Born: May 7, 2015
Rescued From: Minnesota
Given Sanctuary: January 5, 2019

Nichelle Houser

Ember came to W.O.L.F. as a survivor of a fur farm in Minnesota.  She went through a long and perilous journey to safety thanks to the work of Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC).  Founders Matthew Simmons and Lorin Lindner never gave up on the wolves who were doomed to be pelted for profit. 

Fur-Ever Wild posed as a petting zoo where the public could come and pet wolf pups and other baby animals. For a fee, the general public could serve as “volunteers” for “Pet-n-Play” sessions with wolf pups. This practice conditioned the wolf pups to be handled by humans.  As soon as the pups reached maturity, they were pelted, and the wolf furs were sold. Inconceivably, the pelts were for sale at the facility gift shop!

In 2017, LARC and the Animal Legal Defense Fund joined forces to file a federal lawsuit against Fur-Ever Wild and the owner for violations of the Endangered Species Act. The Eureka Township Board in Minnesota also challenged the owner on zoning violations for her use of the “petting zoo” animals in her pelting operation. Later that year, a federal court order was issued to allow LARC to conduct an inventory of the animals at Fur-Ever Wild.  They were accompanied by law enforcement officers and attorneys that were involved in the case. The results of the inventory included:

  1. Sixty-seven (67) very high content wolves.
    As many as fourteen (14) of the females may have been pregnant. Fifteen (15) of the wolves were DNA tested using a specialized test. The results indicated that the animals were very high wolf content. Fifty-five (55) of the wolves were three years old or younger.
  2. Eighteen (18) mountain lions/cougars
  3. Twenty (20) bobcats
  4. Thirty-five (35) foxes
  5. A few coyotes, porcupines, and raccoons

With an imminent court order allowing for seizure of the animals, the owner, under cover of darkness, removed every animal on the property. When the Sheriff finally permitted LARC to enter the property, all the animals were gone.

In April of 2018, after legal wrangling and some intensive investigative work, LARC was able to locate twenty-six (26) of the wolves.  They had been secretly transported to a private petting zoo in Oklahoma, operated by an individual named Joe Maldonado, also known as “Joe Exotic.” Maldonado is an individual who has been involved in numerous complaints of animal abuse and neglect in the past.

Maldonado agreed to surrender to LARC the twenty-six (26) wolves that came from Fur-Ever Wild. LARC worked quickly to have the traumatized wolves checked by a veterinarian for health concerns and prepare them for transport. On Mother’s Day in 2018, LARC began the transport to bring the wolves to safety at their sanctuary in California. Ember was one of those animals.

There are not many details about Ember’s life at Fur-Ever Wild, but we know it had to be stressful and horrific. She likely spent her puppyhood as part of the “Pet-n-Play” exhibit before being transferred over into the “farm” population. Whether her fate was to be bred, pelted, or both is unknown.

After her cross-country journey from Oklahoma, Ember arrived at LARC in California in May 2018. LARC gave her medical care and provided her with the time she needed to recover from her ordeal. The beautiful black phase wolf was eventually placed with an older male at LARC. The older male rejected Ember, so she was once again living alone in her enclosure. LARC did not have another appropriate male who could be moved to live with Ember.

When W.O.L.F. suddenly lost an older female wolf named Kaileah, her companion Ahote was left alone. W.O.L.F. gave him the time he needed to grieve for his lost companion.  When he was ready, W.O.L.F. began the search for a companion. During the search, W.O.L.F. contacted LARC to see if they knew of an appropriate female who needed a male companion. Ember immediately came to mind.

W.O.L.F. staff felt that Ember would be compatible with Ahote, so arrangements were made to fly out to LARC and pick her up.

On January 3, 2019, the transport team left for California.  The drive back to Colorado was uneventful, and the transport team could not have asked for a more well-behaved animal for the long journey. Ember slept calmly most of the time, except when the transport team offered her treats and goodies along the way. As is standard procedure for bringing in a new resident to the Sanctuary, Ember was taken to the veterinarian for a health check.  With the veterinarian’s approval, Ember was taken to W.O.L.F

Ember arrived at W.O.L.F. mid-afternoon and was placed into the lower area of Ahote’s habitat. Still groggy from the long drive and veterinarian visit, it was decided to give Ember the night to recover. In the morning, Ember was up and anxiously pacing along the front fence line.  W.O.L.F. staff decided to open the gate between her and Ahote to allow them to meet. Ahote was immediately interested in Ember. Ember was not comfortable with the situation and would tuck her tail and snap at Ahote if he came too close. Ahote would keep his distance giving her the space she needed to get acclimated.

In time, Ember adjusted to her new life at W.O.L.F.  She stopped pacing the front fence line and began to explore her habitat.  Although she still preferred to keep her distance from Ahote, she no longer reacted when he would get close. She learned quickly where the food came from.  Every time one of her caretakers would walk by her habitat, she would run to the fence line and wait for a treat.

Eventually, Ahote and Ember were seen playing together, especially when spurred on by their neighbors.  They enjoyed sleeping close to one another. The relationship between these two made it even more devastating when Ahote was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in September of 2019. While staff did not expect Ahote to survive through the end of the year, he exceeded everyone’s expectations and maintained a healthy appetite and attitude until May of 2020. During these months, Ember was not only his friend but his protector. Staff were amazed to find that on a particularly cold night, Ember had joined Ahote in his doghouse, keeping him warm. During Ahote’s good months, they ran their fence line together and formed a beautiful bond.

After Ahote’s passing, staff observed Ember watching for signs of stress and loneliness. The decision was made to pair her with Pax.  While the initial introduction seemed tense, the two appeared to relax. Later that day, it was apparent that this pairing was not a long-term solution.

A few weeks later, staff decided to introduce Jacob and Ember. There were a few moments of tension as Ember and Jacob became more comfortable with each other.  Over time, their bond strengthened. They began playing together and spending lots of time in each other’s company.

In August of 2023, Ember and Jacob were moved from Rist Canyon to their new forever home in Red Feather Lakes.  Since their move, Ember has begun to come out of her shell.  She enjoys splashing in her trough and exploring her habitat with Jacob.  She keeps a watchful eye on her caretakers’ comings and goings.