Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To be, or not to be... scared?

[The following blog was written by Alayna McGarry, a former Red Wolf Caretaker intern with the Red Wolf Recovery Program. Currently, Alayna is a Biological Science Technician with the Bureau of Reclamation in New Mexico.]

When I began my internship last August (2011) with the Red Wolf Recovery Program, I was still scared of working with the wolves.  My previous experience with the red wolves wasn’t the best.  At the time, I was an intern at the Salisbury Zoo (Salisbury, Maryland), a Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) facility, where we had a mom and her four pups.  Whenever I went into their exhibit they followed me around.  Not knowing their behavior really well, I thought they stalked me because they wanted me for food!  It also didn’t help that a young boy once screamed, “Watch out! They’re gonna get her!”  I was terrified!  I now know that the wolves are just curious.  They’re more scared of me than I am of them!  The captive-born zoo wolves were a little more used to humans, so they got a little bit closer than normal.

Once I arrived at Sandy Ridge for my orientation, I was told that I would be back with the wolves by myself.  "Great," I thought, "now if I get attacked no one will know!"  Before I knew it, it was 7:30 AM on my first day and there wasn’t a single bird chirping.  It was complete silence, just me and the wolves.  I checked to make sure I had my knife, just in case of course!  When I went to the first wolf pen they were nowhere to be found.  I fed them and gave them water and was done.  That was easy, only 4 more to go!  Turns out, none of the wolves were interested in me!  It was a big change from the zoo where they followed my every move.  These wolves had such little human interaction that they were still too scared to check me out.  Five months later they were just starting to feel comfortable enough to come within 10 feet of me.  Even then, they would go running at my slightest move!  I know that they are still wild animals even though they were captive-born, and that I should always be cautious of them, but I am no longer scared.  I don’t think they would ever work up the nerve to get close to me. 

Here’s one female red wolf who was scared with me just being in the pen to take her picture.

Needless to say, I think the wolves are more scared of us humans.  Even if we wanted to get close, they wouldn’t let us! -- Alayna 

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