Dispelling misconceptions about wolves is one of the two major goals of Howling Woods Farms, a state nonprofit in Jackson. The other is to rescue and care for wolf dogs, a hybrid of domestic dogs and wolves specifically bred.
Members of Howling Woods came to Cinnaminson Library on Feb. 20 to educate local residents about the dogs, and to let the public know what is and isn’t true about wolves in general.
“This event was a great success,” said Children’s Librarian Kristie Winks. “This is one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever pulled in at night. There were over 75 attendees that came out to meet the crowd from Howling Woods Farms and learn the differences between the truths and myths of wolves.
“It was a lovely event.”
According to Howling Woods, for generations people have created stories about wolves that are not true. From fairy tales such as “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood” to movies and television shows, wolves have gotten a bad rap.
The first misconception the presenters discussed was about wolves actually being confrontational. They said wolves in fact avoid people and are extremely shy and timid around new objects or environments. Wolf attacks are rare, with only two incidents nationally in the last 100 years.
Fear of wolves has been instilled by hunters, who have contributed to the significant dwindling of the animals’ population, according to the presenters. The wolf population was somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 in the continental United States. By 1960, only 300 remained in the deep woods of upper Michigan and Minnesota.
Outside of discussing the behavior and population of wolves, the presentation then moved toward dispelling myths around wolf packs and communication. According to the Howling Farms representatives, wolves don’t howl at the moon and the labels of the alpha, beta and omega are misapplied to the animals.
Wolf packs are actually family units. Wolves mate for life and then breed once a year in the spring, as long as there is enough food to go around.
During the presentation, the Howling Woods’ members revealed that wolves mature around 2 years old. At that age, a wolf will either stay within a pack or leave that pack and become a “lone wolf.”
The same can be true for wolf dogs. According to one expert, once a wolf dog becomes 2 years old, a person can see how much wolf is actually inside it
“I didn’t know anything about wolves or wolf dogs,” said Winks. “The presenters did a really great job at dispelling myths that wolves are bad guys.
“When she talked about ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs,’ you see that we are taught at a young age that wolves are the enemy, when in fact, they’re more scared of us than we are of them,” she added, referring to one of the presenters.
“It was shocking. She dispelled a lot of myths and it was very informative.”
The presenters concluded the night with an interesting tidbit about a wolf’s body, which has a long narrow chest with legs directly underneath them. They can reach up to 38 mph and since they are single-tracked, all four legs move within a single-file line.
To find out more about Howling Woods Farms or to schedule a tour, visit their site at Howlingwoods.org.