On Saturday we woke early, dressed, and drove out to western New Jersey to the Lokta Wolf Preserve in Columbia off the Deleware River. We wound our little car through the snowy trees, the light alternating between bright and reflective, and a cold, wintery gray.
The preserve is home to two dozen wolves comprising four packs, each separated in a multi-acre enclosure. We hiked half a mile through a small camp site to the edge of the preserve where a handful of wolves lounged in the snow or paced along the chain link fencing, waiting for the 3 p.m. tour and the snacks that rewarded them for their appearance and participation. The tour lasted 90 minutes and told the stories of the preserve and the wolves, as well as provided detailed information about their lifestyle, diet, and endangered status. At the end of the conversation the tour guides asked the wolves to howl, simply calling to them as you might your domestic dog, and on cue, every wolf in site raised their brown and gray heads to the sky and began to call.
In addition to the wolves, the preserve is home to three bobcats and two foxes. Two of the bobcats had been purchased as kittens to be raised as house pets and were later given up due to their territorial behavior. The third was a rescue from a breeder that was later shut down. He had been chained to a tire and was so malnourished – he had only been fed dog food his whole life – the vet recommended he be euthanized. The couple running the preserve opted to give the little guy a chance, and after five months on a natural diet of fish and venison, his health had completely recovered. The bobcat images included in this slide show are of this particular cat.