LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. – Hidden between the rocky hills and lush trees of Larimer County, down a private dirt road, is a special kind of office called W.O.L.F Sanctuary.
“I get to come to work with 30 of my best friends every day,” smiles Olivia Van Vleet, the volunteer coordinator for W.O.L.F. “Most people have never been up to a place like this. I feel honored to be able to drive through the mountains like this to go to work every day.”
The nonprofit sanctuary has called a plot of land near Bellvue home since the late ‘90s. It’s where they care for 30 wolves or wolf dogs rescued from the worst situations.
“They’re abandoned, they’re neglected. People would get them as puppies, thinking they’ll be like dogs because they’ve been bred like dogs. When they become mature after 1 ½ to 2 years of age, they realize they can’t take care of them properly,” explains W.O.L.F. Sanctuary Executive Director Shelley Coldiron.
W.O.L.F., which stands for Wolves Offer Life and Friendship, educates the community about the importance of the wolves to the ecosystem, in addition to providing a safe home for wolves who cannot live in the wild.
“When I tell people about W.O.L.F., I tell them you can’t describe it in words. You have to experience it because it’s magical being around those guys,” says Coldiron.
Now it’s the sanctuary that needs rescuing.
“Where we’re at right now, we’re off the grid. We run generators through the day to be able to have power. We’re down a private road and we’re limited to five vehicles per day for staff, volunteers, services. We’re not allowed to be open to the public. It’s very hard operationally to be able to work on some of the things we’d like to do for the animals,” says Coldiron.
The five-vehicle per day rule does not allow any guided tours or open gates, something the sanctuary sees as a missed educational opportunity.
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“We get calls all the time with people wanting to visit and I hate having to turn people away,” said Van Vleet. “(We want) to be able to give everyone the opportunity to see these animals in their natural habitats and learn more about them.”
So, W.O.L.F is looking to the west for a new home.
“You are at the Wolf Sanctuary’s new Red Feather Lakes facility,” said Laura Davis, W.O.L.F. Senior Director of Operations. “I think they’ll like it up here.”
The new habitat that is under construction, with sweeping views of the Mummy Range, has double the room at 180 acres, but it comes with double the challenges.
“Covid, just like everything else, really impacted cost and it really impacted supply chain,” explains Davis.
“Also with Covid, prices tripled from what our original goal was,” says Coldiron.
The project kicked off during the pandemic with high spirits about the move. Those turned sour when steel prices skyrocketed, causing a huge budget shortfall. Donors and volunteers stepped up to fill some of the gap.
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Gallery: Meet the wolves and wolf dogs at W.O.L.F. Sanctuary
“That’s where the public comes in, just to help us get past that finish line,” said Davis.
W.O.L.F. would like to start moving the wolves in this fall, but there’s one last piece of the puzzle before they can put out the welcome mat. The sanctuary needs to purchase deck pens — a safe cage inside each enclosure with the wolves are fed, watered, and sheltered from storms.
“That’s our last big hurdle is to get those purchased and installed. Then we’ll pretty much be ready to move, even though we don’t have some of the infrastructure done,” Davis said.
Once the pens are installed, W.O.L.F. can begin to open their gates and their paws to the public.
“This is one thing I’ll always be able to guarantee … you’re going to get kissed and scent rubbed by one of our wolves,” said Coldiron.
You can click here to donate to the W.O.L.F. Sanctuary's efforts and choose "Help W.O.L.F. Sanctuary with New Location" in the dropdown menu.
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