By Lindsay Carey
For the last seven years, Southington has welcomed gray wolf and wolf-dog ambassadors from Mission: Wolf, a non-profit wolf refuge in the mountains of Southern Colorado, to teach the public about the animals.
However, this year the visit to Kennedy Middle School was bittersweet, because it is Mission: Wolf co-founders Kent Weber and Tracy Brook’s retirement tour.
The couple has been touring the country annually for the last 27 years and now will begin to focus on specific regions at a time rather than traveling all over the country every year. This is their last annual visit to the East Coast.
“We’re hoping to raise enough money and interest to convince them that Southington is worth a trip back out,” said Kevin Cyr from Wolf Central. “I really think it’s necessary for people like Kent and Tracy to come out and talk to people and give them the facts.”
Ruth Stanley, from Wolf Central, publically acknowledged her mother Betty Stanley for generating the interest in wolves in Southington that led to pioneering Wolf Central and for convincing Mission: Wolf founders to come to town. She also acknowledged Weber and Brook for their part in helping establish Wolf Central.
“Seven years ago we started out by raising awareness for Mission: Wolf and all they do,” said Ruth Stanley. “It is doing this that made us want to start Wolf Central. We would like to thank Kent, Tracy and the ambassador wolves for giving us the motivation to be a voice for wildlife.”
Before bringing out the wolves, Weber discussed wolf myths, their behaviors and how they differ from our house pets, how to behave around wolves, and information about the refuge in Colorado.
“I’m going to tell you, wolves do not eat grandmothers,” said Weber. “I’m going to tell you that wolves do not act like dogs.”
Weber shared several misconceptions about wolves that come from our experiences with other canines like dogs and coyotes. According to Weber, wolves typically shy away from humans unlike other canines like coyotes that are used to being around people.
He also shared that wolves were in danger of going extinct; however, they have increased in population from 700 to 5,000 in the last 25 years.
Weber’s refuge in Colorado is a large enclosure that currently holds about 40 gray wolves and wolf-dog crosses.
“One of the main things this event does is raise money. Wolves gotta eat,” said Cyr. “It takes a lot of money just to keep the wolves fed not to mention fence maintenance, maintenance of the refuge itself, the road, the solar panels; I mean they live completely off the grid.”
Weber said that at the refuge they typically go through 2,000 pounds of meat a week.
Weber and his wife Brook brought in Magpie, a 12-year-old gray wolf, her mate Abraham, a wolf-dog rescued from the streets and Zeab, a gray wolf that was a part of the hit movie “Twilight.”
The wolves were docile as they greeted the people in the front row by shoving their noses into the people’s faces and sniffing out the scent of some people’s dogs at home.
By Lindsay Carey