Monday, April 4, 2011

Wildlife Science Center

The Minnesota Master Naturalist class that I am currently enrolled in is being held at the Wildlife Science Center near Forest Lake, MN. It is a bit of a drive for me, about an hour with traffic, but taking a class at the Wildlife Science Center has some perks that you can not find at many other facilities. The Wildlife Science Center began back in 1976 as a Federally funded research project to study the physiology and behavior of captive grey wolves. Grey wolves once inhabited most of North America but as the settlers expanded west across the continent the grey wolves territory shrank drastically. Finally the only place to find grey wolves in the United States was Alaska and northern Minnesota. Since the wolves could only be found in very remote regions it was difficult to study them in the wild so wolves were captured and brought to a facility near the Twin Cities for study.

The research project lasted from 1976 until 1991. In 1991 the federal government discontinued funding the research. A couple of the people who were involved in the project wanted to continue to work with the wolves, so they worked with government agencies to form a non-profit 501(c) organization which they called the Wildlife Science Center.

The center has expanded quite a bit since they went on their own. They are still involved in studying the grey wolf, the first two pics are of one of the grey wolf packs at the center, but they also work with other organizations around the world to study and protect other wolf species, such as the red wolf and the Mexican gray wolf, pictured above. Both of these species of wolves are on the US Endangered Species List.
The center also houses several other types of wild canids. These include coyote, red and grey fox, and new Guinea Highland Dog. Many of these animals have been brought to the center when they can not be returned to the wild. Each night as we have been siting in class we have had the wonderful pleasure of hearing the wolves and coyotes howl, which is something that I have only ever heard while we were in Yellowstone National Park.
The center is not only for dogs though, they also have several types of wild cats. These include cougars, also called mountain line or puma, bobcat and Canadian lynx. Bobcats and lynx can still be found in the wild here in Minnesota but it is rare to see a cougar here. On the rare occasion that a cougar has been spotted in Minnesota it is probably one that someone had as a pet until it got too large and wild and then they let it go. This is really bad for the animal, which is not familiar with life in the wild.
The center also has several other types of mammals, such as black bear, porcupine, raccoon, and skunk, as well as reptiles, amphibians and raptors. All of the animals at the center help educate people who visit the center, either for a program, birthday party, or Saturday tour. While the raptors and smaller animals also help educate on off site programs for schools and other organizations. Currently the center is leasing their space, near Forest Lake from the State of Minnesota, however they have purchased some land of their own, a bit further north, and hope to raise enough money so that they can completely build out the new space and move all of the animals to the new permanent space. If you would like to know more about the Wildlife Science Center you can check out their fantastic website HERE.


Sylvia K said...

Marvelous captures of such beautiful animals and birds! I'm so glad to learn of places like this that are saving our wildlife! Great post for the day! Thank you for the info!


Joyful said...

Some beautiful animals. It is such a shame that their vast natural habitat has been destroyed.

Rose Lefebvre said...

great pictures!

Anonymous said...

Wow - what an amazing centre.

Those wolves are just gorgeous - wild and beautiful in a primitive way.

Guy said...

Hi Wonderful shots of the wolves.
Your posts are quite interesting with lots of good information. And I really love the photo of the fox. May I link to your blog?