Wolf Education & Research Center Opens Doors
Date: May 31, 2010 - September 6, 2010
North Central Idaho Wolf Sanctuary Opens Doors for Season
After a long winter with its doors closed to the public, the Wolf Education & Research Center (WERC) in Winchester, Idaho is open for its busy summer season. WERC opens its doors each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day to allow the public access to living wolves that are rarely seen outside of sanctuaries like theirs.
WERC was formed in the 1992, in the early days of wolf recovery, by a handful of volunteers and naturalists associated with a local Idaho filmmaker. These volunteers created WERC and adopted the subjects of two documentaries, Living with Wolves and Wolves at our Door. The wolves were named the Sawtooth Pack: Wolves of the Nez Perce, and relocated to 300 acres on Nez Perce tribal land outside Winchester, Idaho, reputed to be home to the largest enclosure of
its kind in North America. WERC has enjoyed nearly two decades of outreach to regional schools, has trained hundreds of interns, and greeted more than ten thousand visitors at their North Central Idaho Visitorʼs Center. They have collaborated with agencies ranging from the National Park Service to the Owyhee County Sheriff and are active participants in the discussion of wolves and their cultural and biological place in the region in partnership with the Western Wolf Coalition.
Longevity presented many challenges for the wolves of WERC. Over the years, the original pack lived out their years in as close to wild conditions under the watchful eye of staff biologist Jeremy Heft and trained volunteers. Donors often recount stories of coming face to face with Motomo, Matsi, and Amani, and other favorite wolves who served as ambassadors for their wilder cousins. Today, only a male named Piyip, survives as the remnant of the Sawtooth legacy.
?If you hope to see the remaining Sawtooth Pack member, now is the time to visit. Heʼs getting gray in the jowls and may not last another season because of his age,? says Executive Director Chris Anderson, continuing, ?there is another pack, however, that have become the recent darlings of the community.
In April of 2008, unfortunate circumstances presented a unique opportunity for WERC. "A couple years ago, the USDA and Owyhee County Sheriffʼs office invited us to participate in an observation and possible removal of 17 wolves from a facility in Southwest Idaho," shared Anderson, who operates WERC from his office in Portland, Oregon. "We had been discussing bringing in a pack of wolves because of the aging Sawtooth Pack and as part of our business plan.? Simply extracting a pack from the wild wasnʼt an ethical option so when this situation arose, it was as though fate dealt WERC aces. ?Since itʼs our tradition to put people face to face with wolves, our future seemed uncertain without bringing in a new pack.?
Now, when visitors drive into up to the center, they immediately see wolves who are as curious about the visitors as they are about them.
The new wolves are known as the Owyhee Pack, named for the County in Idaho where they were rescued. The pack was recently named by Nez Perce Cultural Resources with titles like Himtuuqin' and XayXayz to recognize the partnership between WERC and the Nez Perce tribe. "I still feel this is the key to our future and that it will help our membership re-identify with our mission," says Anderson.
WERC, one of the Idaho panhandleʼs premier destination for tourists, hosts thousands of visitors each year who learn about wolves, their important role in healthy ecosystems, and how to get involved in the discussion about the future of wolves in our region and across the continent. WERC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and is funded by wolf adoptions, memberships, donations, grants, and volunteerism.
More information can be found online at www.wolfcenter.org or by contacting Chris Anderson at 888-422-1110.
1721 Forest Road, Winchester, Idaho 83555.
Weekends in May and September:
Open from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm for self-guided tours & general visitation.
Guided tours are available these weekends with 24 hour notice. If you would like to take a guided tour please call ahead (24 hours) to book your time slot. Same day tours are difficult and may not be available
Chris Anderson at 888-422-1110
COSTS General Visiting: $5 per adult, children 6-13 is $2 and children under 6 is free. You are free to stay on-site as long as you like until closing and/or return during the day at no additional cost.
Guided Tour: $10 per adult, children 6-13 is $3 and children under 6 is free. The tour lasts about 2 hours and if you are on the morning tour, you can stay onsite at no additional cost after the tour. Guided tours are scheduled by reservations.
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