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The Wolves of Haliburton Forest

In Central Ontario, Canada there is a wildlife refuge like no other. Haliburton Forest is the largest privately owned nature reserve in the area and it is a nature lovers paradise. It is a year round destination where people can paddle its lakes and streams, take a canopy tour above the forest or camp in the summertime and ice fish, cross country ski and dog sled in the winter. But it is a unique family that lives in the Haliburton forest that set it apart from other wilderness areas.

Witness and learn about the pack of wolves that live and roam freely on a 15 acre reserve set aside for them. This Wolf Sanctuary sits within 70,000 acres of protected hardwood forest at The Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. There are a couple of other wild packs and lone wolves that roam the forest as well, but you will have a better chance of spotting these beautiful canines in their natural habitat at the viewing area for the pack of protected Grey Wolves. It is a long story as to why these wolves are protected dating back to 1977 in Pennsylvania.

The wolves are from photographer Jim Wuepper. He bought and raised two wolf cubs which eventually grew into a small pack. Not being able to take care of them any longer, the pack was transferred to Haliburton Forest in 1992, where their descendants have lived on in a natural environment.

The wolf centre is open year round and it is different with each visit. In the summer watch the wolves sun tan or in the winter watch them with their thick coats roll and play in the snow. It is not guaranteed that you will see wolves on each visit. They are free to roam anywhere they choose on the 15 acres, hover the viewing area is located at a place where the wolves like to relax. The viewing platform is a glass enclosure where you are asked to speak quietly. The wolves are kept from human interaction to give them as normal lives as possible.

Every few days the wolves are fed and you can watch this from the platform as well. See the staff bring out beaver or deer for the wolves to feast upon. The animals are road kill or brought in by local hunters and never fear, they are never fed live animals. However, the wolves tear them apart as if they were fresh kill.

The feeding is where you really see the hierarchy in action. The Alpha Male eats first and is in charge of the entire pack. He and the Alpha female are the top of the food chain with the Beta male closed behind. The Omega wolf is the last to eat having to scavenge for leftovers. The omega suffers greatly in the pack, constantly being picked on by the other wolves and it is shunned by them as well. The rest of the pack is tight and plays leisurely while the omega spends its time alone.

Being true to a reserve setting. The wolf centre does not get involved. The wolves are left to live their lives as they would in the wild and it is not the humans responsibility to save the Omega. This would disrupt the pack and its entire system. Everything has a purpose, even the omega wolf. Eventually the omega will go off by itself to die, or as in some previous instances, it will be euthanized by the staff due to being too far along. And then the cycle will continue and in time, the Beta Wolf will challenge the Alpha Male and take over the group. A new omega will eventually fall to the bottom of the pack and the family will have an entire new hierarchy.

The centre is trying to educate the public about wolves as well. People have hunted wolves for decades out of fear and yet there is now concrete evidence of a healthy wolf killing a human being. In folklore the notion of the big bad wold has been perpetuated, but in actual fact, the wolf is more afraid of a human than we are of them. They avoid us at all costs. If there ever has been attacks it has usually been from a rabid wolf or a hybrid wolf dog mix.

The cost of visiting the wolf centre at Haliburton is $9.00 and you can stay for as long as you like looking at the displays and learning about the wolves. Haliburton is located right next to the famous Algonquin Park and you can spend days exploring the wilderness and surrounding area. If you are lucky you may spot a moose or bear and you are bound to see many loons, deer and great blue herons. There are several options for accommodations, bring your own tent and camp or stay in one of the many northern resorts or B&B’s. So take the time to explore central Ontario, there is a great beauty waiting to be explored.

Deb Corbeil and Dave Bouskill are a travel couple from Canada. They have trekked, hiked, biked and climbed to around30 countries all aroundthe planet. Click on their website ThePlanetd.com for more tips, advice and information on travel and adventure destinations. To see their photo gallery visit PicturethePlanet.com