In 1985, the “Wolves and Humans” exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota showcased the relationship between wolves and other living beings. The display toured in 19 U.S. and Canadian cities around the United States and Canada, reaching 2.5 million people.
One of the wolf biologists involved, Dr. L. David Mech, helped establish a permanent home for the exhibit to promote public education about the wolf. By 1989, a facility was established in Ely, near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
For more than eight decades, research near Ely has educated people about the gray wolf species and has contributed to its repopulation in our region, starting with naturalist Sigurd Olson in the 1930s.
A February 24 hour-long conversation featured Abby Keller, an educator at the International Wolf Center, and Chillon Leach, a member of the Whorling Spinsters, a subset of the Weavers Guild of Minnesota.
Abby talked about the “ambassador” wolves at the Center, Axel and Grayson. New pups and mates are expected to arrive in 2021. Now in retirement are Grizzer, 17, the oldest wolf ever maintained at the Center, and Denali, 13, the largest, at 140 pounds.
A unique collaboration between the International Wolf Center and the Weavers Guild of Minnesota has led to an ongoing support network. The gray wolves of the Center are dark-haired until they get older and, like humans, their hair turns white and gray. In the winter they grow a thick undercoat. They shed in spring, against branches, while swimming, and in brushing by staff.
These clumps and tufts are then sent to spinners associated with the Weavers Guild to create yarn that is made into products, which are sold in an annual Bidding Owl auction. The funds are used for wolf care.
As a threatened, but not endangered animal, Minnesotans can collect this material, although sometimes it is not allowed to be distributed outside state lines, based on local regulations.
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