Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kissed by a Wolf

This week I am using my days off to run errands but last week was special; Maggie kissed me.

Mission Wolf is about 1.5 hours from where I am working this summer. It is located between Westcliffe and Gardiner Colorado. (Their Website directions are excellent if you decide to go – they are excellent even if you don’t go <g>.)

Mission wolf was founded to provide shelter to captive wolves. These animals have been imprinted by humans and cannot be released to the wild and would otherwise be killed. Some of their wolves were cubs that movie studios had but decided not to use, some people tried to raise and later took to a humane society when it became unworkable, some are dog/wolf mixes, some are the pups of wolves from zoos, one was found wandering in Salt Lake City NV.

My visit started with an educational tour that taught me about how wolves live in the wild and how this rescue attempts to provide this environment as much as possible. Wolves mate for life and here two who seem to choose each other have a two-acre enclosure to themselves. They “landscape” their fenced area and a buffer area exits between each enclosed area. They are fed meat twice a week an thus maintain their usual feast famine pattern.

Unlike wolves in the wild these animal are “crate trained”; this is in case there is a need to evacuate them due to fire or medical emergency. They are fed some kibble type food and vitamins and/or medicine if needed in their crates each morning.

The Co-founders Tracy Brooks and Kent Weber and a small staff live at the mission year round in a self sustaining way. Each summer short term and long term volunteers join the staff to lead tours and do the work of maintaining this home for the wolves. Tracy uses her knowledge as a horse whisperer to train volunteers in the use of body language to communicate with wolves.

After my tour I joined a group of people interested in an interaction with the wolves. Kent tutored us in how to use our bodies to enter one of the wolf enclosures and how to behave. (Basically, be Alpha.) We were to walk erect (hunching would make us look like a predator) and to ignore the wolves as we went in and found a seat.

After that it was up to the wolves to choose if they wanted to interact. If they did come to us we were to reach out to them, keep our eyes open and move into them as they came face to face with us, and show our teeth. It was amazing – one did come to me, she rubbed her head into mine and licked my teeth. (And I can attest that wolf breath is much better than dog breath and probably better than mine too.)  I was grinning ear to ear.

The posted pictures are the three wolves who lived in the enclosure I entered. Maggie is the one who was interested in me. These wolves are wolves that showed an interest in humans and were trained to be comfortable interacting with humans. They are part of an Ambassador program that goes to various places around the country to help teach about wolves. (My little adventure was not as risky as it might have sounded.)