Wolves in Vegas

By Skie Bender, Education Outreach Specialist, Wolf Haven International

Wolf Haven arrives in Sin City

Wolf Haven arrives in Sin City

I recently had the opportunity to present Wolf and Wildlife   Education programs at two REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) outdoor stores in Las Vegas, Nevada.

REI is a national retail co-op dedicated to “Inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

REI sells “Gear.” Lots and lots of gear. Gear for backpacking, hiking, camping, climbing, biking, paddling, and winter snow sports.

Are there wild wolves in Nevada?

Wolf-themed slot machine

Wolf-themed slot machine

Wolves historically have been a scarcity in Nevada. Though there never was an abundance of wolves, research shows that wolves did exist throughout the state, even in the very arid Southern Nevada. The last confirmed sighting of a wild gray wolf was in 1941 in Elko County (northeastern part of the state.) Currently, there are many wild wolf reported sightings – though none can be absolutely confirmed, due to the fact there is no definitive proof such as wild wolf scat, hair, carcasses or even field footage.

Desert Cactus

Desert cactus

There were never and probably never will be a lot of wolves due to the fact there is not a lot of suitable wolf habitat in Nevada. Western Nevada lacks elk and moose (wolf food) and is in short supply of water.

Currently, the nearest population of wolves to Nevada is in Idaho’s Boise and Sawtooth National Forests, about 100 miles north.

The gray wolf in Nevada remains protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. It is presently classified as a “game” animal.

REI Wolf & Wildlife Programs

 Boca Park REI

Boca Park REI

Boca Park REI

Not too far from the bright lights and loud sounds of the Las Vegas Strip, I presented at the Boca Park REI store. Just before ‘show time’, I found sanctuary inside the REI store, perusing the aisles, flipping through hiking books, spinning mountain bike tires, squishing the warm thickness of down sleeping bags. I felt so much more ‘at home’ in the nature inspired presence of outdoor gear, than in the superficial bright flashing marquee lights of Las Vegas casino consumerism.

7pm: time to share my passion and experience with wolves to an intimate crowd of about fifteen folks. The attendees were all adults, except for one very inquisitive elementary-aged schoolgirl that sat in the front row and asked a lot of very smart and eager questions. During the program, we had an in-depth dialogue about wolf families, pup development, the importance of wolf packs for socialization and working cooperatively to hunt ungulates (hoofed animals.) I showed video clips of Wolf Haven’s wolves’ scent-rolling on salmon and plucking feathers off of geese. At the end of the evening the schoolgirl said to me with shining wide eyes, “I hope to visit Wolf Haven one day.”

 Henderson REI

Henderson REI attendees

Henderson REI attendees

The next evening I drove 30-miles south of the Strip to present at the Henderson REI store. There was an overflow capacity crowd of more than 60 attendees. I was thrilled with the deep thought-provoking questions, comments and discussions that we had about wolf biology, behaviors, social structure, livestock conflict resolutions, and wolfdog differences and similarities.

The audience had such a thirst for knowledge about the too often misunderstood wolf, which led to a wonderful interactive dialogue flow that was maintained throughout the evening. The program lasted nearly two hours. Even after the program was officially over, a small group of people continued to ask more questions about wolves.

The very last touching comment was made by an intense college student that fervently shook my hand as he stated, “That was really great, I learned so much. I learned more tonight than I have during a whole semester in school! Thank you!”

Thank you to all who attended the REI Wolf & Wildlife Education programs in Las Vegas. A very special Thank You to Ashley Lee, the Market Outreach Coordinator for REI Las Vegas.

If you live in Washington State – Skie Bender will be presenting at REI in Olympia on Tues November 11th @ 7pm


REI, Olympia, WA
625 Black Lake Blvd SW #410, Olympia, WA 98502

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