The White Wolf of Thompson
Wolf Artwork by Owen Garratt
First in a series of wolf artwork
T hompson Manitoba is a small city of some 13,000 people that’s over 500 miles north of the U.S. border, and is, unsurprisingly, a nickel mining town. Somewhat more surprisingly, it has a small but excellent zoo.
The cages of the zoo are large and roomy, and like all proper habitats, have various activities and environmental stimuli build in. But a problem it shares with a lot of other zoos is that it won’t let folks go up to the cages.And one can see why: people are dumb and will do stupid things like try to feed the animals. Sometimes they even try to feed the animals their fingers. So for one reason and another, zoos don’t want to let people get at the animals, and the Thompson Zoo is no different. Each cage is made of an outer and an inner cage of stout chain link, with several feet of open space between them.
This keeps everyone very safe, and the animals too, but it’s impossible to take good photos through two chain link fences.
I found the admin offices and introduced myself to the administrator, who graciously pretended to know who I was. Even more graciously, he allowed me to approach the cages to take some photos.
He dropped everything and accompanied me around the zoo, giving a very thorough and excellent tour. We went into the padlocked outer fence of each cage so I could take photos through the inner fence.
“This is our wolf, her name is Ornery”
When we got to the wolf enclosure, he got a call that he had to take back in his office. He asked if I’d be okay by myself and if I could just replace the padlock when I was done, and come back up to the office before I left.
I assured him I could, and I spent the next hour or so in the company of a very majestic she-wolf. There was no doubt that this was a wild animal and not a pet. She sniffed and rumble-growled and refused to make eye contact. She didn’t cower – far from it, but she always looked just over my shoulder, as if there was something of interest just behind me. I had to make clicking noises and such to get her to look at the lens, but she was too smart to fall for that for long.
And she didn’t leave me; had I been a nuisance to her, she could’ve easily gone to corners of the cage that I couldn’t access, or into her shelter. But she stayed about 10 or 12 feet away, and occasionally trotted a lap around the perimeter.
When I turned my back to the chain link to change lenses on my camera, the wolf jumped and hit the fence with a snarl, sprawling me face first into the snow, and making my heart bang into my front teeth.
Like all predators, wolves instinctively look for weaknesses – the young, old, infirm … and artists with their backs turned.
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