Five years ago (sometimes a long five years, sometimes a short five years) husband and I dropped daughter #1 off at college. As usual, we checked out all the brochures in the lobby of the hotel where we stayed for things to do around Lafayette, Indiana. I picked up the brochure for Wolf Park and their Wolf Howl evenings.
Wolf Park was actually in existence when I attended Purdue, oh so many years ago, but their public outreach was pretty small back then, and I very rarely ventured outside of the Purdue bubble. When I read about the Wolf Howl, I knew it was something I wanted to do on one of my myriad future visits to the daughter at her school and my alma mater.
You all know how that goes. The future visits were far from myriad and Wolf Park was never a part of them. Daughter #1 went with a group of friends her junior year and told me they had a great time. Saturday (post-graduation) found the two daughters and myself sans father (husband) and grandparents (in-laws) and looking for a diversion from packing. HALLELUJAH there was a Wolf Howl on the schedule!
A little rain? No problem. Especially for the daughters since I was apparently soaking up all the water flowing down the bleacher seats before it could reach them. But honestly, it was fantastic. It is a research facility, and not a rescue facility as I had thought. They have to begin working with wolf pups at 12 days of age in order to tame the wolves. This does not make them pets, but acclimates them enough to humans that they are comfortable with close contact with the researchers and do not hide from humans as wild wolves will do.
I believe they have at least 15 wolves on the property, but we were introduced to a pack of 7. Beautiful creatures who love to be scritched on the head and will beg for rawhide treats and will also rip apart a deer carcass just on the other side of the fence from bleachers where about 30 cold, wet, humans were enthralled. And I’m sure at least 20 of those cold, wet, humans were wishing they could grow up to be wolf researchers at Wolf Park (in my next life!).
But the best part? Three times they invited all of us to howl at the wolves. The first time was before the wolves had come around the lake to “visit” us. So we all howled and we heard a few wolves howling back at us from …. somewhere. It was awesome. At 20 – 30 minutes intervals, we did two other howls. The second time, one of the wolves we could see joined us, and some wolves from another pack in another part of the park responded. And the final time, although we didn’t hear any response, four of the wolves who we now knew by name and personality, joined us. Their howls are long and loud and solid notes. It was a solid second for highlight of the weekend.
The most interesting thing that all three of us learned at the talk was not about wolves, but about coyotes. Coyotes and wolves are rivals in the wild, and wolves have all the size and strength advantage. Coyotes can do one thing, however, that wolves can’t do – coyotes can bluff. Coyotes do this kind of out of sync yipping and howling that can make as few as two coyotes sound like a pack of eight. There are only two coyotes at Wolf Park, and our guide was able to yip-howl at them and get them to respond. The guide warned us that she had never gotten them to respond across a distance before, and when what sounded like 6-8 coyotes started howling back, she was dancing and fist-pumping and grinning from ear to ear. It was almost as much fun to watch her as to listen to the coyotes.
So, if you ever get a chance to attend a Wolf Howl, in Indiana or elsewhere, I highly recommend it.