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URI Wildlife Society brings rescued wolves to Edwards Auditorium, educates through hands-on presentation

By Kellie Knight
On October 21, 2010

  • Secretary of the URI Wildlife Society, Natai Collins, is greeted by two wolves at last night's Mission. Wolf in Edwards Auditorium.

10/21/10 - Wolves howled in Edwards Auditorium last night during Mission: Wolf, an annual event that the University of Rhode Island's Wildlife Society sponsored, which helped educate students about the animals.Mission: Wolf, a wolf rescue sanctuary in Westcliffe, Colo., sends volunteers to travel across the country and bring wolves to schools. The organization started coming to URI three years ago, but it was URI Wildlife Society President Adam Markey who pushed for them to come back.

Markey, who has always loved wolves, is hoping to make this year at the Wildlife Society more hands-on with similar events, which is why he thought it would be beneficial to bring the program to URI for another year.

Edwards Auditorium was filled with students and community members hoping to see and learn about the wolves. Because of Rhode Island laws that prevent the public from interacting with wild animals, the wolves had to be kept on stage where only a few previously selected participants could greet the animals.

Founders of Mission: Wolf, Kent Weber and Tracy Brooks, brought five wolves with them: Maggie and Abraham, who are returning wolves, and three wolf puppies. The puppies were about six months old and had already grown to their adult size.

Two hundred years ago, wolves were in every state, Weber said. But a few decades ago, hunting limited their habitat to areas near the Great Lakes. Additionally, most wolves migrated up toward Canada. Ever since wolves have been reintroduced to the wild in America, the environment has improved because of a "trickle effect," Weber said.

He added, "Without wolves, deer and elk standstill, overpopulate, eat so much of the forest that the forest becomes unhealthy...we have trashed our forest, we're losing our creaks. In Yellowstone alone, creaks dried up two miles in seventy years."

That led to the stop of deer and elk over-eating the vegetation, the aerating of the ground and the eventual rise in water levels, Weber said.

After spending more than an hour speaking of the wolves, they brought stars of the show out to the stage. The audience responded with cameras and cell phones to take photos of the animals.

Weber said that when wolves are present in an area there is 200 to 500 percent more life than when wolves are not present.

"Bottom-line is an environment that has a predator will host much more life, much more water and a much healthier environment for everyone, including humans," he said.

Weber and Brooks started the refuge 22 years ago. It is 410 acres where 40 captive-born wolves and wolf-dog crosses live.

"Kent and Tracy have given up so much and worked so hard to provide for these animals," Kelly Grennan Smith, a seventh grade science teacher from East Greenwich said, "[The refuge was] exactly as I had pictured it...that shows that Kent and Tracy paint an accurate view of what they're dealing with day to day.

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