Wolf Dogs a Hit at Little Egg Harbor Library

Two More Meet and Greet Chances Coming Up in Southern Ocean County
By RICK MELLERUP | May 24, 2017
Photo by: Rick Mellerup

People of all ages are fascinated with wolves.

It was standing room only at a gathering of folks at the Little Egg Harbor branch of the Ocean County Library at 7 p.m. last Thursday to meet some of the wolf dogs of Howling Woods Farm, a wolf hybrid rescue operation in Jackson Township.

First they heard a short presentation from one of the rescue’s volunteers, Michelle Persiano, who carefully navigated her talk to appeal to both the scores of adults who were present and to the gaggle of about 20 youngsters who sat at her feet on the floor.

Wolves, she said, have gotten a bad rap for centuries. Just consider, she said, classic children’s stories such as the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, which show wolves to be vicious and even human-eaters. That simply isn’t accurate, she said, suggesting that The Jungle Book “kind of got it right.”

Instead of being scary killers, said Persiano, wolves “are afraid of everything,” especially humans.

“You’re not going anywhere on our planet and see a beware of wolf sign.”

Oh, wolves are big-time predators who, despite averaging 60 to 80 pounds in the wild, can team up to bring down huge prey such as moose, elk, bison and deer. But they are successful only about once every dozen hunts, which means they often starve to death in the wild.

When wolves are successful, said Persiano, they are therefore extremely hungry and gorge themselves.

“They can eat 23 pounds of food (almost always meat) at one time.”

The Howling Woods rescue, she said, currently is caring for 18 animals. They devour 450 pounds of raw meat a week.

So, it is understandable why humans may be afraid of wolves. But Persiano continued to stress they are basically timid creatures. They are so wary of humans that it is almost impossible to spot one in the wild.

“We get people (visiting Howling Woods) who say they spent $5,000 for a wolf experience at Yellowstone. They got pictures of all the other animals, but not of wolves. We have to spread the word that there’s no such thing as a big, bad wolf.”

Persiano’s talk was rather disjointed because the eager kids – and some adults – kept breaking in with questions. But she was able to get out a variety of facts:

• Wolves have “great fur” and are able to withstand temperatures down to 40 degrees below zero.

• Coyotes actually pose more of a threat to humans than do wolves. “They’re the ones you have to look out for.”

• Wolves only give birth in the spring, unlike dogs that can have litters any time of the year. “If somebody says they have a high content hybrid that was born in the fall they’re either fooling you or fooling themselves.”

• Wolves don’t only howl at a full moon, they howl “anytime they want to.” “It’s the most beautiful sound,” said Persiano, who added a pack can reach 12 octaves. “They start howling with the head down and go up, up, up as they get louder.”

• “Chihuahuas bite more people than wolf dogs.”

• Wolf hybrids are legal in New Jersey.

Howling Woods is one of just six wolf dog rescues in the U.S. (Howling Farms owner Michael Hodanish later told The SandPaper he thinks the number is closer to a dozen).

Some of the wolf dogs at Howling Woods are movie stars. Takoda, a 13-year-old mixture of gray wolf and Alaskan malamute, appeared in 2010’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” starring Nicolas Cage, as did Bandit, a low content wolf dog who is mostly Alaskan malamute and who is suspected of being about 7 years of age, Sierra, 14, who is about 50 percent wolf mixed with Siberian husky and German shepherd, and Samson, a 12-year-old wolf/Alaskan malamute mix.

Persiano talked and answered questions for about half an hour. Then came the moment everybody was eagerly waiting for – Hodanish walked in with Samson and Kotori.

People lined up to meet, pet and pose for pictures with the two wolf dogs. They were, as promised, about as threatening as a stuffed animal. Kotori spent much of his time stretched out on the floor, leaving more than a few puffs of white fur on the library’s carpet as people repeatedly petted him. The large-headed Samson was very patient as people went cheek to jowl for selfies.

To put it simply, these patient wolf dogs were a huge hit with the public.

If you missed their appearance at the Little Egg Harbor library fear not – you’ll have two more chances to get up close and personal with wolf dogs in the near future.

Howling Woods Farm will be at the Barnegat branch of the Ocean County Library at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 1. Its wolf dogs will also make an appearance at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 6.

Of course you can also visit the farm itself – visit its website at howlingwoods.org for times and dates. Call 732-534-5745 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays to make a required appointment.

Howling Woods Farm places wolf hybrids and “northern breeds” – Alaskan malamutes, huskies, German shepherds and mixtures of all of the aforementioned – up for adoption. But you have to meet several requirements, such as the presence of another canine to share the adopted animal’s enclosure, a spacious secure enclosure (hybrids are known to be escape artists capable of scaling a 6-foot fence), and a current veterinarian. The farm also has a $200 adoption fee.

Potential adopters should also do their research on wolf hybrids and northern breeds before contacting Howling Woods in search of a pet. They tend to need a lot of exercise. Your food bills will be large. Although hybrids are legal in the Garden State they are prohibited by some municipalities, with Stafford Township being a prominent local example. Your homeowner’s insurance will probably go up.

Even if you are not interested in adoption, though, Howling Woods has another goal, which it is pursuing through appearances at library and other events: to “provide education about wolf and wolf dog facts and myths.”


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