Tundra the wolf visits Haahuupayak students for cultural learning

Port Alberni, BC

The Grades 6 and 7 students of Haahuupayak School played host to a very special guest on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Tundra, a domesticated wolf hybrid arrived with her owner, Gary Allen, to help the students learn about the importance of the animal in a healthy ecosystem.

Tundra, a nearly 15-year-old female wolfdog, is calm, gentle and remarkable in that the average lifespan of a wild wolf is five years. Ninety per cent wolf and 10 per cent Samoyed dog, Tundra is a gentle, geriatric wolfdog who feels the effects of age in the form of arthritis in her hips.

Allen allowed Tundra on a leash, to lead the group of students and teachers along a system of trails in a small patch of forest adjacent to the school. The group stopped in small clearings allowing Allen to talk about the importance of wolves in a healthy ecosystem while Tundra, curious, gently pulled at the leash to explore more trail.

Allen told the students wolves are a keystone species, meaning that they need to be left alone in intact social groups so that young wolves properly learn to hunt large game from the older wolves, a process that takes a few years. If the older wolves are killed off, the younger wolves are left to fend for themselves with their limited hunting skills. They often resort to hunting easier prey, like domestic animals.

In addition, wolves look for the sick, old, or injured animals to feed on, keeping the herd healthy.

“They go after the animals that hunters wouldn’t want,” Allen told the students.

The students were allowed to pet Tundra and ask questions about her.

Summer Little, a Grade 7 student, said she learned that you cannot train a wolf to do dog tricks; Allen explained that wolves are too stubborn to train in that way. She also learned that wolves can communicate with each other.

Leland, in sixth grade, said wolves are pretty cool.

“They can howl as long as 10 seconds, to communicate with each other,” he said.

“Wolves can smell prey as far as two miles away,” said Andraya Brossault, Grade 6. “And they can be very gentle if they know you have no intention of hurting them.”

“I want to pet wolves that are very friendly,” said Nathaniel, Grade 6.

“They’re pretty cool…tall and chunky,” said Vinson, Grade 6.

“Wolves and humans have a lot in common,” added Phyllis, Grade 7. “Both are friendly, they communicate with each other and both hunt.”

Allen talked about Hishukish tsawok, the Nuu-chah-nulth words meaning everything is one or interconnected. “I am passionate about the need to protect biodiversity in order to promote healthy ecosystems,” he said.

Tundra and Allen headed to Ucluelet for a couple of days and planned to return to Haahuupayak School for another presentation with another class on Friday, September 17.

For more information about Tundra the wolf and Tundra Speaks Society, visit https://tundraspeaks.com/about/

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