Wolves are legendary because of their spine-tingling howl, which they use to communicate. A lone wolf howls to attract the attention of his pack, while communal howls may send territorial messages from one pack to another. Some howls are confrontational. Much like barking domestic dogs, wolves may simply begin howling because a nearby wolf has already begun.
Wolves are the largest members of the dog family. Adaptable gray wolves are by far the most common and were once found all over the Northern Hemisphere. But wolves and humans have a long adversarial history. Though they almost never attack humans, wolves are considered one of the animal world’s most fearsome natural villains.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend sometimes with wolves at a Colorado wolf sanctuary. The Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation based in Guffey, CO is wolf rescue organization. RMWF provides sanctuary, rehabilitation and environmentally natural housing for captive-born wolves and wolf-dogs who have suffered from injuries, neglect or abuse. A visit to RMWF is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We had the opportunity to sit in their pens and encounter the love, wisdom and caring that each of the animals so willingly gives.
Part of our experience with the wolves, was arriving in the Town of Guffey at a local hang out called the Bull Moose Restaurant for an educational presentation with RMWF’s owner Mark “Wolf” Johnson and his wife Catherine. During the presentation we learned about the history of RMWF and the given information about its current residents. There are currently 12 wolves/wolf-dogs at the sanctuary. Because we were a group of photographers, coming to photograph the wolves, we kept our numbers small, so we didn’t overwhelm the animals while we were visiting their enclosures.
After listening to the presentation about RMWF, and facts about wolves in general, I thought we were slightly crazy to be getting in the enclosures with these animals. But I have to tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. The wolves were not only curious about their new visitors, but we happy to greet you with plenty of sniffs, kisses and slobbers! The unconditional love and acceptance you felt during your visit was unreal. These animals were more than willing to welcome you into their pack, and provide your face with kisses at any opportunity. Even though I enjoyed visiting with all the wolves, I did have a couple of favorites. Thor, a large 4 year old male, was just one enormous teddy bear, kissing and licking you every chance he got. He was full of energy and wanted to give you hugs too. When Thor would put his front paws on your shoulders he stood about 7 feet tall. Just a big lover, full of energy and playfulness. I also enjoyed Lakota. Lakota is a large female, who was also more than happy to share kisses with you. A week prior to my visit to RMWF, I had slipped and fallen on some ice and injured my knee. When I encountered Lakota, I believe she instantly sensed that there was something wrong with me. She rubbed along side of me, and instantly gave me kisses when I would bend over to give her a rub. When I would move a few steps she stuck to my side like glue, continually rubbing alongside of me. I definitely had a new friend.
As we were getting ready to leave, we were serenaded with wolf howls. It was almost as if our new friends were sorry to see us go, bidding us a sad farewell. I definitely plan to return for additional visits with the wolves. If you live in Colorado, I encourage you to take sometime and make an appointment to visit the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation. If you don’t live in Colorado, but are planning a visit to our gorgeous state, DEFINITELY plan to make a stop to visit the wolves, an experience you will never forget!
RMWF is a non-profit 501-c-3 organization, run solely on donations. Click here to view their needs and give a donation to support the effort to resecue and educate the world about wolves. Many thanks to Mark and Catherine, for hosting our photography group. Your hospitality and the spirit of the wolves, will forever be etched on my heart!
Cheers from behind the camera,