January 7th, 2016

DNR kicks wolf facility off their land

WSC has some very frustrating news. After being a tenant on DNR land since 1991, our land lords have decided to evict us in a hostile fashion with an unreasonable timeframe. They have given us 6 months to get all of our wolves, bears, birds etc. off the land we have leased for almost 25 years.

“Why is WSC on DNR land”?
In 1976, the DNR granted permission to the federal government to establish a wolf research facility. The project spanned 15 years, and became the place that all field techniques and handling processes were tested first on captive wolves before being implemented on critical wild populations. Peggy Callahan and co-biologist Mark Beckel joined the team in 1985. When the federal funding ran out in 1990, these two and Dr. Terry Kreeger, received permission from the DNR to stay on the land, and followed a dream of creating a “living classroom”-a place where real science and education become paired. The “Wolf Project” became a 501©(3) non-profit organization called the Wildlife Science Center. Since opening its doors to schools in 1994, the Wildlife Science Center (WSC) has reached over a million students in multiple countries through our on and off site programs,through national conferences and through our many media productions, i.e. Animal Planet specials, The History Channel, and most recently National Geographic Wild spring 2015.

It is clear that the DNR no longer wants a non-profit that they do not control occupying state land. The time for this action was 1991, when the federal funding ceased, not now, and not in this manner. The good news is that we do own land onto which we plan to move, but we must first construct safe, humane habitats for our animals, and an education space in which to conduct our classes and programs. The DNR began their attack on WSC in early December 2015 when they tried to condemn the small utility building we have used for office and security space since before our beginnings, when the facility was run by the federal government. In a series of 6 different visits, the building was inspected by a state building official, electrical inspector and the state fire marshal, as well as an independent building consultant. None could find sufficient cause to condemn the office building. After each of these inspections, WSC was promised copies of the findings, but none were provided.

When that plan failed, the DNR simply terminated the lease,both for uses that have been accepted at the property since the federal days and through to the non-profit days, and for completely false allegations. In addition, we finally were given copies of the inspection reports attached to the notice of cancellation, delivered at 6 pm, Monday, January 4th, 2016.

We are saddened and perplexed by the attack from the central office. WSC has an excellent working relationship with field staff in DNR enforcement, DNR research and DNR wildlife.The hostility is exclusively from the central office personnel.

The WSC owns land and fully intends to move. At this point, no one wants to sever ties with the DNR more than WSC. However, the recession dealt WSC a nasty blow, and to add insult to injury, most folks believe that WSC is funded by the state because of our location. The timeline that the state has forced upon us is unrealistic, and their claims unsubstantiated. We hope to raise awareness of our dire need for funds, materials and marketing to get our animals SAFE from the DNR!

What makes the Wildlife Science Center unique? The primary goal of the WSC is to provide science education programs for pre-K thru 12th grade students concentrating on the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Our school based programs, developed by licensed science teachers, give students a broad and realistic picture of science and nature while capitalizing on a child’s natural affinity for animals. The Wildlife Science Center’s education programs reach students of all abilities and have proven effective at imparting interest and improving performance in science.

Uniqueness of WSC
The Wildlife Science Center is home to the largest population of captive wolves in North America, and we are the only facility in Minnesota to offer homes to the critically endangered Mexican gray wolves from the southwest US and the red wolves from the east coast of the US.The red wolves and Mexican gray wolves are part of the national effort to maintain this endangered species in captivity while the reintroduction efforts move forward. In addition to wolves, WSC is home to rescued wild animals that are non-releasable; 10 black bears, 4 mountain lions, 4 bobcats, 2 lynx, 9 birds of prey, red fox, gray fox, raccoons, skunks, several herps and a porcupine. WSC has offered hands-on training to wildlife professionals from across the US and other countries, including staff from Voyageurs National Park and Yellowstone National park’s wolf research teams.

The Wildlife Science Center is unlike any other educational program in the way we use live animals to teach. WSC is the only facility of its kind in the country to combine the scientific study of North American carnivores with hands-on experiential learning. Through interactions with or observations of the animals at the Center and scientists, individuals learn not only about the specific animal, but also about science as a whole including the various roles that scientists play. WSC’s STEM curriculum uses a combination of independent and group study, hands-on experimentation and data collection, as well as observation and identification. The lessons imparted at the WSC are not only science; the subject of wolves and wildlife lends itself to discussions of history, culture, mathematics, literature and art, an interdisciplinary approach to learning.

Educational programs at the WSC provide students with a broad and realistic picture of nature and science. In 2013-2014 more than 20,000 students throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin visited WSC to watch biologists in action, observe wolves and take part in the scientific programs designed and presented by WSC’s licensed science teachers. Our off-site outreach programs touch thousands of children and adults every year, including an audience of 10,000 at a wildlife retreat in Kentucky. In addition, our online presence, media coverage and multiple TV documentaries expose people in and out of the USA to our educational message. National Geographic, Animal Planet, the History Channel and local networks continue to feature WSC’s animals in programs that air internationally, i.e. Animal Planet’s “Growing up Gray Wolf” that followed a litter of WSC’s wolf pups through the first several months of their lives.

WSC encourages the expectation on the part of those who work with and influence children that all students, regardless of gender, race, family background or previous academic record can be” good” at school and it is this expectation that form the basis of all our programs.

Typically group sizes are 10-250, although class size is sometimes as small as six for special education students. The largest number of students participating at once was 10,000, through a virtual field trip where 67 schools from 20 states were linked via satellite in partnership with “Bell LIVE!” an educational science program from the Bell Museum of Natural History.Our curriculum employs hands-on experiences and examples relevant to students, uses gender-fair, multi-cultural materials and includes science concepts tailored to students’ developmental levels. This type of programming is in high demand, since wildlife is an excellent tool that teachers can use to spark students’ interest in learning.

WSC has worked to connect with Alternative Learning Centers, programs for learning, emotionally and physically disabled children, and a variety of specialized education projects. For the past six years, WSC has participated in life-skill building programs for disabled students by providing work and learning for students in the STEP program in Forest Lake (Student Transition Education Program). This year was especially rewarding as we watched some of our students graduate into a more independent life. It is our firm belief that these students deserve equal exposure to the fascination science can offer, whether for life enrichment purposes or for career options.