By CODIE WYERS/Montana State News
When looking to purchase a bed and breakfast, finding one for sale that comes with a wolf pack is anything but ordinary, but this is just what happened to Montana State University professor Chris Bahn.
“We were looking for a bed and breakfast and just happened to fall in love with one that had a wolf sanctuary,” he responded when asked how his wolf sanctuary came about.
Until he and his wife purchased the bed and breakfast, Bahn claims he didn’t know much about wolves. He said, “When we first purchased the inn, we were immediately taking care of seven adult wolves. I have since become very educated about the animals and have raised five from puppyhood to adults.”
Wolves are now a large part of Bahn’s life, and it seems as if he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Very few people get to interact with wolves. Plus, they are very expressive with affection. My alpha female likes to sit on my lap and suck on my thumb,” Bahn laughs. “They also interact differently than a dog because of their intelligence. It’s a difference that’s hard to explain.”
For a long time now, there has been much controversy surrounding wolves not only in Montana but other states as well. When Bahn was asked what his feelings were towards House Bill 73, which was passed in February and allows more wolves to be hunted, his reply was, “Since the wolf population dropped by seven percent last year, an increased hunt quota will have profound, detrimental effects on the overall population. I don’t think very much science has been utilized to gauge the effects.”
Bahn went on to describe how he felt the current wolf population in Montana is faring. “As far as being balanced with the prey population, I don’t think it is. Some areas in Montana have had to have special hunts to cull the elk numbers more after hunting season. This tells me that there are not enough predators to do the job that nature intended. It is also nowhere near the historical naturally occurring numbers when nature had her own balance.”
Bahn seemed to want to return to what intrigues him the most about the wolves he takes care of. “One of the first things I noticed was how intelligent they are, and how important family and pack order are to them. They form their own little society and they reestablish that order several times a day,” he said.
“We currently have seven wolves. Two sixteen-year-olds, two six-year-olds, one four-year-old and two two-year-olds,” Bahn replied when asked how many wolves they currently have at the sanctuary.
Bahn, also being a professor at MSU, has incorporated what he has learned from the wolves into his teaching. “The class was an elementary science methods class I was filling in for. I had the students – future elementary teachers – plan a field trip to a wolf sanctuary; I had not led on that I had one. And all the logistics and lesson plans had to be arranged. Then I actually brought all the students to the inn. MSU did a story on the trip in 2008.”
Bahn says that although he would like to take all of his students to visit the wolves, “I generally teach introductory chemistry to 900 students per year and that’s a difficult field trip.”
Bahn said that, unfortunately, the sanctuary is not open to the public. “We are federally licensed to keep the wolves but we are not licensed as public exhibitors. The guests at the B&B can see them because the wolves happen to be here.”
Due to the unique circumstances that led to this bed and breakfast, it’s not every day that you hear a story like Bahn’s. He admits that it seems like something you could base a movie on.
Howler’s Inn is located just outside of Bozeman. If you happen across it, don’t be surprised if you’re welcomed by the songs of the wolf pack.
– Edited by Rebecca Marston