Wolves! Our Visit to the Mission Wolf Sanctuary

| 1/11/2012 8:01:30 PM

wolvesWolves! These animals bring out the best and the worst in people. Some people want to destroy them because they are predators and others want to preserve them and then there are others who could care less  and are apathetic. Much depends on whether you are a rancher, sportsman or conservationist.  They have been almost hunted/trapped/poisoned to extinction in many places, then reintroduced back again and seem to polarize people over their rigidness of opinion when it comes to the wolf. We have spent considerable time at a local wolf refuge and what we have found is that there seem to be a large amount of distortions circulated about wolves. We personally have found them very fascinating and observed their activities both on our homestead and at the wolf refuge. Yes they are predators, they are powerful animals. Our German Shepherds have a bite strength of 750 psi and a wolf has double that amount of bite strength.  They are intelligent, strong, and make the perfect predator.     

In the past several months I have reported on some of the interesting features of Southern Colorado where we happen to live. Cities with colorful  histories like Jack Dempsey the Manassa Mauler and Kit Carson, and other features of interest. One of those places which holds a special place in our heart is Mission Wolf, about an hour drive from where we live. This is a special place that takes in wolves who have been unsuccessfully domesticated.  It seems some people want to have a wolf much like most people have pets. Some like tigers and cougars and others like to have dangerous reptiles. Most of those wild animals are not suited for domestication or being house pets and end up either being destroyed, confined to a zoo, or if they are fortunate they end up at a place like Mission Wolf, where they will live in a natural setting and be cared for the rest of their lives.

We have been visiting this wolf refuge for 14 years. Kent the curator of the refuge has devoted his life to helping these animals that would otherwise most likely be destroyed. Much of the misinformation about wolves  has patiently been explained to us by Kent. There are so many misleading ideas about wolves floating around that it would be impossible to even cover a few in this blog. What they do naturally is sometimes seen as aggressive by uninformed people. What is a loving gesture by a wolf can be misinterpreted by someone who doesn’t understand that gesture or trait. As a result it is the wolf that ends up suffering for mostly being just a wolf.

There was one particular wolf that truly amazed us. His name was Lucas and he was a totally black timber wolf. What was amazing about Lucas was he was not the strongest or toughest wolf in the pack but the rest of the pack made him their leader by consensus. They did so because he had an infinite capacity to love the rest of the members of the pack. Even when he got old none of the younger wolves challenged him for leadership. Lucas was the alpha leader because of his tremendous ability to out love the rest of the pack.  I think there is a lesson there for people too, he sure did teach me something valuable.    

Over the years and our many visits to Mission Wolf,  Kent has patiently explained many of the wolf traits and misconceptions to us and others. He is one of the most knowledgably people I have encountered that knows wolves in detail and loves to talk about them. We had visits where we were privileged to sit on logs in a circle and he would bring a wolf into the circle to meet and greet visitors. The ambassador or representative wolf then would come around the circle and instinctively know which people liked it and those that didn’t. It would give you the fastest and most gentle kiss on the lips if it liked you and sensed you liked it. I can tell you that having a 150-pound timber wolf kiss you on the lips is an experience you won’t quickly forget, but the fact it liked you enough to do that is even more amazing when you consider what men have done to the wolf. How it perceived who liked it and who didn’t is a mystery to me, but later in talking to people whom it passed up we found the wolfs judgment to be flawless. Kent has taken his wild wolves on the road and to schools and other locations to demonstrate to children and adults that wolves are a species to be admired not abolished.    

Much has been written about wolves and those who have lived with them. Some is represented correctly and some not so correct. Mission Wolf subsists on volunteers, who come from all over the world, coupled with individual contributions. If you someday choose to visit Southern Colorado I would suggest that you check out the website above for driving directions and consider a visit to Mission Wolf. I have never seen either Kent or any of the volunteers who give daily tours not answer any question fully and completely and other than in a very professional manner. It is an educational and fun place to visit and well worth the time. 

 Photo credit: tkshaw/Fotolia

Barbara Galasso
1/13/2012 7:54:05 PM

Love your article Bruce! It is very well written and informative about a very misunderstood animal like the wolf! Some people like to mix breed them with the German Shepherd Dog. And you're right, they don't know how to behave......like a dog or a wolf! Most of the time these are not an animal that fits into society very well.

Faun Vandy
1/13/2012 7:34:39 PM

Of course, there's always Winter Study at Isle Royale:http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/wsjournal/wtrstdy/index/index.html

Larry Boschen
1/13/2012 6:55:01 PM

Just don't forget a Wolf out in the wilderness that's gone 3 days without a meal will act differently than wolves kept in a refuge and fed on a regular basis. I do feel that it is totally wrong for people to try and domesticate an animal such as a wolf or dangerous reptile because it's unfair to the animal to try and adapt and most of these people not planning ahead just will let them loose thus the constrictor snake problem in Florida. These animals were created with the abilty to take care of themselves far greater than man can do it for them.

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