Mexican Wolf Management Proposal …

U.S. Wolf Refuge Tells U.S. Fish & Wildlife the Mexican Wolf Management Proposal is Flawed

by Bill Chamberlain U.S. Wolf Refuge Director

August 29, 2014

Recently I, along with Kelly McGee (a strong wolf advocate from PA), traveled to Arizona and New Mexico to attend the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) public hearings dealing with their proposal to change the management policies of the Mexican gray wolf.

This is a long and complicated proposal with a great deal of complex scientific information. There were many presentations that represented both sides of wolf recovery. There were 4 times more presenters favoring wolf recovery than those opposing it. The presenters supporting wolf recovery were significantly more knowledgeable of the scientific aspects of it than in the past. Those opposing it seemed to have a limited understanding of wolves and the proposal.

There are portions of this proposal that I support and others I oppose. The science and the program’s biological and political problems are confusing. They prevent the general public from having an adequate understanding of it. My 19 year involvement in Mexican wolf recovery has given me the insight into USFWS’s rhetoric and scientific gibberish such that I can make sense out of their non-sense.

The Mexican gray wolf is the most highly endangered wolf in the world and the most highly endangered mammal in North America. Presently there are only 83 of them in wild. Back in 1970 the last remaining 7 of these animals were captured to begin a captive breeding program. In 1982 a reintroduction program was established. The first Mexican gray wolves were released into wild of AZ and NM in 1998 with a recovery target set at 100 animals. This a minimal number and I have found no science that was used to establish that figure. Now in 2014 (16 years later) the population is still beneath that target goal at just 83 animals.

The USFWS has now put forth a lengthy, complicated proposal intended to reach that goal. They want to increase the area where these animals can roam but they also want to change the regulations on how private land and animal owners can kill them. The proposal to increase where they can exist is a major step forward since the limited area where they are presently allowed is the biggest obstacle to their recovery. But the policies relative to how they can be killed or harassed is an even bigger step backwards.

There is no projection as to when any of this proposal will be implemented and what portions of it will be enacted and which portions will not. This is by far the most contentious wildlife recovery effort in this county’s history. I feel the present proposal will lead to significant litigation which will further delay Mexican gray wolf recovery.

After leaving NM we decided to travel back to Nevada going through Arizona to visit as many of our long time friends and supporters as possible. Our most memorable visit was with Bobbie Holaday. Bobbie is the founder of Preserve Arizona Wolves (PAWS)and the author of The Return of the Mexican Gray Wolf – Back to the Blue. This book is a complete documentation of Mexican gray wolf recovery from the beginning to the initial release in 1998. PAWS was a non-profit wolf advocacy group that was instrumental in getting USFWS to obey the Endangered Species Act and initiate a Mexican gray wolf recovery program. I sincerely feel that without Bobbie’s motivation, inspiration, diligence and perseverance the Mexican gray wolf would now be totally extinct.

We also visited our friends at the Heritage Park Zoo. This was an emotional visit for me. I was instrumental in getting the first 3 Mexican wolves placed there and in the design and layout of the enclosure where they lived the remainder of their lives. We also got to see their present Mexican wolf Imado. The zoo is actively trying to find a pen mate for him.

We also stopped at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro, NM. This facility houses those Mexican wolves with the behavior and temperament best suited to surviving in the wild. It is not open to the public but we were hoping they might make an exception for us. We got there past their operating hours. We were in search of a particular wild Mexican wolf that Kelly had been instrumental in saving its life.
I want to tell all those that we didn’t get to visit that we visited you in spirit. You were all fondly thought of but we just ran out of time. My plans are to return to Arizona soon for the sole purpose of visiting with all of you once again.

Being away from the Refuge for extended periods of time is difficult for the animals (and me too). Upon returning home the 18 “kids” here at the Refuge were just as excited to see us and we were to see them. All of them were happy and healthy.

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Wildlife Conservation Expo – Oct 11, 2014

Wildlife Conservation Expo
Learn More About the Wildlife Conservation Expo

Join us on October 11, 2014 for the Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco. What is it really like to spend a lifetime saving endangered wildlife? Hear from nineteen of the world’s leading wildlife conservationists. They spend their lives working in remote lands, surrounded by wild animals. Learn how they create innovative solutions and work closely with local people to create big impacts for wildlife. The Expo is your change to join the conservationists’ world, even if only for a day.

This is our next big event. It’s October 11, 2014 at the Mission Bay Conference Center, 1675 Owens St, San Francisco, CA from 10am until 5pm. I hope you can attend and help us during the event. Also you’ll get to meet many of the world’s greatest wildlife conservationists. If you want to come please let me know so we have an idea of how many people will be with us. It’s free if you are among our list of volunteers/helpers



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SPEAK FOR WOLVES EVENT – on June 28 & 29, 2014

Yellowstone Nation Park
by Bill Chamberlain

Bill Chamberlain at Yellowstone National Park, June 2014Words cannot express the feeling that came over me when it was my turn to speak at this momentous event. It was at 11:55am on Sunday June 29, 2014. The sun was shining and the entire park was full of many friends that I had met in Washington, DC last year and many new friends I had met the previous two days here at Yellowstone. I was standing right in front of the famous Arch Park where the first wolves were brought into Yellowstone back in 1995. I was simply awe struck.

I had arrived at the west entrance to the Park about 10:00pm the previous Thursday night. I had to take a short-cut through the northeast corner of the park to get to the north entrance where the event was to happen. Driving through Yellowstone at night is harrowing in that any kind of wildlife could simply come out of the woods right in front of you. That happened to me that night. I was sitting stopped behind a car in front of me and I looked out my driver’s door window and standing there within 24″ of me was a huge bison. He was looking right at me. All I could see was his huge face. Yellowstone National Park BisonI could have reached out and touched him. “WOW” I said to myself, “Welcome to Yellowstone.

I stayed in my truck that night in the parking lot of the event. The next morning (Friday) I got up and drove around the park and the town of Gardiner and talked to quite a few people. I did not find anyone who did not simply love wolves. There were many businesses that had Bear Aware warning signs and sold bear repellent. We were in the 2Bit Saloon(yes that is its real name) and the girl behind the bar saw that we were there for the big wolf event. She brings over her phone and shows a picture she took of a rare white wolf that was within 5′ of her. She seemed proud that she got to take this picture and said she had no fear of wolves and sees them regularly.

Friday night there was a showing of Bob Landis’ latest film She Wolf – the story of a famous female wolf that because of her strength and determination and the loss of her male became the leader of a famous pack. Unfortunately she was lured out of Yellowstone where was shot by a hunter. Bob Landis (the films’ cinematographer) was there and during its showing narrated the film and told of his many experiences when shooting the footage from which this movie was made. Bob and I had quite conservation afterwards about the many joyous and horrific things he experienced when making the film.

Then Saturday morning came and the big event began. It was a beautiful day except for a short time during Louisa Willcox’s speech when it became overcast and there were several loud claps of thunder and some far-away lightning. Below is a link to the list of the speakers and the organizations they’re affiliated with. We all talked about the many complicated issues concerning wolves and their recovery in the wild and other related wildlife topics..

The list of speakers and the organizations they are affiliated with: SpeakForWolves Speakers and Organizations

This is the link to the Speak for Wolves (the name of the event) website: Speak for Wolves Website

Saturday night was the showing of a Project Coyote movie called Coexisting With Wildlife and the movie Exposed-USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife. Afterwards there was a panel discussion of the issues covered in these movies. The panelists and their credentials are given on the Speak For Wolves website (the link given above). It was very informative and it gave much of the audience the chance to learn more about these complex political, biological and ecological issues.

Sunday morning finally came and what it day it was. It was simply a beautiful day. The sun was shining and not a cloud in the sky. It was warm but very comfortable. The feeling in the Park was exciting. Everyone was so thankful that Brett Haverstick (the event’s promoter and my new good friend) had put forth the energy, time and expense to put on this wondrous event. Thanks Brett!

It got to be about 11:30am and I was getting anxious about my turn to speak. Just before I spoke I went and sat under the speaker’s canopy that was next to the stage. Brett came up and sat next to me. We had a very comfortable conversation. He had been anxious about how the event would go, and we both commented about how smooth everything had gone.

Bill Chamberlain Speaking at Yellowstone, 2014Then 11:55 came and Brett got up to introduce me. I walked up onto the stage. Brett and I hugged and I took the podium. I looked up at the Arch that was directly behind me and I thought about the wolves that were brought through that same Arch 19 years ago. WOW I thought. This is so surreal. I couldn’t believe that I was actually there and the reason for me being there. My presentation was unique in that it was intended to do several things. I wanted it to entertain, educate and motivate. I started my speech by telling some lighthearted personal stories of experiences I have had with my wolves. I then read a prepared statement from my dear friend Dr. Jane Goodall. From there I covered an array of related subjects that included the science that was used to bring forth the wolf delisting proposal and the flaws and errors of that science. I talked about the need to change our wildlife management policies and procedures and the horrific practices of USDA’s Wildlife Services and how to stop them. I even made several comments related to the Mexican wolf controversy – something far away and very different from the wolf issues of the northern Rockies region.  (Read the entire text of my Yellowstone speech.)

The next speaker was George Wuerthner – a renown author who had been on the discussion panel the night before. During that discussion I found him very interesting and quite knowledgeable. I was keenly interested in hearing his presentation. So immediately after leaving the stage I sat down in the audience to listen what he had to say. I was not disappointed.

At various points during the event Brett’s cousin – Neil Haverstick – a very talented guitar player entertained the crowd with some fantastic music and interesting conversation. GoodSheild Aguilar a Native American musician added an additional musical interlude near the end of the event that for me was quite inspirational.

I spent Sunday afternoon with Brett’s team and helped dismantle all the equipment for the event. Kelly McGee – a friend I met in Washington, DC last year – and I went to a local pizza joint afterwards and just unwound from a week-end of emotion and excitement. We then spent the next 2½ days traveling all over the park looking for wolves. We did see plenty of bison, elk, grizzly bear and antelope, but no wolves.

I needed to get back to my pack here at the Refuge so with a heavy heart and a soul full of memories I began the 14 hour drive home. Upon my arrival I was greeted by 19 wonderful canines that were very happy that their “dad” was home again.

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It was 30 years ago when I first embarked on this joyous journey. At that time I had no idea how much it would change my life and make me a better person. It was in the summer of 1984 when I first started rescuing wolves and wolf-dogs. Since that time the U.S. Wolf Refuge has saved the lives of over 1850 of these magnificent animals. Over 625 of them have at some point in their lives called the U.S. Wolf Refuge their home. In the years since I have learned a great deal about both human and wolf behavior. I have become quite aware that if we humans lived our lives with the same values, ethics and behaviors as wolves the world be a far better place and we would not be experiencing many of the environmental, societal and biological problems that we can’t seem to fix.


It was 1983 when I got a male vizsla puppy from a friend. I named him Bear. A 1½ year later I acquired a female Norwegian elkhound puppy to keep Bear company. I named her Heidi. The bond between them was instantaneous and they were immediately best-pals. They loved each other and everyone else.

One summer week-end Bear, Heidi and I went to a huge arts & crafts festival. At this event I experienced one of the most momentous events of my life. I always had them on leases. They would always intrigue people and they always wanted people to pet them and oogle over them. After wandering around this crowed event for several hours, a man came up to us and said, “What a well-behaved wolf you have.” I responded with total astonishment. I never thought Heidi had any appearance or behavior of a wolf. I considered myself fairly knowledgeable about the many dog breeds. In the remaining time that we were at this festival several others came up and made similar comments.

These comments triggered my natural curiosity and I began to read everything I could find about wolves and wolf-dogs. I came to learn that they are a species that should be admired and respected – not feared or detested. I found that wolves were an essential part of Mother Nature’s complicated puzzle of life. I also learned that wolf-dogs had a significant presence in this country and they were controversial both behaviorally and legally. I strongly oppose the breeding of wolf-dogs. Because of what I learned about their behavior I began to question a lot of about human behavior. I found that working with wolves was where I felt the most comfortable and where I was the most effective at making the world a better place.

My involvement with wolf rescue taught me that there was a rescue group for virtually every breed of dog. There were very few rescues for wolves and wolf-dogs, and those I did find were deplorable. I started taking in wolves and wolf-dogs and before I knew it I had 27 of them. I tried to adapt many of the common practices used by many dog rescue groups and I quickly found that they were severely lacking when it came to dealing with wolves and wolf-dogs. The policies and procedures now used by the U.S. Wolf Refuge are result of years of “trial and error.” The U.S. Wolf Refuge is now considered one of the finest wolf sanctuaries in the country, and how we now do things has proven most effective and is used by many others wolf facilities.


The U.S. Wolf Refuge now has a staff of volunteers that is second to none. They give so much of their time, energy and money. I am so proud of each of them. Without them this organization would not be nearly as great as it is today. Many drive great distances to serve the needs of these animals and to develop this facility. Many even do a great job online and within their communities to spread our message.

I have always tried to surround myself with people I considered better than myself. The U.S. Wolf Refuge is now aligned with some of the world’s finest wildlife conservationists and scientists. Their knowledge and input has aided us in our mission in more ways than I can describe. When we attend the World Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco every year we are surrounded by the “gods” of the wildlife world and we are awed just to be in their presence. We find them to be very approachable and quite willing to share their expertise. Their input has made all of us at the U.S. Wolf Refuge better people. We are able to see things more clearly and are able to better understand nature.

The U.S. Wolf Refuge is now the home for 19 diverse canine personalities. They range from those who are more comfortable sleeping on a couch or watching TV to those who have intense anxieties about just being indoors or around humans. Some are very social and love to be with people and others are anxious when any human is around. We work tirelessly with each of them in an effort to provide them the highest quality of life possible. Through numerous life-enrichment techniques we are able to give these animals the mental, emotional and psychological stimuli that are as essential to them as food, air and water.

The U.S. Wolf Refuge has developed a series of events that we attend each year. They include big events such as the Stanford Pow Wow (Mothers Day weekend – Palo Alto,CA), Wildlife Conservation Network Expo (early October – San Francisco, CA), Petfolio Magazine’s Art Paws in the Park (2nd/3rd weekend in July, Reno, NV) and others. But we also conduct numerous seminars, public presentations and public media events all across the west. The audiences of these events range from elementary school children to university graduate students and state and federal wildlife agents. Recently I have expended a great deal of time and money traveling to and speaking at the many state wildlife agency commission hearings and federal wildlife public hearings concerning the future of wolves in this country. The U. S. Wolf Refuge is often contacted as a resource for wolf related information and has been called into court as an expert witness. Our 30 years of direct experience with the hundreds of animals that we have is a rare resource that many agencies and organizations turn to for credible and reliable information.

In August of 1992 I completed the application process to be became a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. This enables us to solicit tax-deductible contributions and encourages others to join in our mission. It’s unfortunate that after 30 years a significant portion of the U.S. Wolf Refuge’s budget still is derived from what I earn. Trying to run the U.S. Wolf Refuge and having a job has proven to be overwhelming.

All during these 30 years I have been jotting down many of my thoughts and observations of things that humans and wolves do . From them I have drawn many hypotheses and conclusions. For the past several years I have been trying to put them together into a book. It is going to be called A Wolf’s View of Man – A Sociological Comparison of Human & Wolf Behavior. It is intended to be an educational tool for us humans to see a better way to live our lives, care for our world, and to treat all life. What I have learned about wolves has made me seriously question many things about human behavior.

Over the years recruiting volunteers has been difficult. The vast majority of our projects require the strength and stamina. There have been many who have given all that they have to accomplish these tasks. The donation of a small skid-steer or garden tractor would enable many of these tasks to be done without the physical exertion required to do them using hand tools.

The 5 enclosures which range in size from just under an acre to just under 3 acres gives the animals adequate space to run and exercise. It also gives each of them the space to rest and relax in without being encroached upon by the others within that enclosure. There are provisions within each enclosure that facilitates feeding and watering without the threats or challenges of pen-mates.


There are numerous images of the future of the U.S. Wolf Refuge. Which of these images emerges will depend on what happens today. Presently the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed to take the wolf off of the list of endangered species. This nation’s most credible and reputable scientists has found serious flaws in this proposal. There are only about 5000 wolves in only 10 states within the continental U.S. In Idaho, Montana and Wyoming alone over 2500 wolves have been slaughtered in just the last 3 years. Just recently the state of California classified any wolves within California to be endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. This inconsistency in policy is simply unacceptable.

Also presently there is no verifiable means to differentiate between a pure wolf, a wolf-dog or a dog. This has created a great deal of confusion and consternation in the legal/judicial world. I suspect that the many advances being made in canine genetics will soon correct this.

This is another example of our legal system not keeping up with science. When this happens I’m hoping that the number of wolves and wolf-dogs in captivity will drastically diminish and the number of wolves in the wild will reach the level mandated by nature and not by man.

With these two things being unknown today, the future of wolves and the U.S. Wolf Refuge is uncertain. I would like to see the need for our mission and activities to no longer be needed. But as long as the impact of human existence puts our world out of balance and we do not see the effect of our behavior, the U.S. Wolf Refuge will continue.

For those who have been with us through these tumultuous years I truly thank you. For those who are just learning about us I look forward to your support and allegiance.

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March 8, 2014: Being Born on the Wild Side

Children Who Are Born and/or Raised By Wild Animals

I know most of you have heard the story about Romulus and Remus. These were the twins who are said to have founded Rome. The story says that an evil king threw them into a river as babies, but a female wolf rescued them and raised them, until a shepherd found them. There are many other stories that depict human children being raised by wild animals, but it is little known that there are many verifiable accounts of this actually happening.

The idea of wild animals raising human children has been found in some popular literature and even in our modern movies. Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli; Edgar Rice Burrough’s  Tarzan, and even Walt Disney’s famous movie, The Second Jungle Book are specific examples. The lead wolf in this movie was Bandit, a high-content wolf dog purchased from the U.S. Wolf Refuge by Walt Disney’s animal training company.

A True Success Story

In Belgium during World War II, a 7-year-old girl ran away from her parents, and lived in the woods for almost 4 years with a pack of wild wolves. They would steal food from local farmhouses, and eat wild berries. She slept with them for warmth, and helped rear the pups. The wolves shared the food they would bring back from a hunt with her. She was truly a pack member. She survived the war and later returned to human civilization. She got married, and came to the United States. She has written an account of her life with the wolves called Misha – A Memoir of the Holocaust Years. The following is a quote from her book:

“The only time I ever slept deeply was when I was with the wolves…I have no idea how many months I spent with them but I wanted it to last forever – it was far better than returning to the world of my own kind. Today, though most memories of my long journey are etched in tones of gray, the time spent with the wolves…is drenched in color. Those were the most beautiful days I have ever experienced.”

Just this year, a stray female dog in Kenya found an abandoned baby girl in a trash dump. Witnesses watched the dog take the infant to her den where she had a litter of her own. She placed the baby with her pups and nurtured her as if she were on of her own.

In 2004, a pride of lions in Ethiopia took into their pride a 12-year-old girl who had been kidnapped, beaten, and raped. The pride chased off her kidnappers, and surrounded and protected her until she was rescued. The lions didn’t challenge her rescuers, and simply amiably wandered away. They were able to sense the compassion of her rescuers, and didn’t threaten them.

In 2004, a 6 year-old boy was found in Siberia. The boy was abandoned by his parents at 3 months old, and was raised by the family dog for 6 ½ years. He walked on all fours, and would try to bite when frightened.

In 2001, an infant girl who had been missing for quite some time was found in a bear’s den in Iraq. The infant was safe and unharmed.

In 1998 in Moscow, the world’s leading city for homeless animals (over 30,000), a 4-year-old boy was raised by a pack of wild dogs for almost 2 years. His dysfunctional parents abandoned him, and he was able to survive with the assistance and protection of his canine family. They were able to find food together, sharing each morsel with each other. They huddled together in Moscow’s subways at night for warmth.

In 1985, a young Ugandan boy was found as part of a colony of vervet monkeys. The boy had run away from his family after watching his father murder his mother.

In 1971 in Yugoslavia, a 5 year-old girl wandered into the woods near her home and became lost. The area was searched extensively by many of the family and neighbors for three days. The search was abandoned, but a neighbor continued on and finally located her. She had spent all this time with a female bear and her cubs. She says she shared the cookies she had in her pocket with the cubs, the mother bear licked her face, and they cuddled all together at night for warmth

In the mid to late 1800’s, 14 children were raised by a pack of wolves in India. Two of these children gained quite a bit of notoriety. Kamala was 8 years old and Amala was 2 years old when they were “rescued” in 1920. They walked on all fours and ate carrion. Amala died within a year of her capture. Kamala died 9 years after her capture. Though significant efforts were made to teach them, they never learned to speak. Because of the duration that this group spent in the wild, the heritage of these two was the subject of much debate.

During the period often referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, a 12-year-old boy was known to have been wandering the forests in southern France. After finally being captured, it was found that he couldn’t speak, but made many canine-like sounds and behaved very much like a wild wolf. He was institutionalized under the care of a doctor who strived to retrain him to human behavior. The boy never learned to speak, and never really accepted human behavior. This was a time when science was struggling to determine what differentiated humans from animals.

Virtually all of the incidents where humans are taken in or protected by wild animals involve wolves, bears, or lions. These are the very animals that our fairy-tales teach our children to fear. Also, the events that cause human children to be taken in by wild animals reflect the despicable behavior us humans are capable of. Despite all the compassion and devotion humans put forth in providing a humane life for the millions of companion animals, we also have ability to be ruthless, vicious, and evil. We often think that our caring nature is unique to our species, but the multitude of incidences such as these show that virtually all animals can be just as compassionate.

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During the days leading up to and during Earth Day, Bill Chamberlain of the U.S. Wolf Refuge traveled around Arizona (the location of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program – the most highly endangered wolf in the world) sharing his educational program entitled Wolves In America. The program covers where wolves came from, the history of wolves in America, where and how they live, the recovery/reintroduction programs, and  the issues concerning wolf-dogs. These presentations were attended by people from all walks of life and from all sides of the wolf controversy. His presentation style made everyone quite comfortable and the information presented was objective and factual. Future speaking tours are now being arranged. Locations for these presentations are northern and central California and the Yellowstone area. The dates, times and locations of these presentations will be published as they become finalized.

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March 1. 2012; How Do Wolves Survive in Long, Harsh, Arctic Winters?

Wolves, polar bears. arctic hares and many other animals of the arctic must endure long, dark, cold stormy winters than can reach temperatures of  -170°.  Does anyone know what there is about their anatomy that enables them to survive such conditions? We know they have thick coats and insulating fat layers that keeps the bulk of the bodies insulated from these frigid temperatures, but they also must breathe this super cold air into their lungs. Their internal body temperature must be able to warm this air to the point where it does not lower their natural body temperature. Wolves normal body temperature is 100.4-102.2 deg F.

I am anxious to know how they can maintain that body temperature in environments that are so extreme! Please respond with any information on this subject to

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February 14, 2012: Welcome to the NEW U.S. Wolf Refuge Blog

This blog is intended to give everyone the opportunity to share their knowledge and feelings about one of the most remarkable and admirable animals in nature.

All postings must be relevant to wolves in the wild in North America. We want to hear about wolf behavior, biology, anatomy, instincts, sociology, evolution, politics, recovery programs and anything else pertaining to their existence.

Sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter. The e-newsletter deals only with the activities of the United States Wolf Refuge and the animals that reside there. You are encouraged to visit our website and learn more about who we are, what we do, and how you can help support and get involved with the U.S. Wolf Refuge.

We have been dealing with wolves on a daily basis for 27 years and have dealt with many of the most credible and renown wolf biologists and researchers. In that time we have learned that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation as well as unanswered questions. This blog is intended to eliminate much of these misconceptions and to hopefully find and share answers.
Man and wolves have had one of the longest relationships of any two species on earth – at times extremely harmonious, other times quite tumultuous. We are well aware that the feelings most people have about wolves are very emotionally charged and often controversial. All postings will be screened, and we reserve the right to not post any we find inappropriate. We will diligently strive for objectivity.

Be curious – be objective – be courteous

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