Wolves: Part 1

Ecolutionaries (and yes, we made that word up) are people who believe in infusing long-term support and action into the whole.
“Winter Song,” Boltz and Denali at the International Wolf Center. Photography by Heidi Pinkerton, rootriverphotography.com

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.


Shedding & Spinning for Dollars

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.


We will explore in the next three weekly installments of Ecolution:

  • What has field work done for understanding of the impact of wolves on local ecosystems?
  • What is the story behind people doing this work?
  • How can readers support the work?

To follow a variety of animals live, visit Explore.org

To follow the wolves at the Center live, visit Wolf.org


Are you helping to create cooperative economies and regenerative ecosystems? Contact [email protected] with story ideas for the next six months of Ecolution coverage.


Ecolutionaries (and yes, we made that word up) are people who believe in infusing long-term support and action into the whole. They are not passive readers who simply “like” stories. They have ideas, resources, and storytellers to share, and are consumers who put their dollar where their values are.

With your input and support, each month we look at an Ecolution topic from four different angles:

  • Week #1: Overview,
  • Week #2: Profile,
  • Week #3: Data & Research,
  • Week #4: Action.

Who should we learn from next? What related issue do you care about?

Please share this conversation with at least one friend, family member, or colleague today. Ecolution Collective is created by Minnesota Women’s Press, a storytelling pioneer since 1985. To underwrite the Ecolution series, contact [email protected]


1 Comment

  • Cari Lombardi

    We are not endangered by them—despite some common misconceptions to the contrary—but Minnesota’s wolves are endangered by us. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections for gray wolves January 2021. There are bills in the MN Legislature that require wolf hunting and trapping. This despite a DNR survey showing that 86% of MN residents would like to see the wolf population remain the same or increase, and despite half of all residents opposing wolf hunting and wolf trapping seasons.
    We currently have an opportunity to ensure the voices of Minnesota resident’s are heard, and protect our gray wolves by supporting a bill that would prohibit wolf trophy hunting and trapping (SF 1144 authored by Senator Eaton and HF 1498 authored by Rep Fischer). Let’s protect these amazing animals and allow the ecosystem to stay in natural balance.

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