The MacKenzie Center, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources property located outside of Poynette, remains partially open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Administration Building, the Conservation Museum, and the Fire Tower are temporarily closed, the hiking trails and the Wildlife Exhibit continue to be open to the public. Hiking trails are open daily from dawn to dusk, while the Wildlife Exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Visiting the MacKenzie Center provides a welcomed escape for those of us who are feeling somewhat trapped inside our homes. View the animals, breathe some fresh air, enjoy the fall scenery, and get a bit of exercise as you partake in an outdoor experience just beyond your doorstep.
Classroom and group activities have been canceled until further notice, but you can still participate in a newly created activity sponsored by the Friends of MacKenzie, a group of dedicated volunteers who support the environmental education and outdoor skill development programs at the MacKenzie Center. The new activity is called “Where’s Wolfie?”
Wolfie is a young wolf pup who has been adopted as the Friends of MacKenzie’s new mascot. He lives with his 11- or 12-year-old friend Johnny, and together they explore the property explaining the history of the site and throwing in a bit of science education as well.
Each week, Wolfie can be seen at a location somewhere on the MacKenzie property. It is your job to use clues in his story to try and figure out exactly where he is. New stories are posted on Mondays at noon. If you think you have the correct answer, you can email the Friends of MacKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer. Responses are accepted until 5 p.m. each Friday. All correct responses are placed together and a winner is randomly drawn and announced on Saturday. You may see Wolfie’s previous stories by visiting the Friends of MacKenzie website at www.friendsofmackenzie.org, or its Facebook page.
If you are able to visit the MacKenzie Center, stop by and see Wolfie’s older cousins — the male and female wolf. Sometimes, they may ‘say hello’ with a howl. The Friends of MacKenzie organization is trying to raise money to build a new enclosure area for the wolves and coyotes, as well as a new trail with better viewing opportunities for visitors.
Don Lucke, the project coordinator for the Friends group, stated, “The new enclosures will create a less stressful environment for the animals and a better viewing opportunity for visitors. Informational displays will enhance the learning experience while the trail will be more accommodating to individuals with disabilities.”
If you would like to contribute to the new enclosures and trail, you may donate to the Friends of MacKenzie Wildlife Project (located on the website or Facebook page). The Friends, the animals, and Wolfie would appreciate the support. To date, the organization has raised approximately $175,000. Donated money has come from foundations, corporations, local businesses, and civic groups, but mostly from individuals giving as much as they can. Every dollar brings us one step, or one howl, closer to a new home.
Tony Schwarz, a retired teacher, volunteer, and board member for the Friends of MacKenzie, said, “We are all looking forward to a time when this pandemic is over, and school classes are again meeting in person, but Wolfie wanted all of the families in the area to know that the Wildlife Exhibit and the trails at the MacKenzie Center are currently open, and Wolfie wanted me to invite you to come for a visit.”