Each year, thousands of visitors come to the Haliburton Forest
& Wild Life Reserve in Ontario, Canada, to see timber wolves up
close in a near-wild environment. Manager Peter Schleifenbaum
describes how RD Lawrence inspired and influenced establishment of
the Wolf Centre at the Haliburton Forest.
I met RD Lawrence for the first time in the early 1980s when he
expressed interest in the work we were doing in the Haliburton Forest;
using our natural resources wisely while educating the public about
our wildlife and fauna.
In 1990, I was approached by Jim Wuepper, an American living in
Michigan’s Upper Peninsular. Since the late 1970s, Jim had maintained
a wolf pack in a two-acre enclosure. RD Lawrence’s observation of this
captive pack had inspired him to write arguably his most influential
book, In Praise of Wolves,
published in 1986, which in turn resulted in a documentary film of the
But now, Jim was looking for a new home for his wolves. And through
our mutual friend RD Lawrence, Jim asked if the Haliburton Forest
would be interested.
Within a year of Jim's request, and after consulting with my
staff, I committed to establishing an extensive, 15-acre wolf
enclosure at Haliburton Forest. The transfer was scheduled for
October 1993. Canadian authorities were not receptive to the
transfer, arguing that wolves were "unwelcome" in rural Ontario.
In Michigan, the story was just the opposite; wolves are rare and endangered there, and authorities
did not want to see them leave. RD Lawrence's contacts appeased
both sides and prepared the administrative way for the wolves to
move to Canada.
Upon their arrival, they took to their new home in Haliburton well.
A first litter of pups was born in the spring of 1994. Public interest
in the wolves increased dramatically and the decision was made to
build an interpretive centre with the objective of wolf research and
Opened to the public in May, 1996, the Wolf
Centre contains numerous wildlife exhibits, a cinema/classroom,
and a retail store. A large indoor observatory overlooking the
feeding area within the wolf compound enables visitors to observe
and hear the animals from behind one-way glass.
After the centre was established, RD Lawrence stayed involved with
frequent appearances as wolf expert and presenter. His advice was
sought on an ongoing basis.
Today, more than 30,000 guests annually visit the Haliburton Forest
Wolf Centre, learning about wolves and their environment.
Increasingly, the centre is being used for research on wolves,
extending from wolf behaviour to wolf genetics.
It is fair to state that without RD Lawrence, Canada's only wolf
centre would not exist. The centre today stands as a tribute to one of
the world's pre-eminent authors and naturalists - a true friend of the
Peter Schleifenbaum, Manager, Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve Ltd.
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