July 28, 2007 in Idaho

Wolves show off hunting instincts

By The Spokesman-Review

Visitors to a wolf education center and store in Bonner County had an unexpected demonstration of the animal’s hunting instinct.

Four tourists from Charlotte, N.C., were at Wolf People on U.S. Highway 95 across from Lake Cocolalla on Wednesday when a pair of domesticated arctic timberwolves chased down and killed a deer right in front of them.

The deer had wandered into the 5-acre “picture pen,” apparently through a gate that had been left open, said Nancy Taylor, the owner and founder of Wolf People. Visitors pay to enter the enclosure with the wolves and a wolf handler, giving them unobstructed views for taking photos.

The four North Carolina residents were in the pen with a 5-year-old female wolf, a 1-year-old male wolf and a pair of 12-week old cubs when the deer ran past the group. The two adult wolves chased after the deer and brought it down, Taylor said. They didn’t immediately kill it, she said, because they didn’t know how.

“These wolves are so domesticated, to the point that they get an opportunity to do what a wild wolf does and they didn’t know how to do it,” Taylor said.

Wolves hone hunting and killing skills in packs in the wild. The 15 full-breed, adult wolves at Wolf People were raised around people and haven’t had that experience, Taylor said.

She said she was ready to shoot the deer so it wouldn’t suffer, but by the time she reached the pen the wolves – Mimi and Mohawk – had killed it.

The visitors were so startled they climbed the fence to get away from the wolves. But Taylor insisted they were never in danger and could have walked out through a gate.

“Not at any time did the wolves so much as come up to them and growl,” she said.

The episode was an “accident of nature,” she added. “Never once were these people threatened or their lives endangered.”

Wolf People hasn’t had a single incident of a wolf harming a human in the 14 years it has been in business, Taylor said.

As for the deer carcass, another pair of wolves dined on it. “We did not just let the deer go to waste,” she said.

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