
“He’s a rock star. He loves to pose for the camera,” boasted Howell, who grew up a city kid in Chelsea and is the married mother of a 2½-year-old girl, Eleanor.
Atka is one of four arctic grays born in captivity on the 27-acre wooded spread, along with 22 Mexican gray wolves, indigenous to New Mexico and Arizona, and three red wolves, whose habitat is in North Carolina.
He and his three arctic gray counterparts travel around interacting with 30,000 humans a year as part of the center’s outreach program to educate people.
Still, there’s no petting them. They’re “socialized” because they’ve been around people, but that doesn’t mean they can be handled by the public.
To help keep Atka calm during his travels, he has a road buddy with him, a German shepherd named Kai. The dog travels in the front seat of Howell’s work van during their road trips.
The aim of the nonprofit center, which receives 7,000 visitors a year, is to raise healthy offspring from selected wolf packs as potential candidates to be released in areas where they were once hunted nearly to extinction.
It seems to be working. Where there were once only seven Mexican gray wolves left in the wild, now there are close to 400.
And the center hopes to eventually help reintroduce red wolves in North Carolina in its Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
The 10-year-old Wolf Conservation Center was co-founded by renowned classical pianist Helene Grimaud.
Wolf Conservation Center
Founded in 1999. The Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) is a 501c3 organization that promotes wolf conservation by teaching about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and the human role in
protecting their future.
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