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John Basile from Big Run Wolf Ranch
with a Canis lupus (grey Wolf)
Oak Park Journal photos by Maggie Mc Kenna

Morton Arboretum exposes the fun from Big Run Wolf Ranch in Lockport, IL.
A call of the wild…. To all teachers, scout leaders, & budding veterinarians!
by Paul Mc Kenna

On a recent visit to the Morton Arboretum during their Winterfest celebration, my
family and I had the pleasure to meet and listen to a man that appears to be the
genuine article when it comes to animal care. John Basile, owner of The Big 
Run Wolf Ranch, spoke rapidly for a couple of hours about his love for animals
and his passion for wild life that has been his reason for existence since early

Canis lupus (grey Wolf)
Oak Park Journal photos by Maggie Mc Kenna

“Ever since my teacher read Jack London to me, I was hooked,” he explained
to his audience of several hundred. We were crowded into a conference room
at The Morton Arboretum to hear John to talk about his animals, their care and
his need to solicit donations to keep his ‘ranch’ alive. He spoke quickly and 
passionately about wolves and their elusiveness that has led to the public
perception of them as monsters in the wild.

“In the last two hundred years there is not one documented case of a wolf 
attacking a human.” Take that Lon Chaney. When asked what his goal at the
ranch was, he summed it up in one word, “education.” And that is why I write
this article. John comes across as one of these all-good people who are just 
out to help the world become a better place to live for everybody- wild animals
and humans alike. He feels through education, not eradication, wolves can 
coexist with man, not necessarily in the suburbs of Chicago but definitely in 
our state and national parks. Interestingly, John doesn’t boast of a doctorate or
master’s degree in veterinary medicine, of even a bachelor’s, “I’m self taught 
through experience,” he adds.   John is filled with enough fun facts 
that we, through his two-hour lecture, were thoroughly educated and 

An albino raccoon, very rare.
Oak Park Journal photos by Maggie Mc Kenna

A coyote from Big Run Wolf Ranch
Oak Park Journal photos by Maggie Mc Kenna

He brought with him, a skunk, two raccoons, (one was albino- a 10,000 to 
 1 shot), some canine skulls to better demonstrate the physiology & defense 
mechanisms of wolves, a coyote, and of course a couple of large intimidating
but tame wolves. He even fed one, Little Odin was his name, in front of us and 
we got to watch in amazement as he chomped down a couple of quarters of 
raw chicken, bone and all, in minutes. John claims the Little Odin was eating 
slowly, “Usually he wolfs down his food,” he joked. I thought he must have 
been shy in front of a crowd.

The Big Run Wolf Ranch, an educational facility, is open year round for field
trips, public tours, photo & film work. They offer classes on animal care for
kindergarten kids to high school students. (Any budding veterinarians out there?)
If you make it there you can see wolves, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, a lynx & a
bear named Kuma.

The Big Run Wolf Ranch mission statement is: 

Conservation of North American wildlife, encompassing endangered
species, through the education of the public with the intent to assist
them in learning to co-exist with these species. Offering a permanent
home for non-releasable and rehabilitation for injured and orphaned 
wildlife as opposed to euthanasia.

This is noble. 

Unfortunately, last year John lost three of his bigger wolves to the West Nile
Virus, something he’s trying to prepare for as the weather gets warmer.

Speaking of getting warmer, that is the time of year when the baby wolves
are born and John has dates open for kids to come and sit in a circle and
feed them with a bottle of warm milk. I would guess that is the type of
experience that could alter a kid’s career decision later in life. So I say 
to teachers, scout leaders, and anyone interested in seeing & learning 
about us coexisting with wild animals. Look up John Basile at and give him a shout.

He's Not's just a Yawn.
Oak Park Journal photos by Maggie Mc Kenna

A few wolf fun facts I learned at the Arboretum:

Wolves can eat up to 23 pounds of meat per day

Wolves can travel 30 miles per day in their everlasting search
for food.

Wolves can run 25 miles without stopping- it’s like the marathon
- everyday!

The farther north you go the bigger a wolf’s a feet get. It makes it 
easier to get through the snow.

A wolves scent is similar in distinction to our finger prints- to a wolves
nose of course.

Some of John’s wolves are being used in the soon to be released 
Disney movie, "Julie’s Wolves."

A wolf’s energy consumes 98% of everything it eats- I’m sure this fact 
comes in handy in cleaning up the ranch.

A wolf has 2500 pounds per square inch of pressure in its bite 
(a pit bull has a mere 1500- wow!)

Canis lupus (grey Wolf)
Oak Park Journal photos by Maggie Mc Kenna
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata .
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Eutheria.
Order: Carnivora.
Family: Canidae.
Genus: Canis
Species: lupus