“I’d rather sing one wild song and burst my heart with it than live a thousand years.”
— Jack London
On a very dark night on Friday the 13th, two white wolves visited the Idyllwild Nature Center as part of an “Ambassador Wolves” program presented by Project Wildsong, a nonprofit located in Murrieta.
Called “The Myth and Lore of Wolves,” the presentation recounted wolf mythology from around the world and was followed by a question-and-answer session. About 60 people attended, including 15 children. Project Wildsong notes that throughout history, wolves as an archetype can be found etched indelibly in the culture and lore of many countries.
Project Wildsong’s mission is to “rewild” people’s hearts, connecting them with creatures of the wild, fellow inhabitants of our planet. Said Wildsong Executive Director Kimmi Kraus, “’Rewilding’ starts by awakening a deeply rooted connection that entwines the existence of humans and animals on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. With the help of our Ambassador Animals who represent their wild counterparts, we strive to bring to fruition William Shakespeare’s words, ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’”
Project Wildsong has three core objectives: education, collaboration and conversation — education to refine public perception of wolves and North American wildlife; collaboration with partner schools, libraries, governmental entities, businesses and zoos to further that educational mission; and conservation by protecting wilderness and wildlife.
Attending with Kraus and handler Beth Katte, were Wildsong’s two Ambassador Wolves, Damu (meaning “guardian” in Sumerian) and Cael (“light bringer” in Gaelic), snow white “high content” wolfdogs. According to Katte, wolfdogs are a breed of mostly wolf and a minor component of dog. “Generally, [wolfdogs] range from 85 to 98 percent wolf and have a small dog foundation from breeds such as Giant Alaskan Malamute, German Shepherd, Siberian Husky or Great Pyrenees,” said Katte. “Wolfdogs originated in the 1930s, initially by crossing a pure dog and wolf. Today, wolfdogs are bred wolfdog to wolfdog.”
Katte noted wolves live on average 7 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity. Many of the questions raised by attendees were about what Damu and Cael ate. “They are hand fed,” said Katte, “basically a raw diet of chicken, pork ribs, salmon heads and green tripe. Damu likes fruits and veggies and is especially fond of green-tea ice cubes. Gael likes pumpkin, eating it and rolling in it.”
Damu and Gael were raised from pups by Wildsong, attended by a Siberian Husky “nanny,” 5-year-old Jax.
“All dogs were descended from wolves,” said Katte, “having about 98 percent of the DNA of wolves. It’s just that dogs were bred to please people and wolves are more separate and solitary.” She observed that wolves know in the wild to be silent when stalking prey and are considered more mature than domesticated dogs. Wolves may bark as pups but not as adults. As adults, they howl and huff. Silence allows them to be more effective predators.
Said Katte, “Part of our mission is to show the place in nature that predators occupy.” Dogs, on the other hand, bark to announce themselves, to get the attention of their human companions, who are often blind to their visual signals.
Noting the large attendance at the Friday gathering, Katte said Project Wildsong would return to Idyllwild next summer.
For more information about Project Wildsong, visit www.projectwildsong.org. It is a 501(c)(3), supported by contributions and grants.