COLUMBIA, N.J. – If you dread the onset of cabin fever this winter, plan a trip to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Warren County, N.J. – less than an hour's drive from the Lehigh Valley.
Four packs of once-feared beasts roam a refuge adjacent to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation. The preserve is open year round and the wolves sport their thickest fur this time of year. Visitors can ride a shuttle bus or hike to the viewing area, where guide Jim Stein calls the wolves by name and details their habits. You'll find yourself breathtakingly able to look the wolves in the eye. These powerful predators haven't occupied the woods of New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 100 years.
Visitors can watch snowy Arctic wolves romp and chase each other in one enclosure – playfully dog-like as a magnificent black wolf prowls nearby, eyeing strangers with curiosity.
You'll never get this close to wolves in the wild, said Stein. They fear humans and can identify a human's scent long before you approach viewing range.
After his lecture, Stein initiated a robust howling session much to the delight of visitors. The iconic sounds filled the woods like a melancholy symphony.
The preserve features Tundra, Timber and Arctic wolves. The Arctics have fur so thick that it enables them to endure cold of 100 degrees below zero.
The wolves were raised by hand and live in the largest enclosures – about 10 acres - economically feasible to permit natural interaction while serving as a conservation and education resource.
The preserve is also home to foxes and bobcats. Be prepared for a noxious skunk-like odor near the foxes, which repeatedly spray and mark their territory. Hold your nose but keep your eyes open to observe the scampering antics of the spry foxes, which sport luxurious coats.
Visitors are invited to help support the preserve by "adopting" a wolf with a sponsorship donation. The preserve is a non-profit organization located on the grounds of Camp Taylor.
The standard wolf watch tour costs $16.05 per adult, $7.49 for children under 12. For details and directions, visit www.lakotawolf.com or call 1-877-SEE-WOLF. The preserve is open year round.