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Wolf and friends visit Morris library

Published: Thursday, June 26, 2014 9:41 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, June 30, 2014 8:39 p.m. CST
(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
Children watch as the baby porcupine chews on the boot of Big Run Wolf Ranch employee Theresa Konrath.
(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
John Basile of Big Run Wolf Ranch shows off a wolf to the audience Thursday afternoon during the "Paws to Read" summer program at the Morris Area Public Library.

MORRIS – Porcupines, skunks and wolves, oh my!

Children signed up for the summer reading program at Morris Area Public Library were treated to a host of North American animals Thursday, presented by Big Run Wolf Ranch of Lockport.

“When I was 7 or 8 years old, I was introduced to Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild’ and ‘White Fang,’ ” said John Basile, owner of Big Run Wolf Ranch. “Those two books led me to the animals I have and presenting to 23,000 kids a year.”

He told how at his grade school in Oak Lawn, he not only got to check out books. but the teacher also read to them.

“See what reading just two books led to?” he said.

The Morris library program was opened to the public after those participating in the “Paws to Read” program were admitted, and the downstairs meeting room filled quickly as both young and old waited to see what animals they’d see.

“We went out to the ranch last week, but by having them come here and present, it gives kids who couldn’t attend a chance to see the animals,” library teen coordinator Rose Nowak said. “It’s a fun, informative program.”

Naveah Countryman said she came to see the wolf because she’d never seen one in real life before.

Basile also brought porcupines, skunks, raccoons, a coyote and a groundhog for the kids to see.

“Many of our animals are rescues, either people get them and find out they can’t keep them, or the only other alternative is euthanasia,” he said. “Our primary goal is education. It’s important to teach others about conservation and the laws that protect animals.”

While he showed each animal, he talked about their impact on the cycle of life, and whether or not there are laws prohibiting anyone to keep them.

He explained the process he went through to become a federally licensed ranch, and about the other animals on the ranch now too big to travel to live shows, like a North American black bear, tiger and mountain lion.

“I came because I want to see the animals and learn about them,” 8-year-old Jack Mann said. “Coyotes sound cool at night.”

Mann said his favorite animal is the alligator, but only furry animals were on the schedule for Thursday.

One animal in particular peaked the interest of 10-year-old Abbey Wellner.

“I came because I’ve never seen a wolf before,” she said. “I wanted to see one up close.”

Before the stunning black wolf took the stage, attendees were introduced to the magic of springtime in the animal world by meeting babies, along with their adult counterparts.

After Basile got done showing off the adult and baby skunks, he found a baby sitter for the adult skunk by plopping it down in the lap of Emily Haish much to her surprise.

The skunk nestled into her lap and got comfortable, as she and those around her stroked its soft fur.

But a baby porcupine stole the show, as it decided to chew on the shoe of helper Theresa Konrath.

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