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Published: Monday, March 14, 2016 @ 3:09 PM
BARDU, Norway —
The northernmost park in the world allows visitors to sleep with wolves.
Polar Park is the home of seven gray wolves, raised by humans, which allows them to interact closely with guests.
The park, located in Bardu, Norway, opened in 1994 as part of a conservation effort for the region's Scandinavian wolves.
Hunting and loss of habitat has depleted the population of wolves in the region.
Fewer than 30 are in the wild.
The wolves prey on deer, goats, moose and sheep.
Although they kill 1,500 out of the 100,000 sheep lost a year, many Norwegian farmers support eliminating the wolves completely.
"There are a lot of negative stereotypes about wolves, both in Norway and across the world," Stig Sletten, the sanctuary's animal manager told CNN. "One of our overriding aims here is to educate both locals and visitors about Arctic animals and the value of preserving Norway's natural heritage. Once they've interacted with the wolves of Polar Park, many of our visitors leave with a different opinion."
The seven wolves in the park were all bred in captivity, but some are more used to humans than others.
That distinction breaks the group into three packs, each with their own enclosure.
A notable part of a visit to the park allows visitors to interact with wolves in an enclosure that surrounds the park.
A keeper is there at all times, monitoring and enforcing strict engagement rules.
"The wolves at Polar Park have been reared to socialize with humans," says Sletten. "Allowing them to interact with visitors is actually a good way to relieve boredom and stress, and also means we can check on their condition."
In 2015, the park opened Wolf Lodge, a luxury room accommodation that is about $1,180 for guests inside a wolf enclosure.
The location allows guests to see animals outside the lodge's large glass windows.
It includes dinner, breakfast, and a visit with the park's wolves.
In addition to wolves, the park houses many other endangered Arctic species, like brown bears, moose, Arctic foxes, and lynxes.