ONTARIO, CA — Exploring the wilds of Ontario is like opening a treasure chest for outdoors lovers. Every trip up North brings a new and interesting find. Haliburton Forest lies just south of Algonquin Provincial Park. The 100,000-acre forest is the largest privately owned property in Central Ontario.
Once decimated by logging and viewed as worthless land, new owners took over in the 70s and quickly realized that the forest's true value had deeper roots.
"There's a value in the land," said Peter Cundel, the forest's tourism manager. "Obviously there's a value there, but it is an educational property, we see 5,000 students throughout the spring, summer and fall, and then obviously we have lots of guests that visit and take part in the tourism products that we offer."
Haliburton Forest has much to offer tourists, but perhaps their most important project is the Wolf Centre, where visitors can view a captive born wolf pack roaming freely in a 15-acre enclosure.
"We built the center with the concept, the mandate to really dispel myths and legends and folklore about wolves," sid Paul Brown, the centre's coordinator. "So the wolves themselves reside in a 15-acre enclosure, double fence 14 feet high, natural water pond for their water source, we basically mimic their diet, similar to our wild packs."
The pack originally began in Michigan in 1977, and eventually came to Haliburton in 1993. These fascinating canines have been educating visitors ever since. Despite their captivity, Brown says the pack is just like a wild one in almost every regard.
"We have a nice young family, 11 in total, we have Luna and Fang, the Alpha pair, so they just turned six years of age, and they're proud parents, I think, of nine over the last four and a half years," Brown said. "Here you have the Alpha pair, definitely Mom and Dad, your only breeding pair, and in time Fang will be challenged by a son, and Luna by one of the daughters, then the hierarchy will change."
The Wolf Centre staff takes great pains to make sure the wolves remain as wild as possible.
"Even though they're not, say, socialized with people, they're not truly wild, they're somewhere in between," Brown said. "We're still the caregivers of those animals, so anything they need, they get, from veterinary care, to de-worming medication, for all the natural canine parasites they would get."
Observing the pack through a wall of one way glass is an experience bordering on the transcendent, and Brown believes it has gone a long way to dispel the centuries of myths, legends, and fear surrounding one of North America's most beautiful mammals.
"We don't try to romanticize the wolves here," Brown said. "they're not truly bad and they're not good, but they are needed, and in an ecosystem, if they deserve to be there, they should be there, but if they need to be manged, they need to be managed properly as well."
To learn more about The Wolf Centre and everything Haliburton Forest has to offer, click here