WHO: Milva DiDomizio of the Globe staff with her husband and daughter
WHAT: Seeing live wolves
WHERE: Wolf Hollow in Ipswich
Forget everything you’ve heard about the big bad wolf. In reality, wolves are shy creatures that bear many similarities to humans. That’s the message at Wolf Hollow, a nonprofit dedicated to protection and preservation of wolves in the wild. The 5-acre site is home to 10 timber wolves. Seven form the main pack. At a weekend program, we sat in a viewing area while our guide leaned against a wall of fence and talked about the lives, behaviors, and characteristics of the wolves. Behind her, the animals frolicked, relaxed, interacted, and occasionally sparred.
Weeble and Nina, the alpha male and female, are the leaders of the pack. Their underlings are five 1-year-old pups obtained from a site in Indiana shortly after they were born.
During the program, it was easy to see the behaviors described by our guide in action. Tail position reflects rank, and Nina’s tail, especially, was often held high. Growling, grabbing, and chasing help establish rank among the pups. As Arrow and Grendel romped, we could see for ourselves that process was still in the works.
For the younger set, the guide drew easy-to-understand parallels between wolves and humans. Most of the children nodded when she asked: “Do any of you kids have chores to do around the house?” With hands on hips and a stern look, she inquired, “How many of you guys know what this means?” Apparently, when their pups aren’t toeing the line, wolf moms and dads give them “the look,” too. If pups don’t pull their weight, they risk ejection from the pack.
That punishment may seem harsh, but survival in the wild is no joke. Wolves in captivity can live 14 years, but in the wild life span is five to seven years, due primarily to disease, the dangers of hunting large animals, and human predators.
The information-packed presentation was full of fascinating tidbits. For example, alpha females never birth more puppies than the pack can provide for, wolves have webbed feet good for walking on snow, and they don’t howl at the moon.
When the post-talk Q&A session was over, the audience was invited to join in a group howl in an effort to get the wolves to respond. They don’t always, but Weeble did with a few howls.
Before we left, the guide shared what, according to her, is a reliable predictor of winter’s severity. Early October, and the wolves are just starting to put on their winter coats, which indicates that this year’s winter will be an average one.
After our visit, we drove up the road to Russell Orchards for classic autumn treats like warm cider doughnuts, apples, and mulled cider.
Wolf Hollow,114 Essex Road, Ipswich. Open at
1 p.m. Sat-Sun weather permitting (Sun only December through March), programs 1:30-2:30 p.m. 978-356-0216, www.wolfhollowipswich.org
Russell Orchards,143 Argilla Road, Ipswich.
9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. 978-356-5366, www.russellorchards.com