Growing up just inside the border of New York City had many privileges. I was close enough to the center of urban civilization that I could enjoy most of it within easy reach, but far enough away that I grew up understanding the value of peace and quiet. I had unparalleled access to the visual and performing arts and a better public high school education than most private school students enjoy. I appreciated the flavors and fashions of the world. But no matter what and without fail, my frequent car rides out of Gotham were spent with me plastered to the caravan window waiting for signs of life; and, by life I mean other than the raccoon I happened across one evening (raccoons are like big, wild... ferrets; raccoons don't count) - generally deer, and the horse and cattle of New York State farms. There is something about being up close to a foreign animal (as opposed to your family dog or "The Cat"). Perhaps the added sense of magic that serendipity encourages in childhood? Of all the cars in all the world you had to jump out in front of mine... Whatever the reason, I was always excited to see animals that did not come attached to a leash.
If you were raised in the city on PBS you have doubtless seen shows like Wild America and you may be under the impression that wild animals are dangerous - and they are - but not in the way that you might immediately think. If you've ever been told "that spider [insert terrifying creature here] is more afraid of you than you are of it," when it comes to wolves, that statement is correct. Entertaining, to be sure, wildlife documentaries are as susceptible to ratings pushes as any other media and nothing gets more eyes than the sensationalism of brutal wilderness - animals on the tube are not what they appear. In reality, wolves approach other animals with the same meticulous caution with which we approach our own safety; by quietly excusing themselves from perceived danger unless necessary. The wolves of the Adirondacks are all gone, save one special place - the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center. Founded over a decade ago by Steve and Wendy Hall, the center is a refuge for animals unable to re-enter the wilderness and rehabilitation center for those that are. Get up close to animals you've probably only seen pictures of - Sylvia, the bald eagle, Pippin, the red fox, and a host of other residents like coywolves, coyotes, bobcats, several different species of owl (to name a few) and of course, the wolves, Cree, Zeebie and Kiska.
Easily one of the most remarkable experiences in my Adirondack life, the opportunity to get up close to animals that were legends to a city girl like myself was breathtaking. Founder Steve Hall is like everyone's favorite college professor - his knowledge and experience perfectly counterbalanced with humor and charisma. It's a trait you can see in all of the handlers, rehabilitators and interns. And like all great professors, their love for their charges is catching and one cannot leave the refuge without a profound appreciation for what they do and the animals in their care and a definitely sense of awe. Every morning at 10:00 AM, Steve Hall enters the wolf enclosure to give a 90-minute presentation on wolves, a riveting lecture as entertaining as it was informational. After the lecture, meander down to the sanctuary to see other remarkable animals - staff and interns are present and will enthusiastically answer any questions you may have.
The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center is a 501(C)3 Non-Profit Organization and appreciates all donations. Instead of a ticket person there are donation boxes throughout the property and visitors are asked to donate what they can so that the Refuge can continue its work - providing safe harbor and medical services to the injured wildlife brought to them.
- Video One: Roadside Adventures - Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehab Center from Mountain Lake PBS
- Video Two: How Wolves Change Rivers on from Sustainable Human (This is the video that Steve Hall mentions during the Wolf Gathering.)