Sunday, 20 March 2011

An audience with wolves

Today, I went to the Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading with Michele, Carol and Steve. M is a member and gets to bring guests along to 'wolf walks', wherein we walk with a wolf, learn all about her and even get to give her a stroke. The trust uses these socialised 'ambassador wolves' to spread the word that wolves are great, and to raise funds for wolf conservation projects in Europe and further afield.

On the walk itself, I left the camera in the car as the safety instructions hinted that the wolf may think 'ooh, shiny dangly thing' and try to pinch it. So I can just tell you about that bit. We walked first with a 13-year-old called Duma. I forget where she came from, but she was a light-coloured, slim and not very fluffy wolf, very sweet-natured, happy to stand around while a bunch of strangers took turns to stroke her tum. Then Duma went away and was replaced with Mai, a younger and somewhat friskier wolf with a black-and-silver colour scheme. The wolves led the way and dictated the pace. Both stopped often to scent-mark, and Mai had a bit of a howl - seeing and hearing that at close range was incredible.

After the walk, we visited all seven wolves in their enclosures. The only one I could get decent photos of was Motomo, Mai's mate, as he is not socialised and so didn't come right up to the wires to say hello.

What a handsome boy. He was yawning, a good excuse to show off that mouthful of impressive gnashers.

Nothing has a stare quite as full-on as a wolf.

Naturally, I had one eye on the sky for interesting birdlife, especially as we were in Red Kite country.

The handlers told me that the kites sometimes drop down into the wolves' enclosures and swipe their food. Two species coexisting as nature intented (sort of).

We saw some kites at very close range, and some in beautiful light. Unfortunately we didn't see both of those things at the same time. You can see what a massively bulging crop this one has, though.

Not every soaring raptor around was a kite. This one, for example, was a Kestrel. There were also plenty of Buzzards around.

A surprise to end with - this stonking male Yellowhammer was weighing up whether to visit the European wolves Lunca and Latea in their enclosure.

To find out more about the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, go here.

No comments: