The last time I went to Colorado in the United States I was so fortunate as to go to Colorado’s Wolf and Wildlife Centre. Promoting an invaluable rule of three – Conservation – Education – Preservation – this localized shelter for wolves is a wonderful place and does fantastic work.
Up in the mountains just beyond Colorado Springs, the center offers visitors a chance to see the other side of the ‘big bad wolf’ and generously proves that peoples misconceptions of wolves as dangerous beasts is a falsehood lent by angry farmers who have lost livestock to these beautiful animals. Whilst it cannot be denied that Wolves are dangerous, especially when food is scarce, it is unfair to paint them in such a black light. They are after all just doing what they need to in order to survive.
I was so excited to visit the Wolf Centre. I had seen it online before my trip to the States and had nagged my lovely Auntie into Bedlam, to see if we could visit while I was out there. Thankfully my Aunt is as much of a doggie lover as I am and was happy to agree, making the two-hour long drive to the Rocky Mountains.
The Rocky Mountains are an exceptionally beautiful place. To a girl from rural England the opportunity to see wild predictors was an exhilarating idea, though I was keen not to get too close at the time. I loved seeing Americans Wildlife! You see things you simply do not get to see outside of a zoo in England. Mesmerised by Elk and brightly colored Birds I just wanted to go wandering with my camera to see all the amazing creatures flitting about in the forests. But of course, that idea might have me someone’s lunch!
The center itself was amazing. Though not a large building by anyone’s standards, the log cabin that housed the gift shop was fantastically stocked with information, books, soundtracks, wolf fur and other trinkets. The staff were a credit to their profession. All of them had a great attitude, bushels of patience and a genuine love of nature.
Touring the facility we were introduced to all of the wolves that live there, hearing of their individual stories and how they came to the center. My favorite part was at the end when we were all allowed to participate in a howl, which rallied the canine inhabitance of the center to join us in a chorus.
After the tour, my auntie and I had booked a close encounter. It was time to meet our fate.
I couldn’t believe we were going into the enclosure with the wolves. It was so exciting and scary at the same time. I mean, these creatures would have little issue dispatching me before I had time to even protest, and it took a strange type of courage to go inside. I had been dreaming of wolves ever since seeing the Centre advertised, almost like they had been calling to me and I knew in my heart it was something I had to do.
It is a very primal feeling, knowing you are subjecting yourself to the pleasure of some other creature more powerful than you. I am not afraid to admit I was more than just a little nervous as I sat down on the grass in the middle of a wolves enclosure, waiting for the wild beast to emerge from its den.
We had been told that there were three wolves in the pen, but that we should ignore one of them because, and I quote, ‘she’s a bit of a grouch’. Defiantly not going to bother her for some attention then!
In a few moments of sitting on the warm baked earth I begun to feel the silence. I waited, my eyes searching the hedges and tree line for any sign of movement, for my fate to emerge and swallow me whole. I paused and tried to calm my heart, it was important not to show too much fear or excitement as this can get the Wolves riled up and things could turn dangerous. I concentrated on my breathing, waiting. In this meditative state, I closed my eyes and listened.
As I said, you could feel the silence. It seemed to stretch out on purpose, transcending time, disorientating and making you avidly away of your own mortality. With every breath and heart beat I possessed vibrating in my ears, I strained for any hint of other sounds beyond myself.
Whether a mistake or the world best entrance ever, I will let you decide, for as I listened I felt a warm breath on my face. I opened my eyes and was face to face with a Timber Wolf.
It’s beautiful eyes locked on mine, its nose inches away. I looked at him and he looked at me. We measured each other up. He was beautiful. And if this was death come I couldn’t credit its awesomeness enough!
But no, just as I loved to see the wolves noble features he must have thought I was as harmless as I was plain looking because he opened his mouth and woosh….Wolf Kisses!
The slobbering mass of tongue stank of the worlds worst dog breath and yet it was one of the most thrilling things ever. To be kissed by a wolf (more than once) is an honor. That these predators whom are often hunted by humans, could have such faith in and affection for a stranger is beyond belief.
These animals were just like puppies, so affectionate, playful and loving – but with the ability to rip your face off.
Their coat is slightly wirey with a subtle burnt come wet dog smell, something that any pooch love would find heady and nostalgic. They nuzzled and rubbed themselves against us just like any playful dog would and were more than happy to recline and let us touch them as we like. We did avoid the ears though, as although you might ruffle a dog’s ears, a wild wolf is another matter. As they are outdoor animals they can be subject to flies in the summer and so we left the ears alone in case they were at all sensitive from a bite. I am rather fond of my face after all.
My Aunt and I were overjoyed spending time with these two beautiful wolves, scratching their necks, rubbing their bellies and having cuddles. It was truly amazing and I cannot give enough praise to the experience. Even know I can feel my excitement and a very spiritual connection with these creatures when I think back on my time in the pen. It is not an easy thing to explain as I think you have to experience it to truly understand but it was such an honor that these wonderful creatures allowed us to meet them.
Given half a chance I would relish the opportunity to visit the pack again. I think the work the center does is amazing! And it is obvious that they work hard and get results.
It is a sad fact of nature that our planets predators are having a tough time, and whilst I am by no means sharing this experience in the hopes of converting you all into tree hugging hippies, I will say this – If we don’t help them, who will?
We all share a love for our domestic pets and see the value of beast of burden and farmyard animals. But despite an unsavory reputation as killers, predators of all species play a vital part in the world’s conservation. Wolves, for instance, stop the forests from becoming over populated with herbivores that could then have a knock on effect for humans, as the vegetation would deplete.
However by having wolves in an ecosystem, the Elk and Deer are kept in reasonable numbers, these animals, as well as the wolves, become stronger as they have to fight a little for survival and the grasses become more lush and nutritious as it is not being over grown or over eaten.
This is only one reason why wolves and predators alike are so important to our planet, but in fear of sounding preachy, I will leave you with this….I count my meeting with wolves as one of the best things to happen to me in my life. It made me a different person. I am so grateful that I even had the chance to do it.
If your ever in Colorado Springs I highly recommend a visit to the Colorado’s Wolf and Wildlife Centre. Say ‘Hi’ to the wolves for me! And let me know in the comments below what your favorite close encounter with an animal you love is.