The sky is clear, the moon is out, and howling rings through the mountains. AAAOOOUUURRRWWW! It can only mean one thing: wolves. They may look like dogs but these creatures are totally wild. And yet people have looked at them and thought “let me bring this creature home.”
To keep wolves as pets, people have begun to crossbreed them with certain dog species — but not without repercussions. What happens to the owners once the wolves misbehave? And what happens to the wolves when the owners have had enough? These fairytales tend to have very few happy endings…
For thousands of years, wolves have both terrified and intrigued us with stories of werewolf packs and mystical howling at the moon. However, our obsession with wolves may have gone a bit too far.
Because of wolves’ majestic qualities and dogs’ friendly and loyal nature, some people are trying to cross-breed them, but not without a long list of issues and repercussions — both for people and the wolfdogs.
Perhaps the reason we like wolves so much is their resemblance to man’s best friend. We know that our household pups originally evolved from wolves, but today, they are not as similar as one might think.
That makes cross-breeding them risky: It’s hard to determine how much wolf and how much dog is going into the animal, and which traits will come from which side. It could have the look of a wolf and the personality of a dog, but it could also be vice versa.
There are other issues at play, too. Wolves and wolfdogs need a lot more space, land, time, and resources than most owners expect, even if their behavior is easygoing and dog-like. It’s often much more than a normal household can handle.
And let’s not forget that one is a wild animal who deserves to live a free life, while the other is a fully domesticated companion animal — and a much better choice for prospective pet owners. The choice seems simple… but not to all.
Unfortunately, the result of cross-breeding is often abandonment. People who adopt wolfdogs for looks and bragging rights end up realizing that their new pets are stubborn or even dangerous.
Since the wolfdogs are too tame to be released back into the wild but too rough to be adopted by a dog shelter, there is almost nowhere for them to go. This is exactly what happened to wolfdog Yuki.
This wolf-like fellow is 87.5 % Gray Wolf, 8.6 % Siberian Husky, and 3.9 % German Shepherd — a true wolfdog. Unfortunately, his owners found that 87.5% far too aggressive for their home and dumped him at a kill shelter when he was 8 months old.
Luckily, Shy Wolf Sanctuary came to the rescue. The home for wolves and other wild animals in Naples, Florida, knew how to handle wolfdogs like Yuki, so rescue workers took him in with open arms.
“Yuki loves women, showing off to visitors, and being super goofy,” a volunteer at the sanctuary said. “You’ll know if he accepts you. He has a very small group of women that he allows in his enclosure called his ‘harem.’”
Aside from Yuki and his fellow wolf-dogs, Shy Wolf takes in bobcats, cougars, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, turtles, leopards, and even some regular household pets. Any injured, abandoned, or neglected animal is welcome.
The mission of this non-profit is to “reconnect people and animals through education,” so staff and over 30 active volunteers work year-round to not only support the animals, but to educate the public about the importance of protecting them.
“The animals I work with have never been in the wild so they are more socialized. We show off their adorable moments in the hope of helping people identify with them, and we try to give them a chance at a happy life,” said staff member Brittany.
For the past 20 years, Shy Wolf Sanctuary has been rescuing 20-100 wolfdogs like Yuki annually, not only in Florida but across the United States. The sanctuary actually started with a 3-legged leopard, but the wolfdog is the most popular abandoned exotic pet.
It’s great that Yuki and his animal friends have found their home at Shy Wolf sanctuary, but the truth of the matter is, these creatures should have never been pets in the first place.
It is extremely important to leave exotic or wild animals where they belong: roaming free as one with nature. However, if one really insists on having a special pet, they must make sure they have the outdoor space, patience, and heart for it.
Thankfully, Shy Wolf is not the only wolf sanctuary around. There are others who provide a home for wolves and hybrids while also advocating against crossbreeding.
Since we’re all afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, it’s not easy to find volunteers who will care for them. Luckily, there is always someone somewhere who is willing to lend a helping paw and see past the teeth and claws and howls.
Arctic Wolf / Flickr
But wolves aren’t really looking to cause trouble and usually steer clear of humans. More importantly, they offer huge benefits to ecosystems by controlling deer populations. Still have doubts? One park in Colorado is hoping to prove all of that.
The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is located in Divide, Colorado, and it’s about a two-hour drive south of Denver. The park’s mission is simple: educate the public on wolves and foxes while giving both animals a safe habitat. There, you can get up-close and personal with wolves—very up-close, in fact…
The park opened in 1993 when its founder, Darlene Kobobel of Lake George, Colorado, rescued a wolf-dog named Chinook, who was two years of age and about to be euthanized at the local animal shelter because of her “wolf-hybrid” label.
The species was a controversial one: about 250,000 are born in America every year, and nearly 80 percent are given up or euthanized before the age of three because their owners can’t properly care for them.
Svartulfr1 / Wikimedia
For a decade, Darlene’s wolf-dog rescue fielded up to 15 calls per day from people wanting to give up their hybrids. Eventually, she wanted to move from rescuing to educating people about wolves and wolf-dogs.
Darlene’s hope was to save more of them in the long run by explaining to people that wolves belong in the wild, not in homes. Thus, with a lot of hard work, the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (CWWC) was born.
@ashleighinwonderland / Instagram
At the CWWC, you can find just about any wolf species you can imagine, from the gray-furred timber wolf to the snow-white Arctic wolf. The center even helps southwest-native Mexican gray wolves. That’s a lot of wolves!
@madeline.sparks / Instagram
You can do more than just learn about wolves at the CWWC; you can experience the wolves. Yep, with the meet-and-greet opportunity, you get pet the wolves, nuzzle the wolves, or get on all fours and howl along with them.
@bitchin_wizard / Instagram
At certain points in the day, visitors can actually get involved in the wolves’ mealtimes and pass a little chow their way. No grandmas or greased-up pigs with penchants for construction on the menu here! Just regular old meat.
@ciarafrann / Instagram
Just when you thought you were facing wolf-overload, the CWWC throws you a curveball by adding some different animals into the fray: foxes and coyotes. If it’s vaguely dog-like and something you’d be a little startled to see in your backyard, chances are, the park’s got it.
@m4r1ssa / Instagram
Where do the wolves at the CWWC come from? A number of different facilities, actually. Some of them are rescues, while others come from zoos and sanctuaries. No matter where they’re from, though, the wolves living at the CWWC wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves in the wild.
@notlostjustliving / Instagram
According to CWWC, they use people’s curiosities about wolves to educate. The park wanted to clear up misconceptions about wolves and prove that they’re not dangerous villains that need to be driven from their homes in the local woodlands…
@lillianburrows / Instagram
For instance, wolves are the great equalizers of ecosystems. Primarily, they feed on large, hoofed animals like deer, elk, and moose. By hunting, killing, and eating the weakest of these species, wolves not only control the populations—preserving resources for them—but also ensure that those who avoid a wolf’s dinner plate are healthy and fit.
@mer_mal / Instagram
And wolves eat a lot. Depending on the wolf and his or her situation, wolves can eat between two and 20 pounds of meat per day out in the wild. Just imagine cooking a few steaks on the grill for a family BBQ. Now cook 10 more and you’d have enough meat to feed a hungry wolf!
@luciedreano / Instagram
Luckily, the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center has the space and resources to provide for so many wolves. On the park’s premises, there’s a 2,000 square-foot barn that can hold 5,000 pounds of meat. Now that’s something to howl about!
For the most realistic wolf experience, the CWWC also offers a “full moon tour,” which is exactly as it sounds. Once per month, on the full moon, the CWWC brings a few guests out on a tour, where everyone howls at the moon with the wolves after a few drinks. Just don’t bring your werewolf friends!