Tundra the WolfPhoto by Earthfire Institute

— By Dawn Harrison —

There are just as many personality differences in animals as there are in people, a concept that becomes more evident to me each time I do my daily rounds. While Tanaka the wolf and I are now good friends and he excitedly greets me on my daily visits, not everyone has the same reaction. I just keep reminding myself that Tanaka and I weren’t always friends and he went through his steps just like each animal will go through theirs.

Tundra is a handsome young wolf. He has had less opportunity to be handled by people, and as a result, is much more wary of the humans around him. Despite this, I find myself making progress. It started one day when he approached the gate as I walked through doing my rounds. I make a point to only offer my hand if they show that they are interested. If they don’t approach me, I don’t encroach on their territory. (After all, how would I like it if someone randomly walked into my house, gave me a hug, and walked away? It would be weird and rude. Although I may be weird, I try hard not to be rude.)

When I approached and he didn’t walk away, I offered my hand. He sniffed then left. I took it as a cordial nod from the proverbial porch.

A few days later, the sniff was followed by a brief lick. Wonderful—he said hello and waved instead of just nodding. Progress in the making.

For about a month, the brief lick was the extent of our relationship. Then he started being more comfortable with me when I would clean his area. Instead of hastening to the other side, he would slowly saunter, not showing signs of fear. I took this to be him walking half way down the path to offer a smile and wave hello.

Now, I believe I have reached the actual handshake. As I offered my hand to him, Tundra licked it and immediately rubbed along the fence, allowing me to scratch his ruff. Not just once, but a half dozen times. A couple of times, it was even a full length rub, offering access to his back as well as his neck. I’m still not being asked in for tea and biscuits, but I’ve made it through the first layer. I officially have a strong acquaintance.

Next step: actual friendship…

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

Stories in the Snow

— By Ann Loyola —

Rose-gold sunrises are an added benefit to living close to the base of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. This event is introduced by pale pink rays of light shooting between the mountain peaks, making a fan of brilliance in the eastern sky.

The illumination kicks off each morning’s detective work. Trails around the house and along the driveway are proof that not everything sleeps at night. There’s a hustle and bustle in the snow that’s proof of an active nightlife happening while we’re snoring.

This morning, snowshoe hare prints were prevalent. I assume that there were several hopping around, checking out tree wells, hiding under bushes, and perhaps running from something whose paw prints I couldn’t quite place. Owner of said paw prints also explored the back deck area and may be the reason my miniature dachshund, Captain Golden Waffles, was barking from under my covers at 2:00 am.

Dachshund between the covers of a bed

Captain Golden Waffles | Ann Loyola

Elk skirted the property at some point, leaving deep imprints and poop. Further down the road, I see that a moose or two stopped by the stream. Smaller, feathery prints may be ermine. And of course, the ever ubiquitous dog tracks left over from last evening’s walk.

My family will tuck into our beds tonight, wondering what new stories the morning will bring.

Getting Better with Age

Earthfire Institute has reached its 20th birthday and we’re not slowing down. Our master plan for the near future includes all-encompassing renovations of animal enclosures, exercise gardens, outbuildings, and infrastructure. We’re kicking off with a permaculture plan for our entire forty-acre property. Our project leader is Kareen Erbe, owner and founder of Broken Ground in Bozeman, Montana. Here’s her definition of permaculture:

A design approach for sustainable living and land use that is rooted in the observation of natural systems. Guided by a set of ethics and principles, permaculture allows you to design an integrated system for your landscape that is efficient, resilient, sustainable and deeply connected to place, while at the same time caring for the people, plants, and animals who inhabit it.

Kareen will lead an onsite planning charette this week that will span three days and include staff input into the design process. It’s a very big first step that sets the platform for a complete restoration of our natural land and enhanced habitats for our sanctuary animals, rehabilitation patients, and local wildlife.

Ann’s history with Earthfire began 20 years ago when she signed on as a part-time fundraising consultant. She was on-hand for the birth and official IRS nonprofit designation of Earthfire Institute. After 18 years serving as Marketing and Development Director at a rural hospital, she’s come back to Earthfire as Assistant Director. Ann enjoys skiing, bicycling, fly fishing, and horseback riding.

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