Founder Hélène Grimaud in an interview with Alexis Bloom, filmed for the Sound Tracks: Quick Hits series
by the Talbot Players in association with PBS Arts
WCC founder Hélène Grimaud started the Wolf Conservation Center back in 1996 with three ambassador wolves, Apache, Lukas, and Kaila. Along with co-founder J. Henry Fair, Hélène was the teacher, the staff, the scheduler, etc... Visitors heard about the WCC through word of mouth, and were primarily from the local town or the surrounding Westchester, NY communities, and would call or email to schedule an informal visit. That all changed in 1999, when the WCC incorporated and brought on its first volunteer teachers, gala planners, and animal care assistants including Rebecca Bose (currently the WCC's on-staff curator), and shortly thereafter built the log cabin that currently serves as our classroom.
In 2002, Atka joined the WCC "pack" and brought in hundreds of new supporters at the WCC’s "Pup Fair." And in 2003 he made his first off-site appearance – launching the traveling education program that now reaches about 30,000 people every year.
2003 was the year the WCC joined the SSP program and launched a major campaign to acquire the additional 11 acres that now house the endangered wolf population so crucial to our active commitment to wolf species survival. It was also the year we hired our first paid Executive Director, who quickly brought on staff biologists (Maggie Howell and Spencer Wilhelm, the WCC Managing Director and Operations Manager). By 2008 we had a state-of-the-art website and registration system, 4+ employees, 30 wolves, and had welcomed our first pups (appropriately enough on Earth Day!).
2010 was a bittersweet year. While we celebrated the first litter of red wolf pups born at the WCC, we also said goodbye to Apache and Lukas. Both of the Center's Ambassador wolves passed away after battles with cancer. In 2011, the WCC's third original Ambassador, Kaila, passed away at age 15.
2011 was the year of the pups! Alawa (meaning "sweetpea" in Algonquin, and pronounced "ai-lay-ewa") is brown and gray and her temperament matches her name. She and her jet black litter-mate, Zephyr (meaning "light or west wind"), were born on April 20 and arrived at the WCC on May 27, 2011. They each weighed only 5 lbs. They join Atka to make up the Ambassador Pack - the wolves on view as part of the WCC's education programs. Today the three wolves inspire WCC visitors to best understand the importance of their wild counterparts. Zephyr and Alawa weren't the only new additions to the WCC family in 2011; the Center also welcomed its newest full time employee, Alex Spitzer!
During the spring of 2012 the WCC purchased one of the 2 lots on the WCC's South Salem site that we have leased from our founder for over a decade using money from the WCC foundation. This acquisition adds 8 acres to the 11 the WCC already owns. Our hope is to raise the additional money necessary to purchase the last lot (about 6 acres) to secure a permanent "Den of Our Own," and establishing 25 acres of protected land as home for both our SSP and Ambassador wolf populations and our education programs.
In 2014 we welcomed another wolf to our Ambassador Pack - Nikai! Nikai (meaning "Little Saint" or "One Who Wanders") was born on April 13, 2014 and arrived at the Wolf Conservation Center in May 2014. He is a tan and gray wolf who resides with his brother Zephyr, and sister, Alawa. The Center also welcomed three new additions to our staff between 2015 and 2017 - Youth Education Coordinator Regan Downey, Corporate Sponsorships and Events Coordinator Mary Kate Kabbes, and Development Coordinator Robyn Abbott!