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The Wolf Centre

 

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 same name.

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 education.

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 wolf!

Peter Schleifenbaum, Manager, Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve Ltd.

Click here to visit the Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve website »

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