Over our 30-year history, Mission: Wolf has toured the United States with our Ambassador Wolf program and allowed countless people to come face-to-face with this iconic species. In recent years, however, we have been increasingly focused on the on-site Ambassador Wolf program at our sanctuary, due to growing public demand.
While our remote mountain community used to see very few visitors, we are now annually hosting tens of thousands of people and hundreds of educational service groups. We are thrilled that there is such a desire from the public to learn firsthand about wolves and sustainable living. As we strive to accommodate the uptick in visitor traffic, we have updated many of our facilities, and are making our on-site educational programming more robust. One way we are working to accomplish this is through our biweekly Wolf Behavioral Sessions.
We try to lead these behavioral sessions for visitors/volunteers on Tuesdays and Saturdays, if circumstances and the animals permit. We do this in order to teach about the fascinating physical, social, and ecological aspects of wolves, as well as principles of nonverbal communication with both domestic and wild animals. Since we do not train the wolves, we train the people instead. Visitors learn how to use their body language and attitudes to communicate with the Ambassador wolves, and visitors can often apply what they learn to their relationships with pets, family, and friends.
It is important to note that we never guarantee any interaction with the wolves. As a wildlife sanctuary, we defer to the needs of the resident animals and the choices they make in regard to meeting humans. We cannot emphasize enough how rare it is to find captive wolves that enjoy interacting with large crowds of people on a regular basis, and in their own home no less. There are many factors that affect the level of interaction during our Wolf Behavior Sessions, including: time of day, weather conditions, and how well visitors are able to interpret the wolves’ moods and apply the lessons of bodily communication and awareness that we convey beforehand. Only a handful of our resident wolves and wolf-dogs have the unique desire to meet strangers, and even they do not always feel social. To keep things in perspective, very few Americans have seen a wolf outside of a zoo, let alone touched one. Even if the Ambassador wolves only offer a few seconds of interaction, that is more than most humans will ever have the privilege to experience in their lifetimes.
Some may be puzzled as to why we let people interact with the wolves at all. As a sanctuary for rescued wolves and wolf-dogs, it might seem contrary to our mission, which is to provide the animals with a safe, peaceful, life-long home. This is a fair concern, and we never force any animal to interact with (or even be seen by) visitors, should they prefer otherwise. With that being said, it is also our philosophy that keeping a wild animal in a cage, without acknowledging it can gain enrichment from interacting with other species, does not properly fulfill the role of a sanctuary. Since our resident wolves are not candidates for reintroduction to the wild, we try to offer different forms of stimulus to break up the monotony of their lives in captivity, one of these being human interaction. The wolves always meet people on their own terms. Because we let the wolves make such choices rather than being coerced to do so, we believe it makes the interspecies communication we facilitate in our Wolf Behavior Sessions all the more special and rewarding for everyone involved.
Each year, America loses more and more wild habitat due to human encroachment. At the same time, we are finding more people that have never had a wild experience and have little understanding or respect for nature. It is this missing wild experience that now motivates people to seek nature. All of the National Geographic and Animal Planet specials combined will not satisfy this drive Americans have to experience a personal connection with nature.
Today, it is this drive that fuels the Ambassador Wolf program at Mission: Wolf. It is the connection the wolves provide that re-kindles and builds a greater respect for nature, all of its creatures, and even other humans. We invite you to be the Ambassador wolves’ enrichment program, and we hope your life will also be enriched in the process. If you are interested in participating, read more about visiting or contact us.