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Stories From Main Street: Educating The Public About Wolves In South Salem

A White Arctic Gray Wolf is seen at the Wolf Conservation Center - South Salem, NY - May 6, 2011 (credit: Catherine Cioffi / WCBS 880)

A White Arctic Gray Wolf is seen at the Wolf Conservation Center – South Salem, NY – May 6, 2011 (credit: Catherine Cioffi / WCBS 880)

SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - A wolf’s howl has been known to send chills up spines, echo through rib cages and stir souls. You can hear that “call of the wild” at the Wolf Conservation Center.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On The Story

“We are an educational facility in South Salem, New York, in northern Westchester, where we really accomplish our mission of teaching people about wolves, but we also take part in actually restoring critically endangered wolves into the wild,” the center’s Maggie Howell told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

“Wolves, at one time, were really thriving here in the lower 48 states. Some scientists believe we had at least a quarter of a million wolves living from coast to coast,” she said.

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

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But by the 1970s, man had reduced their numbers to between 500 and 1,000, Adams reported.

“Wolves are naturally very shy and elusive creatures and even in an area where we have robust wolf populations, people don’t normally encounter these animals,” said Howell.

Over 27 acres, they have 25 wolves including critically endangered red wolves and Mexican wolves. They hope the numbers will grow, and they’ll be carefully monitoring the situation.

“What we’re gonna have are actually cameras in our four dens of our four breeding pairs, also cameras outside of the dens,” she said.

LINK: Wolf Conservation Center

The center’s goal is to educate and to show how, when kept in check, wolves in the wild are a keystone predator that keep other animals like deer and elk from overpopulating.

Howell said the last wolf in Yellowstone National Park was killed in the mid-1920s and without the predator, many plant species were devoured, which displaced other small animals and led to soil erosion.

She said that the park experienced a rejuvenation when wolves were reintroduced.

To help spread that message the center has a few ambassadors, such as Atka, an 85-pound, snowy white Arctic wolf who goes to schools and libraries.

“It’s a fine line bringing a beautiful beast in on a leash into a school and not giving the kids the impression that he’s a pet,” said Howell.

How do you feel about preserving the wolf population? Please share your comments below.