The population has dropped to one percent of the previous century’s totals: From 500,000 to 5,000. Once wild and healthy, this native now nears extinction. Coloradoans cherish many aspects of their wilderness, but these beauties have been slandered, attacked, and diminished.
Timber wolves are a species native to Colorado. In the 1800s they freely roamed their home territory, but no longer. The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center aims to change not only the public’s perception of wolves but also their very future. The Center sits an hour from Colorado Springs just outside Divide. The CWWC keeps elite company as the only AZA facility in Colorado. The Association of Zoos and Aquarium is the standard of care for animals in the care of conservation, education, and science.
In addition to providing a lifelong home for the creatures in its care, the CWWC offers curious humans the opportunity to interact with threatened and misunderstood animals; 18 wolves, 4 swift foxes, 3 red foxes, and 4 coyotes call the sanctuary home, while small mammals that will be released back into the wild live in the rehabilitation center. Visitors experience the animals through standard, interactive, and feeding tours conducted several days a week. To the caretakers, these interactions are an important to way preserve our wildlife; their mission of conservation, education, and preservation seeks to teach how critical wolves are to both the natural world and the human world.
For many, wolves are a touchy subject. Ranchers across the West have long viewed them as a threat to livestock and livelihood. CWWC CEO Darlene Kobobel explains that misinformation has significantly contributed to the wolves’ fate; for example, respiratory disease poses a bigger danger to cattle populations than wolves do. She contends that ranchers who embrace the potential opportunities afforded by wolf tourism could turn their perceived enemy into an economic boon.
Colorado last boasted a pack of wolves in 1945; in 1973, the US Fish and Wildlife Service designated three recovery areas for wolves from the northern Rocky Mountains. Yellowstone National Park was one of those areas, and in 1995 wolves were reintroduced to the park. The population has fluctuated since its reintroduction, but Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho have removed wolves from their endangered species list. Wolves remain a protected species in Wyoming, and Darlene believes the danger has not passed. In addition to the gray or timber wolves of the Rocky Mountains, she also strives to protect the Mexican gray wolf—an incredibly are subspecies of the gray wolf. Her goal remains moving beyond education into application: not just saying, but doing.