With all due respect to those who love wolves — if I encounter one in the wilderness (I’d likely be out west — there aren’t any here in Jersey) — I am probably freezing and heading in the opposite direction.


And yet on Friday, Feb. 15, there she was, all 100 pounds of him, sitting at attention on the stage at Lincoln Middle School’s auditorium. Jessica McMasters, a long-time science teacher at the school, was petting Tecomah as if she were the family canine she’d known forever.

Elaine McCarthy, also a science teacher at the school, then took her turn petting him.

Teacher after teacher did the same before the assembly kicked off. And Tecomah didn’t attack anyone. Not half. Instead, she would take her turn licking the faces of those who showed her love. This timber wolf may have been the most well-behaved canine you’ll ever see.

That’s because from the time she was a pup, Tecomah had been well trained and socialized by Vinnie Reo, of Sussex County, who for years has traveled the state to help dispel the myth that wolves are “bad.”

“Little Red Riding Hood lied!” is his belief.

Reo, once a middle-school science teacher himself, has owned wolves for three-plus decades. He bought Tecomah about six years ago from a breeder out west. She’s the sixth he’s owned. His former students helped him “socialize” the wolf by feeding her from a bottle when she was small. There, she learned the scent of a human being is a good scent.

Now, when she’s around humans, she’s as calm as could be — because as Reo told the assembled middle-schoolers at the second of two assemblies that day — she sees humans as part of her pack.

The kids at the assembly were, for the most part, mesmerized by the presence of the animal one would normally find in the wild out west in states such as Washington and Oregon — and in other parts of the world.

“Look at her — she’s beautiful,” one student sitting in the front row of the auditorium said. “I don’t know if I want to pet her though. She’s still huge.”

Reo offered a full, PowerPoint presentation, about Tecomah and Wolves in general, while the 100-pound timber either sat quietly or slept. Stage fright? Not for Tecomah. She seemed to love every second of her time on stage in Kearny.

Among the more intriguing things Reo discussed:

  • Tecomah eats about 5-pounds of meat (usually raw chicken) each day. She could actually eat 20-pounds of meat, the equivalent of a human eating “40 Big Macs a day,” according to Reo. Though she eats every day, timber wolves survive in the wild eating two to three times a week.
  • According to records, Reo said, a wolf has not been spotted in the wild in New Jersey in more than 200 years.
  • The domesticated dog evolved from the wolf. But, Reo said Tecomah is not very fond of dogs. She prefers humans.
  • There isn’t a documented case of a wolf ever attacking a human being in recorded American history. In fact, Reo says wolves in the wild are quite afraid of human beings and are very likely to retreat upon seeing people.
  • Wolves are fast and can reach speeds of 20 mph while running. They can reach that speed even if they’re tired.
  • Though timber wolves are known as “Gray Wolves,” they come in a variety of colors, including gray, pure white, brown and black.

If you’d like to meet Tecomah, she’s scheduled to appear at the Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., Kearny, at 1 p.m., April 24. If your group or organization would like to schedule a visit from Tecomah, call Reo at 201-874-2150 (ask for Vinnie) or send an email to Find out more about Reo’s non-profit by visiting

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.