(Image courtesy: Endangered Wolf Center – Eureka, Missouri)

EUREKA, Mo. — A trip to the zoo is often a fun way to spend a few hours, and provides a glimpse of animals we usually wouldn’t see in our own neighborhoods. But if your looking to learn more about a specific animal, especially one that’s native to North America, or native to your own state, then an animal sanctuary might be just the place for you.

In Missouri, you’ll find many of these animal sanctuary’s that offer a one-of-a-kind experience. One of them is the Endangered Wolf Center located near St. Louis. This wolf sanctuary provides the unique opportunity to get an up-close view of endangered wolves while also learning more about them.

The Endangered Wolf Center, located in Eureka, Missouri, was founded in 1971 by Marlin Perkins (former director of the Saint Louis Zoo) and his wife Carol. In its 50 years of service, the center has pushed the boundaries of what research, conservation, and education can achieve.

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The driving force behind its mission to help save and protect wild canids (dog-like carnivorans), is its program to reintroduce Mexican wolves and American red wolves, the two most endangered wolves in the world, back into the wild.

(Image courtesy: Endangered Wolf Center – Eureka, Missouri)

Wolves are known as apex predators and they play a vital role in healthy ecosystems. One well known case study on the importance of wolves in a specific ecosystem would be Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone had been without wolves for more than 70 years after they were eradicated from the park by hunters.

A few years after they were reintroduced, however, it became clear that wolves were what the park had desperately needed. One plant biologist started to see new plant growth, and after extensive research, he determined that the cause was the wolves. Through natural predation, the wolves brought the elk population back to a healthy level, allowing new plants and trees to grow, which subsequently brought beavers, songbirds, butterflies and even fish back to the area.

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By assisting its partners, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in their recovery efforts for endangered species, the Endangered Wolf Center is helping to restore ecosystems (like Yellowstone’s) all across the country.

(Image courtesy: Endangered Wolf Center – Eureka, Missouri)

At the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, you’ll find educational programs, tours, and events throughout the year. One of the best ways to get an introduction to this highly-respected organization, is to go on one of the center’s numerous tours.

Their signature tour is the Endangered Species Tour, which provides insight into why wolves are so important in the wild. The highlight of the experience is an up-close view of some of the sanctuary’s residents: Mexican wolves, red wolves, African Painted Dogs, and swift foxes.

Several add-on encounters are available too, including one that allows you to help care for the animals. You can learn more about the Endangered Wolf Center by visiting their website, HERE. You can also check out their Facebook Page, HERE.