Sanctuary Nurtures Wolves, Promotes Education

It was very near a remote Colorado Valley near Silver Cliff that one of the last free-roaming wolves in Colorado was killed in the late 1940s. Seven decades later the only wolves to be seen or heard in these parts live behind a chain link fence.

Kent Weber is dedicated to the return of the wolf to the Colorado Wild.

“Many people are afraid of wolves today,” said Weber. “And we find that when they meet a wolf, they learn a little connection with nature.”

Raven is one of the wolves that lives at Mission Wolf, a sanctuary in Silver Cliff. She’s a 6-year-old Canadian gray wolf that came off a movie project.

“She was born in captivity and doesn’t have a clue how to survive in the wild,” Weber said.

In the 1980s Weber and his wife Tracy began creating Mission Wolf. Now they have about 200 acres protected for the wolves. More than 30 acres is fenced for the wolves to live. The Webers’ main strategy is education.

Rami is an ambassador wolf who has traveled a lot, appearing on national television broadcasts and with thousands of school children around the country.

“We say of all the wolves in the country, she’s probably done more to help wild wolves return than any other wolf we’ve ever known,” says Weber.

Obidiah is another resident wolf. He has arthritis in his hips. He’s one of two 15-year-old wolves at the sanctuary.

“That’s almost unheard of,” explained Weber. “Most wolves live in the wild to be six years. If you’re lucky enough to live in Yellowstone as a wolf, nobody can hunt you, you’ve got a lot of food to eat; they’re living eight years. But unfortunately people who keep a wolf in captivity, the animals end up dead in two years because people can’t provide.”

Mission Wolf is located at the end of a 14-mile drive on a dirt road, part of which winds through the San Isabel National Forest.

“So if you can find this place you can bring your family out and we’ll give you a tour and then if you go ‘what can I do to help,’ we’ll put you to work,” Weber said.

Interns from around the country and around the world come to Mission Wolf to volunteer their time for the chance to learn. Amy Sidderly came from Manchester, England. She’ll stay here for a year.

“I love it. To get out of the city was great and there’s not anything like this in England,” said Sidderly. “Especially to live here on site, Mission Wolf just gives you so many opportunities.”

Pat Willis grew up in Iowa.

“They’re just such loyal, loving individual creatures, you know. They’re just beautiful,” says Willis. “I have an affinity for them because they’re very misunderstood, run around, persecuted, and I feel for them for that.”

Tim Reed is here from California.

“When talking to people after they’ve had a chance to meet a wolf, you can really sense a change in what they thought a wolf was like,” Reed says.”And then you get to talk to them about breaking down the misconceptions of the wolf and learning about a true wild animal.”

Kent Weber could not have imagined the progress he has seen since Mission Wolf was founded, including the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

“In 20 years we have watched wolves return to 12 states in the lower 48,” Weber said.

Colorado’s bloated elk population, Weber believes, needs the classic predator to help restore natural balance to the wild.

“It’s always been said that what we do to the animals, we will eventually do to ourselves,” explains Weber. “Maybe humans in the future will realize that if we take care of the grizzly bear and the wolf, on top of the food chain, we’ve almost completely eradicated these animals.

Maybe humans in the future will realize if we take care of the grizzly and the wolf, we will take better care of our children.”

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