As has been reported on New Years Day, criminals were active at the Haliburton Forest Wolf Center on the evening of December 31st, 2012, New Year’s Eve. Part of the resident Wolf Center pack was deliberately released by some, yet unknown, criminal elements.
The Wolf Center was open to the public during that day and all wolves were accounted for until 5pm, when the Center closed. I was notified before 7pm from the local restaurant that visiting snowmobilers reported wolves running around outside the Wolf Center building. Soon after I met with a number of family as well as Haliburton Forest staff at the Wolf Center only to be greeted by some of our Wolf Center pack members on the outside of the parking lot. While some of us rushed inside, other staff walked the outside of the fence and a third group drove to the far side of the enclosure, where we maintain a gate, waiting for instructions. At that point we were still convinced that all wolves had escaped and we were looking for a large tree that smashed both fences. The Wolf Center enclosure consists of a double-fence perimeter, with the inner, 10′ high chainlink app. 30 feet inside an outside, 12′ high, high-tensile fence. We soon discovered that we still had wolves inside the enclosure and that it was not a tree that had miraculously smashed 2 fences, but deliberate action by humans, who had cut large holes into both the inside and outside enclosures. The fast alert and immediate attention to the release had obviously prevented the remaining animals from leaving the enclosure.
The hole on the inside fence was soon patched and the outside gate left open with a beaver carcass for bait inside, which was consumed on site the following morning. The released wolves continued to hang around the enclosure throughout the night, and the following days. They are attempting to get back inside to join the remainder of their pack.
The New Year started with an exercise in tracking … both humans and wolves. We patched the hole in the outside fence as well, then trying to reconstruct where the intruders had come from. This was difficult, since all tracks were covered by the previous night’s fresh snow as well as wolf tracks all over. The pack obviously tries to stay connected and continues circling the outside of the wolf fence.
So far we were unable to come to any conclusion and even the OPP, who came prepared to secure evidence, could not be of much assistance.
What is quite clear is that this was not only a deliberate, but also a very well planned action: the timing was impeccable. Who would have suspected any foul play, had he encountered “people” around the Wolf Center on New Year’s Eve, with a lot of traffic and everybody focusing on the midnight celebration ahead. Obviously it could also be expected that Haliburton Forest’s guard was down with staff looking forward to an evening with family and friends.
The other striking fact is the location of the holes: they were made at a place along the fence line, where the inside and outside fences are closest, only app. 15 feet apart due to rock outcrops, where commonly the distance is 30-40 feet. It is also at a location, which cannot be observed from any road or the Wolf Center itself. Obviously this location had been scouted out before.
We do have leads on strange vehicles parked in the vicinity of the Wolf Center during the previous 10 days as well as “strange” phone calls received, which will be traced.
We are obviously very interested in finding out who the perpetrators of this cruel and unwarranted act are. Charges have been laid with the police, who suspect that it was members of a PETA-like organization or individuals with a similar zeal to “liberate” captive animals. What these individuals in their misguided efforts do not realize in this instance is that they most probably rang the death knell for the wolves that did become “liberated” – unless we are able to recapture them: our wolves were born and raised in captivity. While they have the instinct to hunt and kill, they never had the opportunity to learn or exercise these skills in their enclosure, where they were fed dead carcasses whenever they required food. Now, out on their own in the forest, they will have to fend for themselves and quickly, since at the present temperatures, they are burning calories fast. Under snow and ice , small rodents and even beaver, a common summer prey, will not be available. And deer, the default quarry in winter, will not fall prey to a bunch of hungry wolves, which never experienced what it means to hunt together, not to speak of bringing down a 100 or even 200 lb. ungulate. Our wolves left the enclosure well fed and in good condition. In this state they will be able to survive the coming January cold for 3 to 4 weeks. After that, they will starve despondently and miserably. Such is the result of this apparent great act of love for animals !
Obviously, the Wolf Center will continue operation, with 5 wolves confirmed left inside. Unfortunately, but expectedly, it was the alpha pair Haida and Granite who left the enclosure. Together with the alpha pair, two juveniles, Logan and Lonestar, have left the enclosure. This will throw the remaining “pack” into turmoil.
We will go out of our way to recapture the wolves outside. But with every day passing, we expect the outside wolves to become more comfortable with their surroundings and less apt to be tricked into our “traps”. Food is the only lure available to us. We are unable to approach them close enough for any tranquiliser application.
We do not expect our unsocialised, yet not tame animals to pose any threat to humans. However, as they become more hungry, they will approach local cottages as we expect them to look for food such as suet balls, garbage and even attempt to approach the odd small pet.
We ask that any member of the public, who can provide information on the criminals, who perpetrated this act, do come forward and either share their information with the OPP or myself at Haliburton Forest directly. We are obviously concerned that this may happen again and are therefore very interested in any leads. At the moment, we are very encouraged about the support we are receiving from the public, with emails and phone calls of encouragement and information pouring in.
As a postscript, one of Haliburton Forest’s staff drove up the road past the Wolf Center in late afternoon today. He noticed a bloody dragmark down the hill, app. 200 meters north of the Wolf Center. Upon further investigation – and after finding a cartridge, hair etc. – we have to conclude that between 10:20 am and 4 pm on January 1st Haida, the alpha male of the pack, was shot: Killed and taken away by a passing motorist.
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