The Big, Bad Wolf

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Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

This post is part of the Bootsnall 30 Days of Indie Travel Project Prompt #6: FEAR

Blame it on Red Riding Hood or the Grimm Brothers, but if I had to pick my most-feared wild animal, I would have to go with the wolf. And there I was, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, touring a wolf sanctuary in the little-known town of Lititz. At first, I was reluctant to do a story on a pack of predators, if anything, I wanted to be as far away from them as possible. But my husband convinced me otherwise. He wanted to photograph wildlife, and he wanted me to face my fear. Flanked on either side by snowy banks, a winding road led up to the gates of the sanctuary. Once inside, we were met by one of the caregivers, who took us through the background of each and every wolf while my husband got busy with his camera.

Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

Most of the accounts had a common thread, that of being held captive in inhuman conditions by people who thought they could domesticate wild animals. Although they resemble man’s best friend by way of looks, that’s where the similarity ends. Strong, aggressive and territorial, wolves will never play fetch with you in the park. If they fetch anything at all, it will be the remains of an elk or a deer.

As we walked around the wired enclosures, I listened to their habits, their strengths and their weaknesses. Very much in line with present-day societal norms, wolves are one of those rare species where the male and the female both care for the pups. They have something else in common with us, at least with those of us who eat meat. We hunt for the same piece of flesh, us with our skills and brains, them with their powerful jaws, swift feet and keen eyesight. Soon it was meal time at the sanctuary. With equal parts admiration and repulsion, I watched the pack tear through raw meat with gusto .

Just as I thought I was getting comfortable in the presence of the majestic beasts, they began howling for no apparent reason. No, wolves don’t howl at the moon, that is again, a myth. What started as a lone howl soon became a chorus and I was thankful for the wired fence in between us. You would think that the fence was meant to protect us from them, but what it really does is protect them from us. Killed for various reasons, the primary being protection of livestock, the gray wolf is an endangered species. Being invaluable to the ecosystem haven’t stopped them from being mercilessly shot, trapped and chained every day.

As the day progressed, I realized that my fear of the wolves were being replaced by a different kind of fear, that for their very existence, accompanied by an unsettling panic for the future of our planet. If we want a biologically diverse, stable ecosystem, we need to learn to share our living space with all creatures. Not hunt them, not try to turn them into four-legged buddies, just respect their privacy and let them thrive in their natural habitat.

From fear of wolves, I had come to fear for wolves.