At the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, you can hike, howl, and hang with some pretty awesome predators any time of year. Here, we’ve put together an overview of what you can see and do on your visit, whether it’s mid-June or mid-December.
Did you know that wolves can run as fast as 35 mph? Or that their bite exerts 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch? Or that a wolf can hear another’s howl up to 10 miles away? If the mention of wolves instead brings to mind a certain red-hooded heroine, it may be time to visit the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, a nonprofit organization that teaches people about wolves, their relationship to the environment, and how people play a role in protecting their future.
The Wolf Conservation Center is home to 14 Mexican gray wolves and five red wolves, both of which are listed as endangered species — there are only 400 Mexican gray wolves in the world, and only 300 red wolves (Note: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed removing the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife but maintaining endangered status for the Mexican wolf by listing it as a subspecies). The center also has a team of three “ambassador” wolves that includes Atka, the 10-year-old Arctic gray wolf who serves as alpha of the ambassador team; and brother-sister duo Alawa and Zephyr, 2-year-old Canadian/Rocky Mountain gray wolves. Atka, Alawa, and Zephyr are on view as part of the WCC’s education programs, which spotlight wolf biology, the ecological benefits of wolves and other large predators, and the current status of wolf recovery in the U.S.
During Sunset Photo Sessions, visitors are allowed to photograph the WCC’s Mexican wolves and red wolves from vantage points not generally available during regular visits.
Year-Round Fun at WCC
The WCC is open year-round and offers a variety of family-friendly, educational programs. All on-site visits require registration, which is easy to do through the organization’s website.
Daytime programs include Wolves of North America, when you can visit (and howl with) the ambassador wolves and learn about the mythology, biology, and ecology of these interesting animals. Children ages 4-8 and their families can join a Park Chat for Kids on select dates and learn about the role of wolves in the natural world as they observe the WCC’s resident wolves and meet its ambassador canines. The WCC’s newest program is Yoga with Wolves, in which participants enjoy an hour of Hatha yoga led by a certified instructor, followed by 30 minutes of optional restoration/relaxation while viewing the ambassador wolves.
Evening programs at the center include Sleeping with Wolves, which gives you the chance to camp out overnight with the WCC’s canine residents (Friday nights in August). You can also join an Evening Howl at dusk on select dates (March through October), when you can take a sunset hike to howl with the wolves and enjoy weather-appropriate treats.
Almost all special events at the Wolf Conservation Center are family-friendly, like its Mother’s Day and Father’s Day programs: Throw Mama to the Wolves! and Throw Daddy to the Wolves!
Other annual events include Howl in the New Year, when you can greet Jan. 1 alongside the wolves; a birds of prey festival near Earth Day, when you can meet feathered as well as furry ambassadors; educational programs on school vacation days such as Presidents Day and Columbus Day; a Halloween Howl that encourages costumes and a sunset visit with the wolves; and a Holiday Howl near Christmas, when you can help assemble gifts for the four-legged residents.
The center also hosts a summer Wolf Camp for Kids in grades 2-6. The camp is a four-day program that allows kids to learn all about wolves, take a hike with ambassador wolf Atka, use tools that real wolf biologists use in the field, create plaster paw prints from wolf tracks, and practice nature photography. There are sessions for children in grades 2-3 and 4-6, with dates in July and August. Register on the website.
Several of the center’s programs include a nature hike, including the Evening Howl, where you can take a sunset hike to howl with ambassador wolves Atka, Alawa, and Zephyr.
Address: 7 Buck Run, South Salem
Hours: Open year-round; visitors must register for programs in advance.
Cost: Price varies by program; most programs are $13; $11 for children younger than 12.
For more info: 914-763-2373 or nywolf.org