Writing & Photography of Jim Murtagh

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The Writings & Photography of Jim Murtagh

Preserving the call of the wild

A member of the audience asks “Are there any wolves in Connecticut?” The response, “Yes, today there is an Arctic wolf in Guilford.” The large group assembled at the Guilford Community Center laughs. Maggie Howell, the Education Director from the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in South Salem, NY goes on to add that wolves have not been found wild in CT since the 1700’s, and what most people think might be a wolf is probably a coyote.

Just inches from the crowd, Atka, a four and half year old Arctic gray wolf, is led up and down the aisles. A myriad of flashes pop in his face, but he is unfazed by the cameras. He looks and acts like a well trained dog with thick creamy white fur and gray and buff markings, but the audience is requested to not reach out to pet him.

Howell provides an assortment of facts about Atka as he walks throughout the room, such as the specialized glands on the pads of his feet leave behind a chemical trace with each step, and that he is fed raw deer meat. His ears are smaller than other types of gray wolves, and his build is stockier. Both traits are adaptations that allow this breed to survive in the frigid temperatures of the Arctic. The audience watches his every movement with amazement.

Atka was born at a private facility in Minnesota to a family of ambassador wolves. He is the youngest member of the pack, and occupies the lowest, or omega position, in his group. He is also the most people friendly. A favorite guest at schools, nature centers, and other events, Atka helps to promote wolf conservation through education for the WCC.

For more information about Atka, or wolf conservation, visit the WCC at www.nywolf.org. To participate in one the Shoreline Outdoor Education Center’s terrific classes or events, call 203-457-0692 or visit: http://www.shorelineoutdooreducationcenter.org