My first visit to the Speedwell Forge Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz, Pennsylvania included the full moon tour. There was a bonfire burning bright that couldn't be drowned by splurts of rain. We were able to visit several packs of wolves with a guide stationed at each pack. I became fascinated with these magnificent creatures and definitely wanted to return in daylight to spend more time in their presence. I also had a lot of questions about the wolves.
My husband and I arranged for a private tour recently. The entrance and gate let you know that this isn't an ordinary place. We drove on a gravel road. A volunteer let us through the gate. We passed the bed and breakfast, and took a winding road to a spot where we could park. A general tour was just finishing. After letting the volunteers know we were there, we discovered our guide would be wildlife photographer Chuck Rineer. Who better to tell us about these mysterious animals! We began with the timber wolves, a subspecies of the gray wolf. Wolves live in families with a pair and offspring. Their group is called a pack. In Speedwell, there are some packs made up of a genetic family, but other packs where lone wolves have formed bonds to create a pack. This first pack was a family--Merlin, Tioga and Keisha. All of the packs have a history and I hope to go into that in future blogs.
|Merlin, Keisha, Tioga|
There are about 30 wolves on the property. Tioga is the only one Chuck can hand feed and "pet." He does enter the fenced-in areas to feed the wolves. I asked if he's ever afraid that they'll harm him. He answered that he's not, because humans are the wolves only predators, so they're not likely to attack. On the other hand, they are still wild animals and only tolerate humans because they feed them. Speedwell Forge is a non-profit sanctuary kept going by donations and dedicated volunteers. Chuck has been working with and photographing the wolves for about seven years.
Merlin, Tioga and Keisha are a family. Merlin is the dad, Tioga is the son. Keisha and Tioga's mom were sisters. There is a rivalry for attention between the alpha wolf Merlin and his son Tioga. Being the alpha means first stab at the food which can range from deer that hunters donate to chicken legs to ground meat.
Chuck told us story about how Keisha had dug a deep den when she went into heat (the males are neutered but the females are not spayed). Tioga decided to inspect it and rearrange it a bit. Keisha was not happy. Tioga had gone to a pool of water to cool off, but she managed to pull at his tail to register her disapproval. While watching these timber wolves, I forgot to snap many pictures because I was so caught up in their body language and antics, as well as the information Chuck gave us.
We learned wolves, in appropriately good weather conditions, can smell up to 1.75 miles. They can hear about six miles away in the forest and up to ten in open country. They can see some color and about as well as humans...85 to 100 yards. All of their senses are acute to aid in their survival. They are fascinating to watch in their packs.
Watch for my next blog about another pack that consists of Destiny and Chipper.