If you are looking for something unique and different to do with your children in New York, look no further than heading upstate to South Salem, to spend a night camping under the stars, at the New York Wolf Conservation Center. Here, you will be up close and personal with these majestic critically endangered creatures, which is an experience like no other. On top of all of this, It is a wonderful opportunity, to encourage understanding in children of how to live in harmony with nature and animals.
Last summer, my husband and I took our then 3-year-old Son to camp overnight on a nocturnal adventure with Mexican Gray and Red Wolves, and he loved it! As you can imagine, me being such an animal-lover I was very excited about the opportunity too, and it is something that I highly recommend as a must-do activity in the New York State area.
Sleeping with the Wolves, which promotes wolf conservation by teaching about wolves and their role in our world, is offered from the warmer months of July through October, and fills up fast. The night we were there, I met people who had booked well in advance and had traveled from other countries to be up close with the wolves. Given, they were hardcore wolf fans, however the point is, is that it is a good idea to plan in advance.
The cost is $285 for a tent which sleeps comfortably 4 people, and this is set up in advance for your arrival. However, you must bring your own bedding. The event starts at 6PM, and you are cordially asked to leave the next morning by 8.30AM. Once you are settled in, you are free to walk the property and view the wolves, from behind a fence! I was under the impression that we would actually get to interact with the wolves, like pet them, however as it was pointed out to me, they are wild animals and the caretakers do try to keep them in as natural as a habitat as they possibly can. Fair enough.
The evening is broken down, into firstly a welcome and educational talk by one of the caretakers, which includes a Q&A time. Food is then served (included in the cost), being pizza and soft drink. If you want healthier food or if you have food restrictions, make sure you bring it in yourself.
A movie is then offered, shown on an outdoor screen about wolves, their history, their beauty and the diminishing lives they live in the United States. I will add here, that this may be upsetting to some, I know for me it was and I had to leave. Given, I feel the struggles of what animals go through on a profound level and I become very upset when faced with the reality of how it really is. Otherwise, the movie was wholeheartedly educational and interesting.
Once that is all done, a camp fire is set up, where you can chat with others, talk to the caregivers and roast marshmallows, or just howl along with the wolves like my little munchkin did! Guests are free to walk around the compound as they please, and attending the activities is by no need mandatory. It is a very mellow setting. If you want to take a walk down one of the paths and just sit watching the wolves this is okay too.
Hanging out with Zephyr (meaning “light or west wind”)
Some of the wolves are definitely friendly than others, and seem comfortable to come up close to the fence to say hello, like Alawa who kept giving me kisses through the fence. She is so beautiful.
Others though, keep their distance.
The wolves at the conservation center come from different backgrounds, some were born at the facility, like Zephyr and Alawa. While others, like Atka, arrived from other places. One of the caretakers told me that he has been there almost daily for many years, however there is one wolf in particular who just really does not like him, even though he feeds him. Because of this, he always has to be very careful.
The caretakers that I spoke with at the conservation center, clearly have a love, deep understanding and respect for the wolves, as it should be of course. I just wish more people were educated enough or brave enough, to understand that these animals really mean no intentional harm, and that we can live in harmony with them. There is no need to act out of fear and kill them, which unfortunately happens a lot in this country. We have taken so much from them, how are they meant to survive without a pristine environment as once was?
Being in nature, and hearing the wolves howling so close by is really amazing, especially as you know you are safe and sound behind a fence! We had a really wonderful evening, and it is something that as a family plan we on doing again sometime soon. Surely, my Son has fond memories and is eager to visit with all the wolves again soon. If he had his way, we’d sleep there every night.
The Wolf Conservation Center offers a live web cam of the wolves, so if you cannot make it there personally, this is the next best thing. Check out beautiful the Arctic Gray Wold, Atka HERE. Or, If you want to do more, you can find information HERE on what you can do to help with the preservation of these beautiful creatures.
If you do make it out to Sleeping with the Wolves, do not forget your bug spray. You are going to need it.
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places to visit in New York State.