Nissa the timber wolf is always ready to welcome strangers as one of her pack at Discovery Wildlife Park.
That’s why the wolf walk at the Innisfail attraction, which allows small groups of people to take a guided stroll with the five-year-old wolf, was started five years ago.
“The whole reason we do this walk is because she’s so enthusiastic. She lives for them. She wants to do them. She truly adores people,” said Serena Bos, Discovery’s head zookeeper and animal trainer.
She said Nissa’s sister Lupe acts more like a typical wolf and avoids strangers.
“If you’re not part of her pack, a staff member, Lupe is really timid. She doesn’t want to meet strangers, and Nissa thinks people are just the coolest thing ever.”
The first thing Nissa will do, which people find odd, is urinate when she meets someone new.
“That’s a form of communication. She’s sharing her pheromones, and that’s what one wolf would do to another.”
The wolves arrived at Discovery when they were only 10 days old, after their pack was shot in the Edmonton area. Originally, they were taken to a wildlife rehabilitation centre, but were unable to be returned to the wild.
“They would have been euthanized if we weren’t able to take them. We’re the forever, last-option home.”
Discovery Wildlife Park is dedicated to providing a safe home for animals where they can receive training and enrichment to lead quality lives, as well as educating the public about wildlife.
When the wolves were six weeks old, the pair was introduced to the public. Right from the start, Nissa was eager to meet visitors. A few months later, she began participating in short wolf walks.
Now weighing about 36 kilograms, Nissa is a majestic sight, especially in winter, Bos said.
“Wolves are spectacular to see in the winter, because they have a huge, huge winter coat.
“We have tons of repeat customers. People who come, and have the opportunity to actually meet her and go on the walk, truly fall in love with her.
“There is no where else in Alberta where you can do this. It’s very unique.”
She said timber wolves are native to central Alberta, but the elusive carnivores typically don’t venture into urban areas.
While Nissa may seem dog-like, she maintains her natural, wolf behaviours, such as catching small rodents during walks when the opportunity arises.
Wolf walks must be booked in advance.