Wolf brings the house down at Beverly library

Photo by Michael Kelly Logan, wolf-ambassador for Ironwood Wolves, stands calmly while being leashed by his attendant Rachel Lauren (off camera) as children in the Beverly branch of the Washington County Public Library look at him from a short distance. The presentation was held Friday afternoon.

BEVERLY — Logan was pretty big but far from bad.

The wolf-ambassador from Ironwood Wolves kept regally cool as nearly 40 people, ranging from retirees to infants, crowded into a small meeting room at the Beverly branch of the Washington County Public Library Friday, intent on being in the presence of something wild and uncommon.

Attended by Ironwood founders Rachel Lauren and Matt Emmelhainz, Logan set up in a corner of the room, with Emmelhainz marking off a four-foot-square area in a corner using masking tape.

“That’s his safe space,” Lauren said, as the crowd gazed at Logan.

What followed was a slide show introduction to wolves, narrated by Lauren, that included history of their persecution, extermination in many places, Ohio among them, their social structure and behavior, and facts about them that contradict popular myths.

Wolves have a phobia for the unfamiliar, so unlike dogs they avoid human contact whenever possible, she said. Although as a proficient predator they have inspired fear throughout human history, they actually are not a threat to people.

“In all of American history, there have been only two documented cases of attacks by wolves,” Lauren said. “You’re more likely to be struck by lightning.”

Wolves, she said, differ from domestic dogs in numerous ways.

“They communicate by chuffing, yelping and howling, but wolves don’t bark,” she said. “They’re not protective or confrontational, they don’t guard things. But they do have body language similar to a dog’s.”

Logan, she said, weighs about 80 pounds and stands 27 inches at the shoulder, an average size for a mature gray wolf. Like all the wolf-ambassadors at Ironwood, he comes from a facility that specializes in breeding the animals for human contact and education.

Wolves were exterminated in Ohio more than a century ago, she said, and exist now only precariously in a few of the lower 48 states. Only Alaska, with a population estimated at up to 11,000, has a healthy wolf population.

“But you didn’t come here to listen to me, you came here to see Logan,” Lauren said, winding up the presentation and inviting the children and adults to come closer. The group crowded around the taped marks and began taking pictures as Logan, accustomed to the attention, quietly took it all in, occasionally burying his muzzle in Lauren’s lap to have his ears scratched.

Ava Davis, 9, said the presentation was interesting and confirmed much of what she already knew.

“I’ve researched wolves in school,” she said.

For 13-year-old Avant Hector, the encounter was something of a myth-buster.

“I expected him to be bigger,” he said.

Avery Palmer, 9, came down from Morgan County to see it.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen this, and I enjoyed it,” she said, noting some of the differences between Logan and an ordinary dog.

“He had big paws, and they were spread apart,” she said.

For Leroy Dennison, 66, of McConnelsville, the event was memorable.

“My oldest grandson and I have been to their park in Columbus. This is a great program,” he said.

Lauren said Ironwood has four wolf-ambassadors and three foxes, all used in their wild canid education program. Their programs include onsite visits and specialized photography for people who want to have their pictures taken with the animals.

The goal is to educate anyone they can reach about the plight of wolves and their benefit to ecosystems, and to break down the negative mythology associated with them.

“I just do this for the love of the species,” she said.

Michael Kelly can be reached at mkelly@mariettatimes.com


Howl Much Do You Know About Wolves?

* Erroneously thought to be threats to humans

* Listed and delisted as endangered species several times in the past 50 years

* Differ from domestic dogs and coyotes in several critical ways

* Weigh 50 to more than 100 pounds when grown

* Proven to benefit ecosystems when reintroduced

Source: Ironwood Wolves