Wolves have jumped to the forefront recently as an initiative for reintroduction made the ballot and wildlife experts say there are signs of a wild pack having made their own way to Colorado.
But wolves are everyday business for Shelley Coldiron and her team of volunteers, who for 25 years have quietly managed a sanctuary for captive-bred wolf dogs in Larimer County. They are not roaming wild. The animals are cared for and live their lives in enclosed habitat, safe and tucked away.
The team cares for these majestic creatures, offering them a place to live out their lives, while educating people about wolves and why they shouldn’t be pets.
Wolves Offered Live and Friendship has been helping these misunderstood animals for 25 years after incorporating as a nonprofit in 1995. This year, the team expects to make significant progress on their new home, a sanctuary that eventually will allow WOLF to open it doors to the public for tours and education about its mission of helping these animals.
The nonprofit has raised about $1.5 million toward the project, which is expected to cost over $2 million. And after a groundbreaking in October, road work has started for a new site at 16278 County Road 74E, Livermore — a safer spot for the animals and those who care for them due to access.
“We’re hoping sometime in 2021 is when we can actually open our gates to allow the public to start coming,” said Coldiron, executive director of the nonprofit sanctuary.
The existing location is in Bellvue, at the end of a single-lane dirt road. Staff and volunteers are limited in the number of trips they can make per day, and there is a single route in and out, which makes for a sticky situation during emergencies. That became even more evident during the High Park fire and related flood events on the scarred landscape after the fire.
So came plans to move. After a lengthy permitting process, including hours of public hearing before the Larimer County commissioners, Coldiron was granted a permit. She is limited to 30 wolves and wolf dogs, the number at the current sanctuary, and when the project is complete, to two tours per day, five days per week.
Coldiron and her team are excited to welcome tours, to educate people about wolves and hopefully to grow their base of supporters. She also hopes that, after her new neighbors realize that the wolves are not noisy or dangerous, she will be able to expand.
There are always wolves and wolf dogs who cannot live in the wild and who need a place to call home. Over the 25 years, WOLF has given sanctuary to 105 animals and assisted more than 18,000 more through a rescue network. But still thousands of wolves are euthanized every year because there are not enough sanctuaries across the country, Coldiron said.
“Our animals come from all over the United States,” according to the sanctuary’s website. “We rescue wolves and wolf dogs who do not have any place to go because they cannot live successfully in a private home as pets. Many of our animals come from abuse or neglect situations and it is our mission to provide them with medical care, life-long sanctuary in a natural mountain habitat, a high quality diet and abundant enrichment activities.”
The new site will offer a larger space for volunteers and staff, the opportunity for tours, an onsite space for medical care for the animals, as well as large, secure habitats for them.
So far, work has begun on installing the new, safer access road. Once that is done, construction will begin on the wolf habitat, the largest and most expensive endeavor for the new location. Coldiron said that the nonprofit is hoping for volunteer labor on the actual construction as well as donated or discounted materials.
The relocation process, which started years ago with permits, sound studies and other requirements, has been slow and arduous. But now that construction has begun, the WOLF team is feeling the momentum. They are excited for the future for these animals, for the team and for the community that will finally be able to see their mission firsthand. The public will be able to see why the team of five full-time and four part-time employees and 75 volunteers dedicate their lives to helping wolves.
“They are part of our family because we care for them,” said Coldiron. “They’re with us a long time but it’s always too short … We’re here for them.”
How to help
- To learn more about WOLF, visit wolfsanctuary.co
- To donate time or materials, contact email@example.com
- To attend the “Snow Ball Masque-fur-aid gala” on May 2 at the Fort Collins Hilton, visit wolfsanctuary.co. Rick McIntyre will talk about the wolves of Yellowstone, also celebrating 25 years since reintroduction, and his new book, “The Rise of Wolf 8.”