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A Wolf in North Guilford

Published 03/26/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 03/25/2014 02:25 PM

By Karena Garrity
Guiford Courier

Although at one time wolves were native to Connecticut, now the best chance of seeing one up close and personal is at the Shoreline Outdoor Education Center's special program, which will be held on Sunday, April 6 at 2 p.m. Atka, a 12-year-old Arctic gray wolf, will be on hand greeting guests.

"This is a great opportunity for people to see how beautiful wolves are, and what magnificent creatures they can be," said Dr. Karen Christensen, director of the Shoreline Outdoor Education Center. "Wolves have gotten a lot of bad press, and we think it is important that people are educated about these animals that are historically native to our state."

Supported by the Guilford Community Fund and Guilford Savings Bank, the program will be an educational overview, helping to promote wolf conservation by discussing the biology, ecology, and mythology of wolves, and the differences between these wild animals and dogs and coyotes.

Atka is one of the Wolf Conservation Center's oldest ambassadors and he has been with the organization, which is based in New York, since he was just eight days old.

Like his wild counterparts, Atka stands approximately 32 inches tall and weighs between 80 to 90 pounds. His bright white fur allows him to blend into the snowy surroundings of his natural habitat. To help reduce heat loss, his ears are rounded, he has a shorter muzzle and shorter legs than other gray wolf subspecies, and the hair between the pads of his feet help to keep him warm in temperatures that dip as low as -70 degrees Fahrenheit.

In 2012, Atka visited almost 160 schools, nature centers, museums, and libraries, helping people learn about the importance of his wild brothers and sisters. This is the second year for the wolf program in Guilford.

"It was such a huge success last year," said Christensen, "we decided to bring it back. We have a lot of the kids and students here that have a great interest in wolves, and this program is a perfect introduction to them, in a professional educational environment."

She added, "This program is right in line with what we are trying to teach here, in regard to respect for wildlife and environmental awareness."

The Shoreline Outdoor Education Center is housed on the 4 ½ acres in North Guilford and for the past 25 years has been teaching young Guilford residents, as well as students from surrounding towns, how to successfully respect, understand, and enjoy the environment of Connecticut.

Pre-registration for the wolf program is requested by Friday, April 4. The cost is $10 for adult center members and $15 for non-members. For children, tickets are $5 for members and $10 for non-members. To register, email earth@99main.com.

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