Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Pups a draw at wolf center

Visitation jumped sharply in 2016

Keith Vandervort
Posted 11/16/16

ELY – The International Wolf Center is coming off a very successful season that saw a huge increase in the number of visitors to the Ely Interpretive Center.

In an annual report presentation to …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Pups a draw at wolf center

Visitation jumped sharply in 2016

Posted

ELY – The International Wolf Center is coming off a very successful season that saw a huge increase in the number of visitors to the Ely Interpretive Center.

In an annual report presentation to the Ely City Council this week, Wolf Center Executive Director Rob Schulze attributed the heavy flow of visitors to the arrival of Ambassador Arctic wolf pups, Axel and Grayson.

Visitor numbers had been declining over the last couple of years, he said.

Following the expansion of the medical care facility, the pups arrived in late May. “They have been a wonderful addition to our community and really commanded a lot of attention,” Schulze said. “Our attendance numbers this summer skyrocketed from about 31,000 over a 12-month period, to more than 43,000 through the end of October,” he said.

He expects the popularity of the wolf pups to continue into 2017. “While we may not see the same big jump in attendance, we expect to have a another strong year. That is great news for our community and great news for our local businesses,” he said.

He listed many new initiatives and successes in the past year, including expanded advertising outside of the Minnesota Arrowhead region. “We know that the increased advertising is really helping, along with our second-day re-entry program that continues to be popular with our visitors and helps to keep people in town that second night,” he said.

The Wolf Center’s webinar programs have proved successful and Schulze said his organization is planning to double the number of such offerings next year.

The “Wolves at the Door” outreach program made a presence in 550 classroom around the state over the last two years and that program is expanding to include many more state schools, particularly close-by schools in Ely, Babbitt, Tower and other Iron Range locations. The “Community Day” program for local residents will also continue next year.

Schulze touted the many top ratings for the Wolf Center from a variety of organizations, including Trip Adviser, Charity Navigator, Great Nonprofits and Guidestar.

Two additions to the Wolf Center team in the last year include Ely resident Francis “Fitz” Fitzgerald to the Board of Directors, and Krista Harrington as Interpretive Center manager.

With success comes challenges, and the Wolf Center is no different in having to navigate through them.

Schulze said the failure of the Minnesota State Legislature to pass a bonding bill in last year’s session has delayed the $1.2 million support to replace the 35-year-old Wolves and Humans Exhibit. As that exhibit continues to age (it was designed in the early 1980s), visitor numbers will continue to be impacted. He asked for the council’s continued support in seeking legislative backing for the project.

Schulze said the Wolf Center, like so many employers in the Ely area, found it difficult to fill their staff roster. “Finding enough seasonal help is very difficult, and we don’t anticipate that getting any easier next year,” he said.

The lack of a high-speed Internet in the Ely area continues to remain a limiting factor in the success of the Wolf Center, according to Schulze.

In the next year or so, the Wolf Center will continue to work with the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Forest Service to complete a 14.5-acre land exchange that would expand the natural barrier behind the Interpretive Center that protects the wolf enclosures, he said.

“We continue to look for ways to collaborate with the North American Bear Center to co-promote each organization and increase tourism in Ely,” he said.

Increased billboard advertising next year will be possible though grant funding from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. “We are aiming to get more visitors from the North Shore and the western part of the state to come to Ely,” he said.

He invited council members to come out and see the new Ambassador wolf pups. “If you haven’t been out, we would love to host your visit to see our new additions,” he said.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment