In 1990 kevin costner directed and starred in the brilliant and visually striking film, “Dances with Wolves.” The theme of the film poignantly depicts the harsh realities of intolerance, opportunism, racism and ignorance. When I got word about The Meredith Wolf Education and Conservation Den, Jacksonville’s only red and gray wolf conservation center, which is struggling to not only survive but thrive locally, I pictured the film’s main character, Dunbar. He befriended a wolf every afternoon along the west’s elegant mountainside. Immediately following, a different, more grotesque vision entered my mind…
Since 2003, more than 1,000 wolves have been slaughtered from the skies in Alaska, as Alaska is the only state in the U.S. where private trophy hunters use aircraft to gun down wolves from low-flying airplanes. Acting like barbarians, they chase them to exhaustion then land and shoot them at point-blank range. Comparable to the current that flowed within the aforementioned film, wolves, too, have suffered harshly against opportunism, intolerance and ignorance.
Established in 2007, The Meredith Den is dedicated to the protection and awareness of the endangered gray and red wolf. Currently housing three wolves, the organization is a 501(c)(3) with a goal to teach and outreach to local communities about wolves, their relationship to the environment and our role in helping their future. However, The Meredith Den still will take three to four years before it is completely open to the public on a regular basis. As owner Lisa Meredith expressed, community support will help the goal of obtaining the USDA license quicker and in turn open the conservation center sooner.
“We are always looking for ways to get involved with educating the public about how they can help save the wolf,” Meredith explains. “We need to be their voice.” Presently looking into an Ambassador Wolf—one that will attend events geared toward educating the public—Meredith believes one of the hardest tasks she has in front of her is disproving the ridiculously popular notion that wolves hate humans.
“The general public has a misunderstanding,” she notes. “The biggest misconception is that wolves are vicious animals out to get us. Many think they are blood-thirsty killers. This could not be further from the truth. Wolves fear us. As humans, we always fear the unknown, and, unfortunately, over the years wolves have suffered because of our ignorance.”
All three wolves that occupied the den watched me from afar during our interview. Hardly any approached, even though I was easily accessible. They studied me with their gorgeous, majestic yellow eyes. But they seemed more afraid of me than I was of them.
Operating solely on donations, The Meredith Wolf Education and Conservation Den spends approximately $250 a week on food and countless dollars more on veterinarian check-ups needed to optimize the wolves’ good health. To further help sustain the den and raise funds, Meredith has taken up wood carving.
“I do wood-burning and 3D carvings,” she explains. “Of course, I specialize in wolf designs, but I have over 1,500 designs and can create almost anything one may want. The sale of my art goes directly to help support the conservation den.”
Meredith also stressed that to show support one doesn’t have to only donate money. The contribution of time is just as valuable.
“A big help would be to just get the word out in the community,” she says, “and the vital role wolves play within our environment. We would love for more hands-on assistance. Gaining this assistance is also one of the hardest trials we are facing at this time. Everyone wants to be hands on with the wolves, but that just can’t happen, for both the well-being of the wolves and the individual. There’s still so much that can be done. There’s so much that volunteers can do.”
Eventually, the wolves laid down and seemed at ease and so, too, did I under the tree canopy. I remained in place a while longer despite the interview’s end and enjoyed the undeniable sense of calm that blew through the air. At no time did I feel in danger. Rather, I felt I was in the presence of kings. I respected their company, their role and their distance, just as I felt they respected mine. It is this sense of mutual appreciation that The Meredith Wolf Education and Conservation Den wishes to enforce for all those they reach.
To make a tax deductible donation, or to volunteer and support the Meredith Wolf Education and Conservation Den, e-mail Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.thewolfconservation.com. The education center is located at 1450 Onslow pines Road in Jacksonville, NC.