By LINDA HIRSCH
What goodies are the wolves at the Timber Wolf Preservation Society hoping to find in their stockings this Christmas? No doubt boxes of Velveeta cheese along with their standard fare of stew meat, chicken legs, beef heart liver and dog food.
Tucked away on their 2-acre forested retreat at 6669 South 76th St. in Greendale, five male Eastern timber wolves romp in spacious enclosures, devour sumptuous meals, anticipate yummy Velveeta cheese-coated vitamins and bask in the company of Nancy Jo Dowler, Mount Mary graduate and president and director of animal care.
It’s apparent that Dowler enjoys the wolves’ company, and values each of the 10-year-old littermates for their unique personalities.
“Timber Wolf Jim is so smart, a rebel and a little bit of a troublemaker, just like his namesake, Jim Rieder,” said Dowler with a chuckle.
Rieder, a philanthropic environmentalist, developed the Timber Wolf Preservation Society in 1967, shortly after rescuing an orphaned wolf cub in the wild. Fearful of the plight of this endangered species, Rieder designed his educational facility to promote an understanding and appreciation of the timber wolf through comprehensive tours, lectures to schools, civic and sportsman groups and media interviews.
“A main goal of the society is to dispel common misconceptions like the ‘Big Bad Wolf’ syndrome,” Dowler explained, “A wolf’s fear of man is so strong that it will avoid rather than confront man, and there’s never been a documented case of a healthy wolf killing a human.”
Timber Wolf Jim has four siblings: Tonka, Loki, Washo and Comet. “Tonka’s a bit of a bully and comes right up to the fence when visitors are here. Loki is cautious with strangers, but is also sly and tricky, often sneaking up on his littermate Washo. Washo, in turn, tries beating Loki to the fence to greet volunteers. And Comet is a bit more light-hearted than the others,” said Dowler.
The TWPS was incorporated in 1979 and presently exceeds 800 members from the United States and other countries. Rieder actively carried out his mission until his death in 2001, at which time Dowler proudly assumed his role. Dowler noted that Rieder’s commitment and astute monitoring of the wolves led to a study that permanently eliminated the problem of cataract formation in 6-week-old wolf cubs.
“I admired the man … he was so extreme in his love and care for his animals,” Dowler said. “He looked like a wolf, acted like a wolf and never married. This was his family.”
Dowler also credits Rieder for her direct interaction with the wolves. “In 1995, Jim assigned me as a bottle feeder,” she said. “I fell in love … I was absolutely smitten with those 2-month-old cubs.”
In fact, Dowler bottle fed the present wolves, who were born at the TWPS on May 12, 2001, and she continues her unflagging affinity to them through close daily contact, both for socialization and assessment of their health and well-being. At no time, however, does she discount the fact that the wolves are definitely not pets and will always retain their wildness. Yet these reserved animals have graciously accepted Dowler into their pack.
Dowler assures visitors that every time they come to the TWPS, they’re bound to hear different wolf tales from each of the volunteers.
“One morning I was wearing mascara, something I normally didn’t do. Mona kept staring at me as I greeted her. Then, she affectionately put her nose on my eye and gently scraped off the mascara with her front teeth,” said Dowler about Mona, a rather feisty, former TWPS alpha female, who occasionally showed a tender side.
On a recent Saturday, Cub Scout Leaders Gilberto and Mari Marquez brought Pack 251 from St. Matthew’s School in Oak Creek for a tour.
“The boys were intrigued by all of the unique characteristics of the wolf,” Marquez said. “And the second graders are at the ‘wolf’ level in scouting, so it was fun for them to learn about their mascot.”
Visitors Ken and Nona Chase treated their Indianapolis guests with a trip to the Timber Wolf Preservation Society this past summer.
“I was very impressed with the fact that Jim had taken it upon himself to give the wolves a home,” Nona Chase said. “Our friends enjoyed their visit and we learned how the wolves form a pack and are so family-oriented.”
The society is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting. The cost is $5 for adults and $1 for children. With all proceeds going back to the TWPS, a visit will help fill the wolves’ stockings with delectable goodies!
For more information, visit www.timberwolfps.org.