Have you ever heard a wolf howl on the East Coast? It’s certainly more common on a winter trip to Yellowstone than in New Jersey, but the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia has changed all that for the better. Read on for more information about the Wolf Preserve and its resident howlers.
About the Preserve
Located in Milton Township, up in the wilderness of the Kittatinny Mountain Range, is the Lakota Wolf Preserve. Bears, bobcats, and bald eagles frequent this region, but the native wolves that used to call this area home have sadly been gone for many years. However, through the work of The Lakota Wolf Preserve, the wolves once again call this area home. This is the largest wolf sanctuary in the Northeastern United States. Named after the Preserve’s first wolf, Lakota, the word means friend or alliance of friends and fits the message they hope to share about wolves.
“Wolves have always been the bad guys in the stories, but they’re really not. They’re very social, family-oriented animals. They deserve a place in this world like everyone else,” says owner Jim Stein. With his partner, Becky Mace, they have raised many of the wolves in their care from infancy. It is illegal in the US to put a wild wolf into captivity, and it’s also unlawful to put a captive-bred wolf and release it into the wild. Many of these wolves have been used in zoos or attractions and even lived in people’s homes who try to keep them as pets. Jim and Becky give these animals a dignified way to live out their lives, with plenty of food and wilderness to enjoy.
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Growing up, Jim was passionate about saving animals from a young age and dreamed of rescuing cheetahs in Africa and working with wolves. When Jim met a wolf rescuer in Colorado who had built a custom enclosure, he was inspired to do the same. He started volunteering and working with wolves, but he soon wanted more. He quit his job, sold his house, and then built the Lakota Wolf Preserve to see his passion realized.
What You’ll See
The owners lead the Wolf Watch tours and will teach you all about the social structure of the wolf pack, the animals’ eating habits, interactions with humans, and other fun wolf facts. Their goal is to educate visitors on the behavior of wolves, and during your visit, you can watch the animals interact, play, and maybe even hear them howl!
When you arrive, you can take a half-mile nature walk to the Preserve or use a shuttle bus to the entrance if you prefer. There are four primary enclosures to see, all fenced in. At the entrance to the Preserve is an observation area at the center of the enclosures, where four different packs of wolves surround you. All the wolves at Lakota are from the family of grey wolves, however, they are different sub-species: Timber, Tundra, Arctic, and British Columbian. The goal of the Preserve is to allow people to see wolves in their natural habitat and to learn about the animals and their importance here in the US.
But they don’t only rescue wolves on the Preserve. They are also home to foxes, bobcats, and a lynx, which they share on the tour. All of the animals are rescued from across the country from captive situations where they cannot be released safely into the wild, and Lakota provides a good place for the animals to live out their lives.
For fun clips of the wolves howling, or updates on the Preserve, visit their Facebook Page.
A Passion For Rescue
In 1974, wolves became one of the first species to be protected under the US government’s Endangered Species Act. Grey wolves have long been misunderstood and are often considered dangerous to humans and other wildlife. However, they are essential to maintaining healthy forests and ecosystems, balancing and culling the widespread herds of deer species that would otherwise have no natural predators. While wolves have made a significant comeback in parts of the US, the Lakota Wolf Preserve continues to fight for resisting Grey Wolves to be protected in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region. In this region, wolves are hunted and killed for sport, and nearly 1,000 wolves have been legally killed in the last year alone. For more information about this cause, visit here.
How to Visit
Children love visiting the Preserve and learning about these fantastic creatures, and adults rave about the tours online. Their Trip Advisor is full of 5-star reviews by happy visitors. Bookings must be made online via the website. Two tour times are available: 10:30AM and 3PM, each lasting approximately 75 minutes. Please arrive 30 minutes early to park and register for the tour. The tours are $15 for adults and $7 for children up to 11 years old. Larger groups and school trips must be registered online. Photos and videos of the wolves are encouraged, but visitors are not allowed to contact, pet, or feed the wolves. Pets are also not allowed on the premise. For booking, visit here.
Photographers can also book private tours to photograph the wolves. This is much more than a private tour, as Jim works with the wolves to get them active and accessible for photographers. They also open small hatches in the fences so that photographs are unobstructed.
Sponsorships are also available to fund the housing, feeding, and medicinal needs for a wolf of your choice. You can also follow The Lakota Wolf Preserve on Instagram.