Wolves and Waterfowl

By Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant and
    Judy Montgomery, Overnight and Outreach Coordinator
Looking into the eyes of a Gray Wolf.
Looking into the eyes of a Gray Wolf.

While the east coast is blessed to have a rich variety of wildlife, we no longer get to watch packs of wolves roaming the forests.  These top predators disappeared from the region in the 19th century, driven out and killed by early settlers afraid of the “big bad wolf.” 

On Sunday, March 1, we led the Wolves and Waterfowl tour,  travelling to northern Lancaster County to visit the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania.  A unique facility dedicated to educating the public about wolves, the sanctuary is home to nearly 50 wolves living in packs inside wooded enclosures.  

An Eastern Timber Wolf showing its pearly white teeth at the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania.
An Eastern Timber Wolf showing its pearly white teeth at the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania.

Enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides educated our group about the biology, behavior, and life history of these animals: Eastern and Western Timber Wolves, Gray Wolves, and Tundra Wolves.  Living in packs, these noble creatures establish a social heirarchy just like in the wild.

An Eastern Timber wolf uses his powerful jaws and strong teeth to tear at a chunk of meat.
An Eastern Timber wolf uses his powerful jaws and strong teeth to tear at a chunk of meat.

We brought along a huge bag of beef parts salvaged from a butcher shop, fatty chunks of meat and bone that would provide good nutrition for the sanctuary’s wolves.  Four Eastern Timber Wolves enjoyed this feast, using their powerful jaws and teeth to devour the big hunks of flesh in short order.  These animals possess tremendous strength! 

A swarm of Snow Geese flies overhead as our participants take photos, and cover their heads!
A swarm of Snow Geese flies overhead as our participants take photos, and cover their heads!

After the wonderful wolf tour, we headed to the nearby Middle Creek Wildlife Area.  Over 5,000 acres of land are managed for wildlife, and the 400-acre lake attracts huge numbers of migrating waterfowl.

Each year in late February through mid-March, massive flocks of Snow Geese stop at Middle Creek to fuel up in nearby farm fields before heading northward again on their journey to their Arctic breeding grounds.  

A female Snow goose, wearing neck collar MP32, was banded by scientists on her breeding grounds on Bylot Island, above the Arctic Circle.
A female Snow Goose, wearing neck collar MP32, was banded by scientists on her breeding grounds on Bylot Island, above the Arctic Circle.

Many of these geese spent the winter in Delaware, as we know by identifying the geese that scientists have marked with special yellow numbered collars.  These amazing geese are so prolific that they are destroying their Arctic breeding grounds by eating all the vegetation there.

A blizzard of Snow Geese at Middle Creek Wildlife Area in Pennsylvania.
A blizzard of Snow Geese at Middle Creek Wildlife Area in Pennsylvania.

The huge numbers of Snow Geese and thousands of Tundra Swans made the skies at Middle Creek look like a feathered blizzard.  Bald Eagles flew over, flushing the geese in walls of white, giving photographers plenty of chance to burn the memory on their cameras.  Our group of visitors from the Delaware Nature Society made memories, too, on our Wolves and Waterfowl tour.

     – Report and photographs by Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant

1 thought on “Wolves and Waterfowl”

  1. I have a lone banded and collared snow goose with my domestic geese on my lake. I live in Georgia. Is this unusual. It has been her two weeks.

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