Our first stop was the International Wolf Center. I have always wanted to visit, so this was a real treat for me. The center has a museum and a large viewing area of the wolves. There were 4 wolves in the main area for viewing, but there were 2 others there were retired and in a separate enclosure. We also got to see the "What's for Dinner" program, where we were able to watch the wolves feed. The center only feed the wolves once a week because that's usually how often a wolf eats in the wild.
A few very interesting things I learned about the wolf:
- The wolves at the center had been "fixed". This is due to the limited space the center has and are not able to accommodate wolf pups. Also, fixed wolves show less aggression and makes them easier to handle. They also do not want to to mix the different species of wolves. Kind of sad in my mind, they're infertile and not by choice. I guess no one is infertile by choice.
- Wolves only eat about once a week in the wild. But they can eat up to 20%-25% of their body weight. So if you weigh 100 lbs., you would eat about 80 quarter pounders at one time!
- At the center, out of the 4 wolves, one was female. So by default, she was the alpha female. However, at this time during the summer, surprisingly there was no alpha male. The 3 males were in the process of feeling each other out, but not yet fighting to be the alpha male. The wolves don't determine the alpha male during the summer because it takes too much effort to fight, and generates too much heat. They wait until it gets cooler to do so.
- Wolves do not kill their food. They attack them, take them down, and eat them while they are still alive. Most of the prey die from shock. Shocking, yes?
- Wolves eat every part of their prey - bones, skin, fur, etc. The fur helps protect the wolves' digestive system from bone shards. Wolves eat every part of their prey except the stomach. Why? Because the wolf's digestive system cannot handle vegetation, which is what their prey eats. So they skip the stomach.
- Wolves hunt in packs, and also sometimes cooperate with other animals. Wolves have been known to work with ravens when hunting. Ravens would circle above flocks of prey indicating to the wolves where there is food, and when the wolves are done eating, they would leave some leftovers for the ravens.
Laying on the greeting rock
Watching us watch him
This one came right up to the front of the display windows
Feeding time: The 3 in front feasting on a deer, the one in the back eating a beaver
The next day, we visited the Soud.an Underground Mines in Tower, MN. We wore hard hats and went half a mile down to the mines in a caged elevator. We then took the rail car deeper across to the mines. It was interesting to see how iron was mined before the mine was closed down in the 60's. The guide actually turned off all the lights in the mine for a short time to demonstrate how dark it really got down there. We literally could not see our hands in front of our faces, it was that dark!
The mine shaft where we took the elevator down to the mines
Arriving about half a mile down from the surface.
Our tour guide with part of our group
We also spent a little time shopping in town. I found this sign at a little tourist shop.
It's a bear trap!