The International Wolf Center will begin “Give to the Wolves Day” with a “morning howl.”
The live online broadcast of the ambassador wolves engaging in early morning vocalizations is one of several free “connections” planned for “the big day” — Thursday — to show gratitude for the public’s support to further educational opportunities at the center.
Give to the Max Day is a big statewide online fundraiser that began in 2009. Last year, it raised $20.6 million for 5,387 Minnesota nonprofit organizations.
Several years ago, the IWC decided to “put a wolf twist” on the nonprofit center’s participation in Give to the Max Day — dubbing it, “Give to the Wolves Day,” said Lori Schmidt, IWC wolf curator.
The public raised $81,000 last year for the IWC, she said by phone from Ely.
This year’s goal is to bring in at least $70,000. And IWC board members have put their own spin on the fundraiser, committing to match the first $31,000 dollar-for-dollar. “That’s a huge effort on their part,” Schmidt said.
Early giving, which started Nov. 1, is underway, and as of Tuesday afternoon more than $4,000 had been raised for the IWC.
Give to the Wolves Day is the center’s single biggest fundraiser of the year, Schmidt said.
It helps to support the IWC’s 30-year mission of advancing survival of wolf populations through education by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildands and the human role in their future, she said. “For me that means having resources to teach” about important topics regarding wolves.
The center offers numerous classroom programs, workshops, outreach and hands-on opportunities for all ages, and — of course — demonstrates wolf behavior via its live ambassador wolves in Ely.
The IWC strives to “always be factual,” Schmidt noted. It offers balanced dialogue, research and dependable information on current wolf controversies.
It also manages the Minnesota Wolf Helpline, in conjunction with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, Schmidt said. The helpline assists the public with wolf issues and provides advice on how to co-exist with wolves.
Give to Wolves Day will launch with the 7 a.m. “greet the pack” and “morning howl,” Schmidt said. “People can go to the (IWC) website, click and join for free.”
The wolves “usually howl when they see me,” she said of the center’s current four exhibit pack members.
At noon, Schmidt will hold an online wolf enrichment program, similar to those held May to October. “A treat is launched out the window … to provide stimuli” for the wolves during warmer months when they are less active and to give the public a chance to see them interacting. While the animals are more active now, it will be “a good demo of what (the program) looks like.”
During the afternoon (Schmidt expects around 4 p.m.) there will be a live broadcast with the center’s two “retired” pack members, Luna and Grizzer, who reside in a separate retirement enclosure.
Schmidt said she will go inside their enclosure to talk about geriatric issues, including end-of-life decisions and challenges that the curator faces managing captive wolves.
Wolves in the wild usually live about 10 years. If Grizzer, who is 15 1/2, lives to Nov. 15, as he is expected to do, he will be “the oldest wolf the center has managed in 30 years,” Schmidt said.
Luna, the center’s only female wolf right now, is battling inoperable cancer, said the curator. Last August, the center lost a pack member, Aidan, to cancer.
Schmidt noted that the IWC recently underwent an internet upgrade, allowing the webcams to be turned back on in the retirement enclosure. The public can now watch and listen to the retired packmates.
Thursday’s Give to the Wolves events will conclude at 10 p.m., when the public is invited to tune in for a night-vision camera experience — “to see what the infrared cameras pick up in the middle of the night,” Schmidt said.
The IWC held a special fundraiser at the end of October for upgrades to the center’s den site.
Contributors raised $4,000 to help reduce seasonal flooding of the den and to give the 2020 pups safer navigation around the back of the den. The fundraiser was held early so work could be completed before winter, Schmidt said.
It was also held in memory of Aidan, who spent many hours standing guard over the main den site, and in honor of Luna, who came to the IWC as a pup in 2012.
“She had bad joint issues and had surgery early on. As a pup she was fragile,” Schmidt said. But the young Luna yet “loved to climb all over the dens,” she said.
“The fundraiser was held in their honor … to recognize that young pups can be vulnerable … and to pay it forward for the arrival of the pups in May of 2020.”