Greendale — Timber Wolf Preservation Society Inc. closed last week after 47 years of educating the public about its wolf population.
The society, which began in 1967, began as a timber wolf farm after the organization's founder, Jim Rieder, purchased an eastern timber wolf cub taken out of the wild. He did so with the mission "to preserve the timber wolf and other wildlife in Wisconsin and provide education to the public so that the wolf in Wisconsin could thrive and survive," said Nancy Jo Dowler, director of animal care and president of the organization.
The society had its "heyday in the '80s and '90s, because no one had seen a wolf before," she said. "We've educated thousands of people about Timber Wolves, and I feel like Jim's dream and mission has reached fruition."
At its peak, the society housed more than 20 wolves, Dowler said. The preservation now has only one, named "Timber," who hides from the public.
Although Dowler said she still feeds and cares for Timber, the society discontinued its services and will no longer be offering public viewings. Until last week, the preservation was open on the weekends and to visitor groups.
"It was a very difficult and complicated decision to make, but the writing seemed to be on the wall," Dowler said.
A lack of public interest in the wolves and limited volunteer assistance led to the operation's closure, she said.
The cost of admission — $5 for adults and $2 for children — often displeased visitors, who were unable to see the wary Timber.
"Timber's instinct to hide never goes away, and it's just too much to fight (visitors' complaints)," she said.
A month after Reider's death in 2001, a new litter of wolf pups was born and Dowler decided to take control of the preservation.
Since then, she has dedicated her life to the wolves, said Alan Eisenberg, member of the board of directors and the property's real estate broker.
"I call Jim (Reiders) the king of the wolves and Nancy the queen of the wolves," Eisenberg said. "She has invested an unbelievable amount of care, money and volunteer time to care for those wolves. She is, without a doubt, the queen of the pack.
Despite that, "she's no match for nature and God ... because the growth of (the village's) development brings on new difficulties each month. While the location makes it unique, it also produces more complications."
The 2-acre property, located at 6669 S. 76th St., was listed for $240,000; Eisenberg said that while he's received a fair amount of interest in the property, no official offer has been made yet.
As for Timber, "we have some alternatives to look at, but we'll make that decision when we get to it," Dowler said.
Dowler, who has cared for wolves since the founder's passing, said she also doesn't know what fate has in store for her.
"Right now, it's a big question mark for me," she said. "It's sad to see the end of an era."