It's a myth that wolves howl at the moon, say the experts at Wolf Haven.
“We’ve had people ask, ‘What time do the wolves howl?’ ” said Kim Young, communications director for the wolf sanctuary. “I tell them, ‘Whenever they want to.’ ”
But there is scheduled howling at Wolf Haven’s Howl-Ins, which happen Saturday nights in August. It’s done by humans, though.
After visitors tour the sanctuary and hear live music, the sanctuary hosts a howling contest with categories for children, teens and adults. “There are a lot of adults who want to get up there and participate,” Young said.
And sometimes, some of the sanctuary’s approximately 50 residents join the contests.
“While the contests are going on, it is not at all uncommon for our wolves to start howling,” she said. “But if that does happen, sometimes it’s hard to hear them over the people on stage howling.”
Howling contests are a mainstay of the family friendly evenings, which also feature a scavenger hunt and children’s activities from face-painting to making seed balls that children can take home and plant to grow native wildflowers.
Camping in a tent or recreational vehicle is an option, too (for those who reserve ahead of time) – and yes, the wolves are sometimes heard howling during the night.
When they do, it is a sound well worth hearing, Young said.
“It is a beautiful sound,” she said. “I’ve been here two years, and I’ve heard it so many times I’ve lost count – and it still sends chills up my spine. The wolves howl in different keys, at different pitches, and it is almost like listening to a chorus.
“We have two coyotes,” she added, “and they join in near the end with their own distinctive higher-pitched yelp.”
Meeting the wolves is a lot of fun, too, said Megan Moskwa, the sanctuary’s director of education.
“Sometimes, the antics that go on are just hysterical,” she said. “The wolves are pretty social and love when tour groups come and spend time with them.”
She told of a recent encounter with Ladyhawk, a 10-year-old gray wolf.
“When groups come through, she’ll come right up and be like, ‘I’m right here. Look how beautiful I am,’ ” she said. But on this particular day, the wolf was nowhere to be seen.
“So we looked in the back, and there was dirt flying up, and then she came out with a huge heart from the previous day’s feeding and came prancing out like, ‘Look at what I have!’ ”
The tours at the Howl-Ins last only about 15 minutes, so the women recommended returning for a regular 50-minute tour if you want more time to get to know Ladyhawk and the roughly 16 other wolves who are part of the public tour.
“They’re lots of fun to watch,” Moskwa said. “They have all different personalities, and that really comes out when you get to see them and meet them yourself.”