More often than not, wolves play the villain in pop culture. Whether a big bad wolf is ready to blow a little piggy’s house down or gobble up Red Riding Hood’s grandma, it seems they’re always on the wrong side of our fairy tales.
It might be tough to shake images of a snarling mouth packed with sharp teeth, but one park in Colorado is working overtime to change that image. At the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, wolves aren’t the bad guys—in fact, they’re friends!
Despite its good intentions, however, this park is definitely raising eyebrows, and it’s not hard to understand why…
If you’re familiar with fairy tales, chances are, you know the “Big Bad Wolf.” He’s the one who gobbles up little old ladies, blows down houses, and bares his teeth to unsuspecting woodsmen. With their characteristic snarls and howls, it’s not hard to see why they’re portrayed as such vicious animals!
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But wolves aren’t really looking to cause trouble. Even though they’re not domesticated, they can be gentle creatures. More importantly, they offer huge benefits to ecosystems by controlling deer populations. Still have doubts? One park in Colorado is hoping to prove all of that.
The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is located in Divide, Colorado, and it’s about a two-hour drive south of Denver. The park’s mission is simple: educate the public on wolves and foxes while giving both animals a safe habitat. There, you can get up-close and personal with wolves—very up-close, in fact…
The park opened in 1993 when its founder, Darlene Kobobel of Lake George, Colorado, rescued a wolf-dog named Chinook. The species was a controversial one: about 250,000 are born in America every year, and nearly 80 percent are given up or euthanized before the age of three because their owners can’t properly care for them.
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For a decade, Darlene’s wolf-dog rescue fielded up to 15 calls per day from people wanting to give up their hybrids. Eventually, she wanted to move from rescuing to educating people about wolves and wolf-dogs—which would, hopefully, save more of them in the long run. Thus, with a lot of hard work, the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center (CWWC) was born.
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At the CWWC, you can find just about any wolf species you can imagine, from the gray-furred timber wolf to the snow-white Arctic wolf. The center even helps southwest-native Mexican gray wolves. That’s a lot of wolves!
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You can do more than just learn about wolves at the CWWC; you can experience the wolves. Yep, with the meet-and-greet opportunity, you get pet the wolves, nuzzle the wolves, or get on all fours and howl along with them.
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At certain points in the day, visitors can actually get involved in the wolves’ mealtimes and pass a little chow their way. No grandmas or greased-up pigs with penchants for construction on the menu here! Just regular old meat.
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Just when you thought you were facing wolf-overload, the CWWC throws you a curveball by adding some different animals into the fray: foxes and coyotes. If it’s vaguely dog-like and something you’d be a little startled to see in your backyard, chances are, the park’s got it.
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Where do the wolves at the CWWC come from? A number of different facilities, actually. Some of them are rescues, while others come from zoos and sanctuaries. No matter where they’re from, though, the wolves living at the CWWC wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves in the wild.
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According to CWWC, they use people’s curiosities about wolves to educate. The park wanted to clear up misconceptions about wolves and prove that they’re not dangerous villains that need to be driven from their homes in the local woodlands…
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For instance, wolves are the great equalizers of ecosystems. Primarily, they feed on large, hoofed animals like deer, elk, and moose. By hunting, killing, and eating the weakest of these species, wolves not only control the populations—preserving resources for them—but also ensure that those who avoid a wolf’s dinner plate are healthy and fit.
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And wolves eat a lot. Depending on the wolf and his or her situation, wolves can eat between two and 20 pounds of meat per day out in the wild. Just imagine cooking a few steaks on the grill for a family BBQ. Now cook 10 more and you’d have enough meat to feed a hungry wolf!
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Luckily, the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center has the space and resources to provide for so many wolves. On the park’s premises, there’s a 2,000 square-foot barn that can hold 5,000 pounds of meat. Now that’s something to howl about!
For the most realistic wolf experience, the CWWC also offers a “full moon tour,” which is exactly as it sounds. Once per month, on the full moon, the CWWC brings a few guests out on a tour, where everyone howls at the moon with the wolves after a few drinks. Just don’t bring your werewolf friends!
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The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center definitely offers a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else; still, people are skeptical about getting so close to wolves. Maybe this is just the place for you!
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