By Rick Steelhammer
FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. — After spending several weeks getting acquainted with each other, three 13-week-old gray wolf pups given to the West Virginia Wildlife Center by an anonymous donor in January have bonded with the center’s resident 5-year-old gray wolf.
“They’re a pack now,” said West Virginia Wildlife Center Superintendent Gene Thorn. “The older wolf kind of adopted them.”
Thorn said the three male wolf siblings were initially placed in a quarantine cage, which was in turn placed inside the enclosure inhabited by the 5-year-old wolf, allowing the juvenile and adult wolves to see, smell and hear each other without risk of injury from possible aggressive behavior.
“Wolf researchers told us if the pups were all male, which they are, the male adult would adopt them,” he said.
But in case the adoption process did not go smoothly, “we had all hands on deck when we put them all together in the same enclosure,” Thorn said.
As it turned out, the mature wolf “was running from the pups at the beginning, because they mobbed him,” Thorn said. “But he’s the boss now. He doesn’t like the pups getting too close to humans. It’s been an interesting process to watch.”
Gray wolves once ranged across most of West Virginia, until the late 1800s when farmers concerned about livestock kills, mainly sheep, successfully pushed for a bounty system. The last gray wolf in West Virginia is believed to have been killed in 1900 in the Pickens area, in the mountains just east of French Creek.
Thorn hopes the wolf pups, which he described as “still in the cute stage,” will help attract off-season visitors to French Creek, where wildlife species now found, or once found, in West Virginia can be seen in a series of enclosures along a 1.25-mile walk. From now until April 1, there is no admission fee.