It’s not everyday that you get to see a wolf up close.
Atka—a 9-year-old Arctic grey wolf from the 12-year-old Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in South Salem, NY—arrived for a short visit with a standing room only crowd yesterday afternoon at the Mamaroneck Public Library.
Although the room was packed with people curious to see a wolf in such an unlikely setting, several adults tentatively raised their hands when asked if they harbored a fear of wolves.
“We grow up with stories telling us wolves are scary,” said Maggie Howell, managing director at the WCC, continuing, “Wild wolves are shy and elusive—that’s one reason they’re not dangerous to people.”
As an “Ambassador,” Atka is no ordinary wolf though. He often makes trips to schools, museums and libraries to convince people that wolves are not quite as bad as Little Red Riding Hood would suggest. Atka’s placid nature is partially due to the fact that he has never been released into the wild, arriving at the WCC when he was only 8 days old.
Wolves, whose closest living relation is the domesticated dog according to Howell, could also be considered cousins to other animals such as the fox and Eastern coyote.
With the life span of a wild wolf typically between 6-8 years, Atka has already outlived many of his peers. Arctic grey wolves, as implied by their name, live in the Arctic regions above 67 degrees latitude. With thick white fur and rounded ears, he is adapted to living in cold, snowy conditions.
As keystone predators, wolves also have a large impact on their ecosystem, by controlling the number of prey, which in turn, supports other plant and animal species in the future, said Howell.
Although Atka won’t be returned to the wild, it was clear that his impact on the group assembled at the library won’t be forgotten anytime soon.