Not-so big, bad wolves

The smooth movements. The beautiful coats. The piercing eyes. It’s all part of the Wolves of the World display that will entertain North Dakota State Fair-goers this week at Free Stage 7. No doubt the wolves and their handlers will draw plenty of attention.

Wolves of the World is led by Michael and Sharon Sandloser of Lynchburg, S.C. The husband and wife team has spent their entire lives caring for and learning about a variety of animals and their habitat. Sharon Sandloser, who interacts with an entire pack of eastern timberwolves, said she had previously handled elephants, bears and big cats prior to rescuing wolves and spreading a message whenever possible.

“Hopefully we educate folks that wolves are not the big bad wolves that they are portrayed to be,” said Sharon Sandloser. “They are very special animals, family oriented animals and they deserve a place to live just like all the rest of the critters.”

Sharon Sandloser was at ease moving throughout the wolves’ large enclosure Thursday. She explained that the timberwolves she was interacting with had been raised by her since they were rescued as young pups.

“I’ve got a real special rapport with them,” said Sharon Sandloser. “You have to spend a lot of time with them. They don’t just accept anybody into the pack. They are very particular. The older ones I have are a little more difficult to deal with but there remains a definite connection between humans and wolves.”

The oldest wolf at the fair is “Phoenix,” a 16-year-old that is credited with saving the life of a young girl. Sharon Sandloser said she will be telling the story of Phoenix’s heroics to fair-goers during free stage appearances.

Michael Sandloser shares time with Sharon and the wolves, and hosts Cowtown U.S.A. where he shells corn, churns butter, makes soap, cheese and ice cream. He enjoys teaching and showing people how products were created in the “olden days” but remains very involved with wolves.

“What’s really cool about them is their survival, their instinct, their love for one another and their respect for each other,” said Michael Sandloser. “They care for each other. They all share in raising the young wolves (and) take care of their elders. They are special animals.”

Sharon Sandloser explained that wolves are one of only three species of animals that care for their elderly.

“When the old ones in the pack can’t hunt anymore or are sick or injured, the others will bring food back for them and take care of them,” said Sharon Sandloser.

Show times for Wolves of the World are 1:30, 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. daily for the duration of the fair. Free Stage 7 is located on the east side of the Commercial II building.