Wolves welcome in Jefferson County

Wild Canid Center relocating to LaBarque Creek
2008-04-17T00:00:00Z Wolves welcome in Jefferson CountyBy Kevin Carbery stltoday.com
April 17, 2008 12:00 am  • 

The news of wolves moving into an area would not on its face seem like a cause for joy.

However, the creatures will be welcomed when the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center relocates to northwest Jefferson County at some point in the near future, according to a county official.

Susan Lindsey, the center's director, said her organization is in the process of moving its facility from the Tyson Research Center of Washington University in Eureka to land the organization owns at 3601 Route FF.

"We've owned that land since 2004," Lindsey said. "We're hoping to move by the end of this year or the start of next year."

The nonprofit organization was established in the early 1970s by Marlin Perkins, the famous long-time director of the St. Louis Zoo and host of the television show "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

The Wild Canid Survival and Research Center is dedicated to the preservation of the wolf, though the facility provides similar services for other endangered species.

Lindsey said that, at present, the center is home to 50 to 60 animals of five endangered species. They are the swift fox, red wolf, the Mexican gray wolf, the African wild dog and the maned wolf.

"We were the very first conservation center created in the world," she said. "We were created by Marlin Perkins in 1971."

Lindsey spoke of why her organization is relocating.

"We've always been a tenant here at Tyson," she said. "We wanted our own place."

It is a fortunate occurrence that the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center is coming to the LaBarque Creek watershed, a pristine area of great interest to conservationists, said Martin Toma, director of the Jefferson County Department of Land Use, Development and Code Enforcement.

"LaBarque Creek runs through that property," Toma said. "Given the range of things that could have (been done with the land), the Wild Canid Center is most consistent with the goal of preserving the quality of the watershed."

Lindsey said her organization will use most of the 582 acres it owns in Jefferson County for its new facility.

"We're trying to transfer 150 or so acres of it to the state," she explained. "We are building on 429 acres. We've done cleanup and surveying work."

People have been invited to visit the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center on a somewhat limited basis through the years. Lindsey said her organization would like to increase the availability of public access once the facility comes to Jefferson County.

"We are open to the public by appointment, but not all of the time," she said. "It is our intent, once we move, to have drop-by visitation. We've had educational programs on our property since 1972.

"Most families tend to visit on weekends. The majority of groups that visit during the week are youth groups."

Lindsey said that her organization will construct its new home in phases. The organization employs 10 people and there are plans to hire two more, she said.

"We're proud of our role in helping to protect LaBarque Creek," she said.

For more information about the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center, go to its Web site at www.wildcanidcenter.org.

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