TENINO, Wash. -- For ten years wildlife agents, tribal ecologists and veterinary students have come to the woods of Thurston County to learn lessons from wolves.
"I've never handled wolves," said Joel Adams, Forestry Wildlife Ecologist for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians from northeast Washington state.
"We're getting more and more... human-wildlife interactions all the time," said Adams, who spotted his first wolf on tribal land last year.
Adams and 25 other students, including several from Canada and Mexico, spent three days learning how to handle and care for wolves found in the wild.
"We teach more than just the mechanics of wildlife capturing and handling," said Dr. Mark Johnson, a veterinarian with Global Wildlife Resources, Inc.
"We teach the ethics. Care, honor, respect for all animals," said Johnson.
After two days of seminars, the students had a chance Thursday to examine living Mexican gray wolves. The wolves, which are endangered species, were due for their annual check-ups and vaccines.
In most cases, the students anesthetized the animals and took blood samples.
The hands-on experience gave Adams a newfound respect for wolves, which he believes have been wrongly accused of being aggressive predators.
"Just how cool the animals are," said Adams, "It's not all bad."
At one time wolves had bounties on their heads.
"Up until the 1920s there were heavy, strong eradication programs to get rid of the wolf," said Johnson.
But he said the growing wolf population shows the philosophy has changed.
"There's been an appreciation of predators as an essential part of our ecosystem," said Johnson.