2021 was a time of upheaval and change in the wolf world. After the removal of gray wolves from the U.S. endangered species list several places in the Midwest and West suddenly found themselves in charge of wolf management for their state. I watched in dismay as emotional rhetoric rather than science dominated much of the decision making and old long-disproven statements about wolves as vicious killers that needed to be “controlled” surfaced again online. On a more positive note – 2021 saw the expansion of wolf populations in many places including Washington, Oregon and California. Successful breeding took place on Isle Royale and plans were made to release more red wolves into North Carolina to support that critically endangered population.
At the International Wolf Center, our 2021 programming too had its ups and downs. COVID continued to cause disruption with occasional closures and impacts on group activities. While we still weren’t able to physically go into schools, we reached the highest number of students ever (over 7,000) with our WolfLink virtual programming thanks to a generous gift that allowed us to offer programming to all Minnesota schools for free and 50% off for everyone else. We had over 2 million pageviews on our website (wolf.org) as people sought out accurate information about wolves and our social media following grew on all platforms with our most significant growth on Instagram (56%!).
Over 40,000 visitors came to see us in person at our Ely facility where a big draw was the addition of new female Rieka to our Exhibit Pack. In a spurt of creative genius, our staff developed a new outdoor enclosure for Rieka right next to our auditorium that would allow visitors to watch her grow without needing to crowd together improving the experience for both our visitors and wolves.
Continuing our strong connection with the latest wolf research, we launched a new educational partnership with the Voyageurs Wolf Project in 2021. We followed along as Tom Gable, Joseph Bump and their team made interesting discoveries about the impact of wolf populations on the Voyageurs ecosystem (who knew that wolves impact the formation of wetlands!) and we were able to watch and share several incredible videos capturing wolf behavior rarely observed in the thick forests of Northern Minnesota.
A final highlight of the year was the launch of the Dr. L. David Mech Fellowship program named after our organizational founder. This program, which was made possible thanks to gifts from people who have named the International Wolf Center in their estates, was inspired by the many students Dave has instructed, mentored and supported over the years. Our hope is that this program will support the next generation of wolf biologists for many years to come.
To return to the 2021 Annual Report, click here.