About Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is an award-winning journalist covering environmental policy for the Explorer since January 2020. She also takes photos and videos for the Explorer's magazine and website. She is a current member of the Legislative Correspondents Association of New York. Gwen has worked at various news outlets since 2015. Prior to moving to upstate New York, she worked for a D.C. Metro-area public relations firm, producing digital content for clients including the World Health Organization, the Low Income Investment Fund and Rights and Resources Initiative. She has a master's degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has bachelor's degrees in English and journalism, with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology, from the University of Connecticut. Gwen is also a part-time figure skating coach. Contact her at (518) 524-2902 or gwen@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Gwen’s newsletter here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Sarah says

    It’s a shame the Adirondack Explorer legitimized these people for years. All it would have taken is a visit to the facility itself to report that this was no refuge. Was shocked when I saw Steve Hall, apparently nicknamed “the wolf man” by this newsite, hand-feeding the wolves in his captivity. The bears were located in a tiny pit-like facility and are young bears, who for some questionable reason could not be released. The bird and small animal cages looked filthy. She had a beautiful eagle trapped in a tiny cage. Now what will happen to these poor animals? What will happen to the wolves who became attached to this man because he treated them like pets instead of wild animals? Will the two bears that have spent years locked up together in a tiny facility now be separated? It is very sad to think of the consequences to these animals who deserved protection not exploitation. These people should be ashamed of themselves for creating this situation. No sympathy for people who mistreat animals.

  2. Stephen Hall says

    50,000 people visit the Wildlife Refuge every year to learn about nature and wildlife. All our enclosures, including the bear and wolf enclosures exceed ZAA (Zoological Association of America) standards, by multiple factors. The wolves and bears are captive bred, not wild animals, adopted from organizations who raise the critters seen in motion pictures, documentaries and many photo shoots. As with many wild mammals, wolf and bear cubs are taught how to hunt and forage by other member of the pack in terms of wolves, and by Mom in terms of bear cubs. If Sarah really knew anything about wildlife, she’d realize that while we have rehabbed and released many wild bears, fox, raptors etc., you can’t release critters who, like their parents, have been raised in captivity, which would in any case, frustrate the whole intent of the education program, which is to let visitors see animals up close, and learn all about their roles in nature and their importance to human beings, particularly during an era where we appear to be intent on destroying the very nature which makes our existence possible. The 4.5 rating on Trip Advisor mark the Wildlife Refuge as a very positive impact on the economies of Wilmington and Lake Placid, particularly hotels and restaurants, and since 92% of these reviews are excellent, it would appear that Sarah’s opinion is not widely shared. We have spent over $200,000 of our own money on enclosure rebuilding and expansion so far this year. As far as our qualifications, the Adirondack Almanack has published dozens of my articles, which are widely shared, including 4 of the top shared articles of the 1400 published by the Almanack last year, two by me and two by our colleague Jackie Woodcock of SkyLyfeADK. Thousands of my three books on Adirondack wildlife have been sold. The main issues with the DEC had to do with the timing of license renewals and other bureaucratic snafus. If we’re guilty of anything, it is placing my wife, Wendy, who is dying of pancreatic and liver cancer, in charge of interfacing with the state and federal bureaucrats who regulate the Refuge, none of whom have done anywhere near as much for wildlife and nature as my Wendy has. There are folks who are opposed to having wild animals in captivity, and dislike zoos and other facilities which display and educate about wildlife, but many of these folks overlook the fact that for many young people, fascination with wildlife and nature begins with observing up close and learning. This criticism is more or less a moot point as I’m semi retired, and the Refuge is actually run by Nature Walks Conservation Society, a 501c3 nature based non-profit, whose Board includes PHDs and a veterinary cardiologist. I invite Sarah to stop by and meet me sometime, as she obviously did not have a good experience on her visit.

    • Sarah says

      Well I agree it sure does sound like you’ve been benefiting from your enterprise for quite sometime, and the fact you say it benefits the economies of Lake Placid and Whiteface sure is no defense in allowing a cruel enterprise to continue. I’m glad they’re shutting you down. No one deserves to profit from the mistreatment of animals. And by the way, no one truly believes that the licenses are being revoked without cause, although I guess you think you are saving face that way. It sounds like you’ve had years to comply with federal and state regulations but you’ve been unwilling and uncooperative, probably because it would have impacted business. I don’t believe what you’re selling for one second about it being timing and bureaucracy either. Saw it with my own two eyes. Filthy cages, felt bad for the animals. The wolves being fed from hands. Funny you mention zoos because that is the distinct impression I got from your facility. I did wonder why a refuge had young captive bears in the first place. Should have just called yourself the Whiteface zoo. My whole group had the same feeling after visiting. And the only thing worse than a zoo is a zoo disguised as a refuge. I’ve actually visited other wolf refuges around the country, and yours is the only one that treated its captive wolves like pet dogs. It was just so wrong. Hopefully they will be sent to a proper home now. You had no right to hand feed them. Sorry I’m not going to pat you on the back for it or pretend like you deserve a medal or to call your place a refuge. It is disgraceful that you felt you didn’t have to follow the laws while taking care of vulnerable creatures. I’m glad they are putting a stop to it, finally. In my opinion, it took far too long. And I notice you keep mentioning reviews and trip advisor. Appeal to public or popular opinion is a classic logical fallacy used by those with little argument left. It does nothing to prove or justify your enterprise by any means. Plenty of things across history have been backed by public opinion and have been terribly wrong. Also, by the way, I did speak to you, actually about a very famous wolf preserve that does a lot of research on wolves, and you didn’t even know anything about it. I was shocked at the time that you didn’t have any knowledge of them. Then we all kept hearing about the bear escapes. My goodness, not once but twice or three times. Those animals could have been run over, gotten injured, or hurt someone, but I’m sure it was all in good fun for you, just a pair of pets on the loose.

  3. Stephen Hall says

    By the way, Sarah, the eagle you mentioned can not fly, and her enclosure is twice the size recommended by standards. Context and understanding what you are looking at is everything!

      • Lisa says

        Sarah, reading your comments just demonstrate to me how ignorant you are about those animals, and wildlife rehabilitation in general. You really shouldn’t have commented at all, since you are clueless.

    • Sarah says

      “At one point, more than a dozen of the birds intended for release were also on display to the public, which is against rehabilitation protocol because it can acclimate the birds to humans and make their release less successful. Wendy was also in violation for possessing eagles, which she did not report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.” I guess this is made up too?

  4. kathyP says

    I think these situations must get rather complicated. Here in PA, when I was a children’s camp program director, we often enjoyed visits to the camp by the local wildlife rehabilitator and their staff (often interning students of some college program). They brought birds of prey, some small animals, and lots of fun to our curious kids and adults. The woman (rehabilitator) was in some violations on and off (and apparently rubbed certain people the wrong way), and ultimately was visited by authorities who shut her down, even euthanizing some of the animals. Seeing the wonderful way the group presented, it was hard to imagine the quick destruction of the refuge and the broken hearts and animal homes. Tricky business, I would say.

  5. Vanessa B says

    First, TONS of sympathy to Wendy re her cancer diagnosis. My grandma had pancreatic – not gonna lie, it’s a tough one for sure. :(. Just keep seeing your docs and keep the faith. ❤️ Don’t let COVID stuff scare you away from medical care. I hope much of the community is vaccinated so Wendy can keep receiving the health care she needs.

    Next, well, stuff is complicated. I will be the first to say that the refuge seems like a wonderful place and I’d be sad for sure if I never got to visit. I sent my folks there in June on their LP vacation and they loved it. Seriously – highlight of their trip.

    The state codes also exist for a reason. I am sure the whole story is complicated, and I’m comfortable assuming that all sides are acting in good faith here. (Contrast this to my feelings about that HOA suing their neighbor – couldn’t be further apart.) I know that everyone has animal welfare at heart, and it’s the state’s responsibility to enforce laws. It is also tough to run a sanctuary of any sort. It’s a real bummer that it doesn’t seem like the goals of these two institutions are aligned at the moment. Let’s give everyone room to try their best to resolve.

  6. Charlotte Underwood-Miller says

    We have a house not far from the Preserve. We also have young grandchildren who have enjoyed visiting fairly often. Over the years, the Preserve has — on a shoestring – striven to improve the confines and general ambiance, both for visitors and animals. I am of two minds regarding “zoos”. On the one hand, it’s sad to see animals in captivity. On the other hand, if I want people, especially children, to learn to care about wildlife, the best way is for them to see actual animals and be educated about them — why habitat and climate and wilderness areas matter and why we need to protect those things. Zoos also are often the only genetic bank left when poachers and habitat loss threaten a species. Learning what each animal requires to thrive can lead to their ultimate survival in the wild. I am sad to hear that this may be the end. I hope there is a way forward.

  7. Anonymous says

    The “Wolfman” and the Halls are the equivalent of “Tiger King” in the Adirondacks. Lies, deception, overcrowding animals in poor conditions, and exploiting them for personal fame and gain. I’m sad for the victims that it came down to this, but I am not surprised, it was only a matter of time before karma and regulatory agencies caught up with their manipulative and deceitful practices!

  8. CJP says

    During my visit last spring, I was saddened by what I saw and was surprised that this facility was allowed to operate. Good intentions are not a valid excuse. I am not surprised that the state has taken action.

  9. Anonymous again says

    eh, the state cares nothing for wildlife or the public safety and welfare. They’ve taken licenses away from people based totally on false accusations and making scenarios up just because one of their officers gets into an argument with a licensee and can’t handle the occasional challenge. People are also losing their licenses out of the blue without any chance at all to fix what is supposedly wrong. The person goes from a visit by an ignorant DEC law enforcement officer to getting a letter the next month about revoking licenses. Huh?

    The state and federal licensing systems are highly abusive and are used to manipulate and deceive the public and licensees alike. They virtually have absolutely no positive impact on the public, animals and those who care for them. There are very good reasons why the DEC is considered the most hated agency in the state.

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