Makeup and beauty are just some of the things I am passionate about but it definitely takes a back seat when it comes to animals, they have and will always come first to me. I would definitely say I’m not the average 20 year old girl, I have never been to a nightclub, I haven’t even sipped an alcoholic drink since I was 15 and I don’t have any desire to do either of them things!
Instead, I spend a lot of my weekends doing anything I can that involves animals; from feeding the local horses and visiting farms to visiting my local RSPCA animal shelter to spend some time with the animals and donate toys, food and bedding. If you do have an animal shelter near you, they are ALWAYS looking for donations, the donation bins are nearly always empty when you visit them. If you have any old towels, bedding, throws etc that you are just going to throw away, they always want anything like that to have for bedding for the dogs and cats.
To a lot of people, my life is ‘boring’ because I don’t conform to what I ‘should be doing at my age’, but I couldn’t be happier! Anyway, I’m rambling! I recently had two amazing experiences at a falconry centre local to me, you can read about my owl flying and handling experience here and my bird of prey ‘little and large’ experience here. But the experience I had with the wolves has got to be the best one to date!
When I saw that my local zoo (Paradise Wildlife Park), which I visit every year and absolutely love, was starting a new experience where you could go into the wolf enclosure and meet three wolves and then hand feed them, I knew it was something I had to do. A few weeks after announcing the new experience was ‘coming soon’, they advertised a deal on their Facebook page, where a shopping channel was selling the experience for £149 for four people, instead of £149 for two! Which worked out £37.50 per person, with access to the zoo for the day, a free t-shirt and certificate. I spoke to my Fiance, Luke and phoned my friend, Rachel and her boyfriend, Tom straight away and we decided we all wanted to do it, so I booked the tickets the next day!
We had to come an hour before the zoo opened and also had to arrive 15 minutes early. Once we arrived we were directed to the ‘Discovery Centre’, the receptionist gave us a health and safety list to read through and also brought us hot drinks and a plate of biscuits. We were then asked what t-shirt size we were and were brought our t-shirts and certificates. We sat around the table reading through the health and safety warnings and that was when we all started to feel a little bit scared!
-Do not wear red.
-Never look the wolf in the eyes, they see this as a threat, look above their head or to the side of their body if they approach you.
-Do not wear any aftershave or perfume.
-No hats, hoods or gloves.
-No down feathers or fur.
-If the wolves approach you, don’t sit in silence, this makes them nervous, talk to them in a soft voice.
-If at any point you feel nervous, you must tell a keeper, so they can get you out of the enclosure immediately, the wolves can pick up on fear. This was the most important rule, that’s importance emphasised by all the keepers and staff.
-No sudden movements, keep hands on knees at all times.
-No touching the wolves.
So, after reading these we were all a bit wary! We all had perfume/aftershave on, and I had about half a bottle of hairspray on my hair too, but we weren’t told about this before we came, so we just made sure the staff were aware of it. My Fiance, Luke had to take his hat off, we all had to tuck our hoods in, I had to remove the fur on my hood, take my gloves off and my friend, Rachel had to tuck in her red hoody.
We then met the three keepers/staff that were taking us into the wolf enclosure, they made sure we had read through and understood our health and safety forms and we all had to sign the forms too. The staff members were amazing, and so friendly and informative. We had a brief chat, then made our way to the wolf enclosure! We were some of the very first visitors to get to do it, with this experience only starting two weeks ago and this is the only place in the UK that does anything like this.
We had to go into the enclosure two at a time, so Rachel and Tom went in first, while me and Luke waited outside taking pictures.
The staff opened a gate so we could go and stand right next to the cage, we were told we could put our hands flat on the cage so the wolves could smell them or rub against them, whatever they decided to do really!
Rachel and Tom entering the enclosure!
As soon as they sat down, the male wolf came straight over and was sniffing both of them. We were told that the wolves would sniff, then if they were interested in a scent they would push the area with their nose. If they were even more interested they would nibble or put their teeth onto you.
When me and Luke put our hands up against the cage, the wolves came and licked our hands and were really inquistive!
The wolves came and went as the pleased, coming back to smell Tom in particular. With all three surrounding them at one point! We think they paid particular attention to Tom because he may have had down feathers in his gilet, the male did bite his cuff at one point and the staff told us it was completely normal, that he was just trying to play, but that they had to shout 'no!' to him really loudly to stop him from behaving that way, it did work and I think Tom was glad of that! At another point, the male did grab his jeans as well and pulled at them, nothing rough, but I would have been pretty scared if I was Tom! The keepers were allowed to pet the wolves, because they knew them very well, they were mostly hand reared by them.
The wolves kept coming over to visit us, rubbing up the cage, trying to get us to stroke them!
They did play rough and were very loud, which was quite scary when you were inside they cage and they were doing it within several feet of you! But it was a good kind of scary and was literally one of the most amazing things, I will probably ever do in my life. Me and Luke have swapped over at this point and its our turn to go into the cage!
This was the male, definitely the most confident of the three, but not the pack leader, he came straight over and stared at me within a foot from my face! We weren't allowed to look at their face and especially not to make eye contact, so I was being extra cautious and staring into the sky pretty much, haha.
The wolves didn't come over half as much to me and Luke as they did to Rachel and Tom, but we were told it was a compliment to ourselves as they were a lot more relaxed around us. They never came over in a group of three either, 90% of the time it was the biggest of the three, the male. He did come over and smell my shoe though!
They all laid down at one point, they were just so relaxed and trusting of us, which was really nice. They also had a little play, bounding around the enclosure chasing each other, which was just amazing to watch. When you go the zoo, the animals are quite often just sat there asleep, especially the wolves I have found. So, to see them leaping about and playing, it was pretty amazing! We all got about 10 minutes in the enclosure with the wolves.
This was the smaller female, the least dominant of the three trying to approach the other two, she was then pushed onto her back and made to submiss. Once they had asserted their dominance, they could all play together. These type of behaviours, I have never seen so clearly before, so it was great to hear all about it from the keepers.
They were just so relaxed and kept coming close by to rest and stretch. It was just so surreal. I didn't want to leave and time seemed to go pretty quickly, but once our time was up, we head around to the other side of the enclosure to feed the wolves through the mesh of the cage!
First, they had sardines and they bloody loved them! They drooled just like dogs do when they saw the tin and then they even had to lick it once they had finished.
We then fed them some steak, raw of course and it was pretty gross! I have never held raw meat as it makes me feel sick even looking at it, but I knew I wasn't going to miss out on feeding them. It was slimey, bloody and smelly, but so worth it!
We were told to put our hands right through the bars if we wanted, I was a bit nervous and put mine through but not all the way and they were as gentle as anything, more gentle than my chihuahua when I offer her food, she's so greedy she grabs my fingers with the food! They took the food so gently and then licked your hand afterwards! You could feel their huge teeth, but they took the food slowly and carefully from your hands, it was amazing!
After we had finished feeding the wolves, we headed over to another enclosure with two female wolves, Tatra and Misha, that were a lot older, 12 and 13 years old. The three younger wolves were 19 months (full grown adult at 22 months).
We weren't allowed in with these ones, but we were allowed into the keeper bit where we could get a closer look. Rachel and Tom went in first and they were so excitable jumping all over each other as soon as they saw the keepers!
Me and Luke went in after and we chose to crouch down, they both came over and spent lots of time rubbing up and down the cage and licking our hands! The one of the left, the fluffy one was my favourite of the whole day, she was just so, so sweet! When she was the keepers, she was wagging her tail and her ears went back, just like how my dogs greet me.
At the very end, I was able to put my hand through and feel the density of the fur and it really is inches before you feel their body. It was an amazing experience and all in all we spent about an hour and 15 minutes with the beautiful wolfies.
Next we had a wander around the zoo.
I don't know why, but I've always loved goats, I keep asking my mum if we can get a pygmy one as a pet, but she won't let me, haha. This one was scratching his head on a stick and his eyes and expression just made me laugh so much.
We visited the lions and they were just so beautiful and absolutely huge, I always forget just how big they are. You can see them so clearly as they come right over to the glass, there is also a bit above the lions where you can look down on them which is really cool.
The emus were hilarious! Grabbing onto Luke's gloves and shaking them going crazy! If you want to see a video, I have one on my instragram @ecoultonuk.
The skunks were so funny playing in their cardboard box and we all got to stroke a python, with Luke deciding he wanted to hold it! There was so many other animals at the zoo, it was just so very cold and I didn't want to take lots of pictures but thought I would put a few up :)
Anyway, it was the experience of a lifetime and I want to do it again already. If another offer comes up, I'll be buying it for sure! :)
Thanks for reading!
Emily :) x