ELY — The International Wolf Center’s nearly 8-month-old Arctic gray wolves are enjoying their first winter, still drawing numerous visitors and helping their older pack mates teach the public about wolves.
And the young, snowy-colored brothers will be part of several adventure programs in the coming new year, where participants can observe and admire the ambassador wolves — all while honing photography skills, becoming amateur snow carvers and partaking in “citizen science.”
The IWC is inviting visitors to “start the new year with wolves” — by exploring the “challenging and memorable programs” its experts have created.
The year with wolves will begin with a workshop Jan. 13, designed for anyone who has wanted to learn how to turn snow into works of art.
Participants will first spend time drawing inspiration from the center’s exhibit pack, which consists of Aidan and Denali, two northwestern gray wolves born in 2008, along with Boltz, a great plains gray wolf born in 2012, and Axel and Grayson — the newest members born May 2, 2016.
The soon-to-be amateur snow carvers will then head outside to carve four-by-four-foot blocks of snow, receiving hands-on instruction and taking breaks for a campfire lunch, hot cocoa and s’mores. Those who find they have a talent for the art will have the opportunity to join the center’s amateur snow carving team during the early-February Ely Winter Festival.
A second program — a dogsled yurt adventure — will be held Jan. 20 to 22. Participants will help IWC staff conduct winter wolf track counts while traveling the trails and frozen lakes of wolf range via dogsled.
They will spend the first night “camping” in front of the center’s floor-to-ceiling auditorium windows facing the ambassador wolves, before heading to White Wilderness’ kennels to launch a day of adventure and a night spent in a yurt — a circular, domed tent.
A wolf photography weekend is slated for Feb. 3 to 5, offering hands-on instruction on capturing images of wolves and wildlife.
Participants will learn about wolves, what to look for when photographing their behaviors, and how to interpret those actions. There will be photographic opportunities all weekend with the center’s ambassador critters. And, since this is the first winter for Axel and Grayson, the pups should be in their prime physically and behaviorally, according to IWC staff.
The following week, Feb. 10 and 11, those taking part in the center’s Wolves After Dark program will have the opportunity to be part of a citizen science project by observing and documenting behavioral data on the ambassador wolves after nightfall — information important to understanding the pack dynamics. Participants will camp in front of the auditorium’s viewing windows. The program will be held at other times throughout the year, also.
The IWC will offer larger packages as well, including an upcoming Wild Wolf EdVenture trip, where participants and families will visit the Minnesota Zoo’s wolves before heading to Ely to track radio-collared wolves from a small airplane, dogsled with Arctic explorer Paul Schurke’s Wintergreen team, snowshoe to an abandoned wolf den, and lodge at a nearby resort.
Wild Family Rendezvous weekends throughout the year will provide a chance for families to partake in a variety of wolf- and northwoods-geared activities, including hikes, games such as Wolf Jeopardy, and crafts. Participants will learn about radio tracking and wolf ecology, observe as the wolves are fed, and camp in the auditorium.
To register or learn more about the IWC’s programs, visit wolf.org.