Hundreds of years ago, wolves roamed free across the Garden State, their piercing howls echoing throughout the forested hills and great mountains of New Jersey. These regal animals once thrived throughout the Northeast, but by the 19th century we had hunted wolves to near extinction. In fact, the first wildlife regulation in New Jersey dating back to 1675 provided a bounty of 15 shillings (about $110 today) for each grown wolf killed.
Fast forward to 2019, and there are a few places in New Jersey where you can still hear wolves — though no longer wild, howl. One of our favorites is Lakota Wolf Preserve nestled within the Delaware Water Gap in Knowlton Township, Warren County.
About the Preserve
Lakota is owned and run by Jim Stein and Becky Mace — two animal lovers who raise and care for all who live at the preserve with tenacity, grace, passion, and unwavering loyalty.
Lakota Wolf Preserve is the only center of its kind in New Jersey and boasts educational tours and photography sessions. You can see not only wolves, but foxes and bobcats too.
Though the wolves were raised in captivity, Jim and Becky look to keep their wolves as wild and free as possible. There is no contact, petting or feeding of the wolves at Lakota. They do not take their animals to fairs or other events throughout the state. The wolves of Lakota live their lives in their pack surrounded by the wilderness of the Water Gap.
Take the Tour
That said, there is so much wonder and joy in each educational tour put on at the preserve. The “Wolf Watch” tours are led by Jim and Becky, two tried and true conservationists. They are very knowledgeable about their animals and the natural world. Their passion and enthusiasm transfers smoothly to each visitor of the Preserve.
During the tour, you’ll learn about the social structure of wolf packs, their eating habits, and other facts. From the observation area, you’ll be able to watch four different wolf packs play, interact with each other, and maybe even howl! Lakota Wolf Preserve is home to British Columbian, Timber, and Arctic wolves.
When you visit, you’ll park at Camp Taylor Campground in Columbia, New Jersey and then you can either enjoy a beautiful half-mile nature walk up to the preserve or catch a ride on their shuttle bus.
Winter is the Perfect Time for Photography!
Now is a great time of year to go if you are a shutterbug interested in photographing the animals of Lakota. Photography sessions are open September through April, as the fall and winter months are the ideal time to photograph the wolves.
Professional and beginning photographers alike can register for a private, guided session around each individual wolf compound. You will be able to get the best possible photo opportunities because you will be photographing the wolves where they live in a stress-free environment.
There is something very special about this place. It is a hidden gem and a must-visit for any family or couple. The howling wolves are sure to give you goosebumps and the rambunctious nature of the foxes and bobcats are sure to put a smile on your face.
Have you visited Lakota Wolf Preserve? Who is your favorite animal on the property? Let us know in the comments.
You can learn about Wolf Watch Tours, Photography Sessions, and more, including how you can help support the Lakota Wolf Preserve, on their website. Lakota also runs wonderful events like their Midnight Howl and their Dinner with Sassa. You can follow them on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest updates on the animals and the organization.