Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mini Vacation

Last weekend, Babe and I took a last minute "mini vacation" to Ely, MN, about a 4-hour drive from St. Paul.  Ely is a small town, but has a few interesting sites to visit.

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.
I am fascinated by the wolves.  I'm not really sure what it is, but I think they are beautiful creatures.  Here are a few pictures I took.  There is also some webcams you can view on their website.
Laying on the greeting rock

Wolves playing

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 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!


  1. Wow, that's a very interesting trip. I love the tourist sign.

  2. Looks like a great mini-vacation! Sometimes that's all one needs to get rejuvenated! :)

  3. Glad you had a great time on your mini-vacation. It's good to know these interesting places are close by. Thanks for the info!

  4. Wow, that looks like a really fun trip. I think the mine part would be especially cool. I remember always loving the mine exhibit at the Museum of Science and INdustry in Chicago so I'm sure an actual mine would be way cooler! Was it claustrophic feeling at all?

    Over from ICLW August.

  5. Wolves are amazing creatures.

    Glad you got a nice break!

    Happy ICLW.
    - Jess (I'm #74, but I think you've visited before!)

  6. Those wolves are beautiful! I didn't know they ate everything but the stomach... very interesting. Looks like a fun vacation!

  7. Happy ICLW Week! Those wolves are gorgeous!

  8. The wolf stuff was really interesting. That would be so neat to go through and learn about. Happy ICLW!

  9. Wolves are so beautiful! I have a few wolf items in my house because I love them (that and horses), but so neat you got to learn about them and take photos!

    ICLW # 106:

  10. Interesting pictures!!

    #56 Miss Ruby

  11. Stopping by from ICLW...
    I am glad that you had such a fun trip!

  12. What a super cool post! I love mini vacations and finding new places to discover. The wolf pix are awesome and I love all of the facts. So interesting!
    Love the mine pix too. We recently visited a cave in Colorado and they turned the lights out- it was so weird and awesome!

    Happy IComLeavWe!
    <3MaryAnne #135

  13. ICLW

    You could not pay me to go into that mine. I once went to the Crystal Caves in North (?) Dakota and I went in about 20 ft than ran back out!

  14. Happy ICLW!

    Wow, I never knew that much about wolves. Very interesting.

    I'm so sorry about your IVF cycle. Best wishes on the next path your choose.

    Take care.

  15. Wow! Looks like you had a wonderful trip. The wolves are beautiful and I love the "complaints" sign!

    Happy ICLW!

  16. Some really interesting facts on the wolves and some stunning photos too. Sound slike you had a great trip.

    Happy ICLW

  17. Those wolves are just beautiful! What a fun little trip!


  18. Very cool. Man am I glad I don't eat every part of my dinner. I am from Forest Lake, MN and am heading there this Thursday for a family visit. I need to visit before winter starts in October.

  19. Happy ICLW. Looks like a very interesting trip!

  20. Happy ICLW! That sounds like a fascinating trip! I like wolves too...thank you for the very interesting facts.

  21. Very cool! I have always wanted to go to the IWC but never got a chance when I lived in Minneapolis. Now I'm 19 hours away from it! Thanks for sharing the facts and the pictures! I'm looking forward to being back in the cities next week to visit my family.

    Happy ICLW!


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