THE WOLF is known as one of the world's great travelers. Wild packs can cover as many as 500 square miles, and single wolves have been known to run more than 100 miles in a single day. Still, though, few have traveled so far, or in so much style, as Rami, the 6-year-old gray wolf who stars in the two Mission: Wolf shows tonight at the Upper Marlboro Community Center.
Rami travels in a customized 1974 Greyhound coach, dubbed Wolfhound by her human companions. The Mission: Wolf program has covered 2.4 million miles, carrying wolves such as Rami to both coasts and just about everywhere in between, every stop along the way aimed at dispelling deep-seated and destructive myths.
Mission: Wolf is a refuge for 45 captive-born gray wolves and wolf/dog crosses located near Silver Cliff, Colo. Kent Weber, director of Mission: Wolf and one of Friday's presenters, describes the show as a "life-changing experience" for many audience members. "People can read books, we can show them slides, we can talk to them," Weber says, "but the magic of the program happens when that wolf walks in and looks them in the eye."
Before it's time for the star to make her entrance, the audience is coached on proper behavior. If Rami is to stay calm, they must be asked to do the same.
Not a problem, usually, Weber says; a few stares, a few sniffs, and she's acclimated to the watchers.
Weber is assisted in the program by his stepson Tamas Brooks, who has been home-schooled in wolf care and lore at Mission: Wolf since he was 10, and by Pam Uihlein, a wolf activist and educator from the University of Montana who finishes the show on a high note, literally, by teaching her audience the finer techniques of howling.
The Upper Marlboro shows are the last on Mission: Wolf's current 12-state, 9 1/2-week tour, and then it will be time to point Wolfhound back west.
"Sooner or later," Weber says, "the time always comes to tuck our tails, and head home before the snow falls."
MISSION: WOLF -- Two shows, Friday 6:30-7:30 and 8-9. Upper Marlboro Community Center, 5400 Race Track Road, Upper Marlboro. $5 per person per show. Tickets are sold through the Clearwater Nature Center, 11000 Thrift Road, Clinton. Call 301/297-4575 for availability and reservations. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
CAPTION: The Mission: Wolf program aims to dispel destructive myths about wolves.