Background about W.O.L.F. Sanctuary
Water, Sanitation and Surroundings
First, let’s explain why W.O.L.F. exists.
There is an unregulated industry of breeding captive wolves and wolf dogs for sale as pets; it is estimated that 150,000-250,000 of these animals are born in the U.S. each year. Because wolves and wolf dogs do not behave like regular dogs, once the animals reach maturity the vast majority of these owners can no longer care for them, relegating these animals to neglect, abuse, abandonment, surrender to shelters and/or being euthanized. It is estimated that up to 95% of these animals are sentenced to death each year. In addition, society’s often fearful view of wild wolves is not in line with the reality of these animals’ behaviors and necessary roles in the ecosystem, thereby leading to inappropriate policies that are often detrimental to these majestic animals.
Because of these issues, W.O.L.F. was founded in 1995 to rescue captive-born wolves and wolf dogs that are unable to be cared for by their original owners. W.O.L.F.’s mission is to improve the quality of life for wolves and wolf dogs through Rescue, Sanctuary and Education.
Rescue – W.O.L.F. works with sanctuaries and rescue organizations around the country to try to place captive-born wolves and wolf dogs in safe and appropriate settings.
Sanctuary – We provide a life-long home at W.O.L.F. in a natural habitat that takes into account each individual wolf dog’s physical, medical, and emotional needs. Our current sanctuary location is home to 30 captive-born wolf dogs.
Education – W.O.L.F. provides the public with information about the plight of wolves and wolf dogs (both captive-born and wild) to foster a greater understanding of these animals and their value.
Our current location is not appropriate for our sanctuary for a number of reasons. The costly devastation of the 2012 High Park Fire and the ongoing threat of flooding incidents resulting from the fire’s effect make the land unsuitable for W.O.L.F.’s needs. We are also limited to only five car trips per day due to easement restrictions. No public visitations are allowed, which limits a core part of our mission to educate the public. And, the rugged, off-grid location does not allow for efficient facility operations.
W.O.L.F. is licensed by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife License #16sanc738 and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture License 84-C-0071. We are subject to routine unannounced inspections and audits. In addition, W.O.L.F. is an accredited member of the American Sanctuary Association.
Along with this, W.O.L.F. complies with any applicable State and County guidelines and regulations.
W.O.L.F. is NOT a breeding facility. We are committed to helping resolve the problem of tens of thousands of unwanted captive-bred wolves and wolf dogs being euthanized in shelters every year. Each of our animals is spayed or neutered upon joining the W.O.L.F. family unless medical reasons prevent the procedure. If an animal cannot be spayed or neutered, we only place that animal with an individual who has been sterilized to prevent any chances of an accidental litter. Because all of the animals we take in have been born in captivity, it would be inappropriate to release any of them into the wild. They do not have the knowledge needed to survive and be healthy in the wild, and it would be ecologically unethical to release wolf dogs into wild wolf populations.
W.O.L.F. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We receive our funding through private donations, fundraisers, grants and merchandise sales. We do not receive any money from any governmental entities, nor will we ask for any cost reductions from the County. The majority of the money we raise each year comes from small donations by everyday people who care about the welfare of these animals. Thanks to our dedicated and generous donors, we have raised in total approximately $1.5M towards our $2M Wild Hearts at Home capital campaign goal to help cover the cost of the new property and infrastructure build out for the animals.
W.O.L.F. had been searching for several years for a property within Larimer County that was appropriate for our needs, along with being affordable. We also needed a property that was zoned by the County which would allow for our sanctuary to be built.
Negotiations with the owner of the Livermore property began in the autumn of 2015. As we moved along in the process, W.O.L.F.’s goal was to lease the property while going through the County’s lengthy Special Review process. We had offered a nonrefundable down payment as good faith monies to hold the property off the market. However, early in 2016, the owner requested that W.O.L.F. purchase the property outright that spring or it would be placed back on the market. After doing a risk assessment, it was voted on by W.O.L.F.’s Board of Directors to move forward on the purchase of the property.
As we begin the Special Review process, W.O.L.F. looks forward to working cooperatively with Larimer County to ensure that all policies, procedures, regulations and requirements are followed.
There are a number of reasons why W.O.L.F. chose the new location in Livermore.
- Both paid staff and volunteers will need to live within a reasonable driving distance of the sanctuary. Volunteers are the life blood of our organization, just like with so many other nonprofits, and being too remotely located would have a negative impact on volunteer participation. As it is, most will have to drive over an hour to reach our new location.
- A core part of W.O.L.F.’s mission is education. Being close enough to where the public (including schools) can access our facility is integral toward being able to teach about the plight of wolves and wolf dogs, thereby having an impact on how these animals are viewed and treated.
- Zoning that would allow for our sanctuary was key to the property purchase. This property is zoned “open,” which means many other types of residential and non-residential development could have been considered (either by right or conditionally). Though it would be up to the County to decide the correct fit under this category, some of these developments would have had a much different impact on the land and surroundings than would our sanctuary. [The open zoning page is at
It is possible, but the current Sketch Plan submitted to the County was designed to ask for everything W.O.L.F. could dream right up front to determine which dreams were feasible to pursue. Please keep in mind that W.O.L.F. may very well have some items in our current Sketch Plan denied.
We estimate at this point that W.O.L.F. will be calling the Livermore property “home” in 2021.
The wolf dogs’ enclosures will be placed near meadows and rock escarpments to help dampen any noise. Along with this, a noise study will be performed by an independent sound engineer. Past studies conducted at our current Rist Canyon location have shown that impact on neighbors was minimal, if at all. Typically the
frequency of animals howling is about 5-6 times per day for very short periods of time (as in, just a few minutes at a time).
We are aware that noise is a MAJOR and rightful concern for many neighbors, and we are doing our best to provide you with the most accurate information possible.
W.O.L.F. is waiting on the detailed proposal from an independent sound engineering company based in Denver. This company has conducted a noise study for another local animal organization; therefore, they are familiar with properly evaluating the impact of sound produced by animals. What we know so far is that this firm will do a noise study at our current sanctuary location, conduct background noise studies at various locations at our Livermore site and areas around that property, then create modeling using both sets of data from the two sites. This study will create the best results that can be had prior to W.O.L.F. moving to the site. Of course Larimer County will determine what standards need to be met and assure that W.O.L.F. is meeting those standards before any approval can be considered.
The property where the sanctuary is now located is in a fairly steep-walled ravine on both sides, which makes sounds echo and amplified in the immediate area. The Livermore property is geographically very different, which will affect sound travel differently. Again, we will design enclosures to centralize sounds onto our own property with minimal sound being heard elsewhere. Will you be able to hear a wolf? Possibly, very much in the distance, depending on where you are located.
Some of our current neighbors (living as close as 1/4 of a mile away) have said they hear the wolves a bit but it’s not bothersome and will miss the sound once W.O.L.F. moves. Several of these neighbors have written to the County with their personal experiences of having lived near W.O.L.F. for a number of years. [See more information below under “Neighbor Relations.”]
Visits at our facility will be pre-scheduled, guided and limited in size to minimize impact on the wolf dogs. The main gate to the sanctuary will be closed at other times. Visitors will include those people already visiting the area (Red Feather Lakes, Ben Delatour Boy Scout Ranch, Shambhala Mountain Center, etc.) along with mostly local and Northern Colorado residents.
Per the Larimer County Engineering Department’s guidelines, W.O.L.F. will be instructed by Larimer County on how to comply with the Larimer County Rural Area Road Standards.
The information submitted in the County-required Sketch Plan shows a “guesstimate” of how many people may be visiting the sanctuary in a day. Mind you, there are many variables that could affect the estimated maximum number/day listed below. A wet spring or summer and cold wintery weather could lead to no visitors at all on any given day, or even for days in a row, along with many other issues that could affect visitor numbers.
For the first year, once W.O.L.F. has fully moved in and is able to receive visitors (late 2021 or mid-2022), we estimate up to 20 visitors per day; year two, up to 40; years 3-5, up to 80; and beyond that (a far-out projection, depending upon so many variables, including County approvals or disapprovals), there could be up to 120 visitors/day. Please note that this is number of actual people visiting, NOT the number of vehicles driving to the sanctuary per day. So if we have a school bus with 30 children on a field trip to the sanctuary, that is only one vehicle.
Pre-scheduled guided visits will allow visitors to observe selected social animals with a one-hour educational experience to learn about wolves and wolf dogs, and to learn about the tragedies of breeding and owning exotics, with emphasis on wolves and wolf dogs. Guided visits will be conducted year-round, currently predicted to be scheduled for Wednesdays through Sundays (none on Mondays and Tuesdays). The suggested schedule for visits being conducted: Summer: 10am, noon, 2pm, and 4pm / Winter: 10am, noon and 2pm. This schedule is open to change (reduction in visits) if appropriate. All visits will be conducted with the well-being of the wolf dogs as the number one priority.
Our staff is small but would grow slightly, along with our number of volunteers. We will have an on-site, full-time caretaker. As we do now at our current location in Rist Canyon, we will encourage volunteers to carpool where appropriate to reduce traffic to the area. Staff, volunteers and interns will normally work at the sanctuary from 8am to 5pm (6pm in the summer, depending upon visit schedules, and varying occasionally if we host special workshops or events). The duties consist of animal care, facility maintenance and upkeep, educational visits, administration and merchandise sales (if a small gift shop is approved).
You are correct about the current driveway–that was something we knew needed correction even before purchasing the property. Yes, we do plan to move the driveway entrance. The County’s Engineering Department has strict guidelines that need to be followed per the criteria found in the Larimer County Land Use Code and Larimer County Rural Area Road Standards. W.O.L.F. will abide by County requirements related to traffic issues, along with all of the appropriate fees and permits.
W.O.L.F. has already been through one evacuation during the High Park Fire of 2012. We are well prepared with a detailed evacuation plan and have three retrofitted livestock and horse trailers that can carry all 30 animals to safety. [If we eventually have more animals residing at the sanctuary, we will have another trailer, depending upon the number of animals at that time.] There will be core staff and seasoned volunteers who will be called in to help with the evacuation, but that number will be minimal.
In addition, W.O.L.F. has already begun fire mitigation efforts at the new property to be able to minimize as much as possible the impact that a wildfire would have coming through the area.
We will also work with the local fire department to assure that the building and internal roadway layout is adequate for their purposes, along with other recommendations they might have.
Feces are picked up daily at the lower section of the enclosures, along with any extra food that’s not eaten (which is rare), bagged in thick mil plastic bags and taken to the landfill. These sanitation procedures are required by the USDA. The upper portion of enclosures are cleaned weekly. Some animals prefer to defecate mostly in the lower section; others poo in their enclosures wherever their spirits moves them at the moment!
Enclosures are cleaned more regularly than most homeowners’ back yards where dogs reside and “do their business.” Because of the frequency of cleaning, the impact is extremely minimal. The reality is that much wildlife already lives on and around that property (we have lots of scat evidence), and their feces are definitely loaded with bacteria and other waste products.
In the past, the County Health Department has approved of W.O.L.F.’s handling of wolf dog waste and did not anticipate any impact on water quality.
Only about 150-200 gallons of water per day are used for operations at our current location—that’s for animals, cleaning up after food preparation, and for humans. W.O.L.F.’s water use is less than an average Fort Collins household’s water usage. When W.O.L.F. is open to visitors, water usage will go up, but all efforts will be made to minimize the amount used (low-flush toilets, etc.).
This property has five springs. The spring feeding the cabin and barn runs year-round; of course the gallons per minute is variable, based upon precipitation. Current projections are that this same spring will be sufficient for these structures for several years. With an increase in water usage, a well will be installed. We are currently working with a local water attorney and plumbers to make certain W.O.L.F. has an adequate potable water supply year-round.
Not accurate. There is plenty of vegetation on the property; in fact, we are working on removing excess vegetation and slash that may make a wildfire worse. In addition, our plans include having several extra enclosures where we can rotate out wolf dog pairs for a period of time so as to give their enclosures a break from treading on the vegetation, thereby being good stewards of the land.
Almost all of the food W.O.L.F. uses is pre-packaged meat donated by grocery stores, food banks and individuals, along with donated excess meat and bones from hunters. No animals are ever slaughtered on site or by any W.O.L.F. staff and never will be.
To create meals for the wolf dogs, staff and volunteers make loaves of meat from the donated food that are placed in Rubbermaid containers which hold about 2-3 pounds of meat per wolf dog, per day, then frozen until given to the animals in partially thawed loaves. All handling of meat, cleaning of the area and disposal of unused items is handled per the USDA‘s strict guidelines to ensure ideal sanitary conditions. Packaging, meat scraps and related items are bagged and taken to the County landfill.
The wolf dogs are also provided with dry kibble in lidded metal feeders so they have food available at all times. These feeders are checked daily to ensure that the food is fresh; food that is not is disposed of and taken to the County landfill.
At the sanctuary’s current location in Rist Canyon, wildlife do NOT seem to be very affected by the presence of the wolf dogs. Deer, elk, rabbits, wild turkeys, moose, bears, bobcats, weasels, turkey vultures and other birds have been spotted near the enclosures. And cows and horses even come to visit! Deer will bed down for the night next to our enclosures.
At our new location, wildlife migration patterns will be minimally affected, if at all. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Division in Denver issued a response to the County on 8/18/16 that stated it had “no concerns” about W.O.L.F.’s proposal. W.O.L.F. is working with CO Parks & Wildlife (CPW) to confirm migration patterns for various wildlife through the property based on the latest data. In addition, since enclosures are only on a small portion of the property, wildlife will have many areas through which to roam. As mentioned above and seen below, having wolf dogs in enclosures does NOT mean wildlife will not be passing close by!
Our two buildings are in an area of our property where it will have no effect on the Red Feather Highlands neighborhood. One of those buildings is the small caretaker’s cabin, which will have minimal exterior lighting anyway. The lighting around the outbuilding (and the Nature Center, if it is approved to be built several years down the road) will be set to minimize impact on W.O.L.F.’s own property, let alone affecting other properties. We will do our best to meet the standards of the International Dark-Sky Association guidelines for lighting on our premises.
W.O.L.F. has been under entirely new management since July of 2012. Shelley Coldiron, Ph.D., became Executive Director after the former director resigned during the High Park Fire. Dr. Coldiron has spent many decades working within the animal welfare community and brings her CEO business skills to improve upon W.O.L.F.’s mission of helping captive-born wolves and wolf dogs.
Dr. Coldiron has implemented many new guidelines within W.O.L.F. to improve safety, regulatory compliance, and relationships with neighbors and the rest of the community. W.O.L.F. now has a very good, respectful working relationship with the County and is proactive in making sure it complies with all regulations and permitting.
In speaking with neighbors recently (with one household located 1/4 of a mile from the nearest wolf dog enclosure), they’ve had no concerns since W.O.L.F. has been under new management over noise, property value or other issues we’ve heard mentioned by prospective RFL neighbors. If you’d like to hear first-hand views about living next to the sanctuary, please read the attached comments that had been emailed by current neighbors to County Planner Rob Helmick. Another close-by neighbor, Kevin, would be happy to answer questions if you email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you can see above and in the notes attached to these FAQs from current neighbors, the sanctuary has not had an impact on neighbors’ property values.
According to Fred Johnston of Summit Real Estate in Red Feather Lakes, neighboring mountain property real estate values generally benefit from the preservation of large tracts of land used for nature-based educational attractions. An example for the area would be the Shambhala Mountain Center on Boy Scout Camp Road, where neighboring real estate prices have increased.
Another rumor that we can put to rest. For 30 animals, we would use no more than about 25 acres for enclosures – that’s less than 15 percent being used for enclosures of the entire 180 acres! Even if the County were to allow up to 60 wolf dogs over time, you can do the math on that.
The rumors about this are not true. At a Glacier View Fire Protection District meeting on August 15, 2016, it was suggested that W.O.L.F. work with GVFPD to create a contract whereby W.O.L.F. pays an agreed-upon amount to cover services that may be needed. Because of this, local taxpayers are not carrying any of the cost of W.O.L.F.’s potential need for emergency services.
Going through the County’s Special Review process is NOT a one-step, quick deal. W.O.L.F.’s Special Review will take 12-14 months, and there are numerous steps along the way that have to meet approval and strict guidelines to be able to continue moving forward. The following site explains the process, including the timeline for the formal neighborhood meeting where the County will hear input: https://www.larimer.org/planning/planning/ProjectDocuments/15-Z1983_special_review_process_guide.pdf
W.O.L.F. decided to hold an open house (NOT the one required by the County) on July 17 to receive input from various neighbors. Postcards were sent by W.O.L.F. to residents who lived within about a 1.5 to 2-mile radius. Addresses were pulled from the County’s database only. A few postcards were returned by the post office, usually due to “addressee unknown” or “insufficient address.” About 75 people attended that open house.
The informational meeting at the RFL Library on August 13th that followed the W.O.L.F. educational presentation was a very impromptu and informal meeting at the Red Feather Lakes Library set up that day through a suggestion by a Glacier Gal because of the numerous questions being received about the W.O.L.F. property. This was done on very short notice and not a way to try to “hide” information from residents.
More rumors that are not true, based on someone apparently misinterpreting the initial Sketch Plan submitted by W.O.L.F. to the County.
In actuality, there are County setback requirements from building near a property line. We will comply with County regulations, which are much greater than 10-foot setbacks. As for the fencing….due to the location of the enclosures, the fencing cannot be seen by people driving by. And the neighbors who may be able to see the enclosures would have to be at higher elevation and looking down into the property—those appear to be very few properties and ones located farther away from the sanctuary.
Well, we guess that all of the fire investigators, firefighters and police must have missed THAT one! Seriously, it is well documented that the High Park Fire was caused by a lightning strike. The tree that was struck was located above Buckhorn Road (NOT close to the W.O.L.F. property) and identified as the ignition point. Here’s one site for information: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/2904/
There are MANY misunderstandings about wolves that have led to unnecessary fear and policies that are detrimental to the species. For instance, it is extraordinarily rare for a wolf to attack a human, with the few attacks that have occurred in the U.S. usually being attributed to wolves that are ill.
One thing also to remember: W.O.L.F. Sanctuary is home to captive-born wolf dogs; these are not wild wolves. Our wolf dogs were born and raised in captivity and have not been taught to live and hunt in the wild as wild wolves have.
When we move to the new property, the enclosures will have been designed and built with the assistance of a fencing professional who has worked on projects involving wild animal fencing and the Denver Zoo. In addition, W.O.L.F. has already had input from other sanctuaries and will use its own 21 years of experience to build the safest, most effective and wolf dog-friendly enclosures possible.
People misunderstand wolf dogs and what may be said about them. In educational presentations, our staff explains that wolf dogs have, in a sense, multiple personalities (NOT multiple personality “disorders” as one person claimed!) – they are part dog and part wolf, so their behaviors aren’t necessarily what you’d expect solely from a dog or solely from a wolf. The wolf part may be more standoffish toward humans; the wolf part is also very smart, needs stimulation, and doesn’t like to be confined to a small home or area (hence wolf dogs being surrendered when they chew up a person’s couch or escape from a small backyard that has only a six-foot fence). However, every animal has their unique personality. We have some high-content wolf dogs who absolutely love human contact and can’t wait to give staff and volunteers kisses and get lots of pets.
As with any animal (including domestic dogs and cats), the unique personality of that animal has to be taken into account. But if people are concerned about wolves and wolf dogs, please know that the CDC estimates that 4.5 MILLION domestic dog bites occur each year (http://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/). Please realize that you and your children are much more likely to be bitten by someone’s pet dog than another animal.
Staff and volunteers have guidelines on working with our wolf dogs, and all animals will live in well-designed enclosures that are ¾ to one acre in size that will nearly eliminate any risk of escape (please see the Sketch Plan submitted to the County with details on enclosures and fencing).
In Dr. Coldiron’s tenure, one animal named Cree did escape in April of 2013. Cree is a wolf dog who had been running loose around an Indian reservation in New Mexico for what we estimate could have been much of her 7-8 years of life, probably mainly surviving on scraps from human trash and small animals such as rodents.
Within 12 hours of arriving at W.O.L.F., Cree climbed the fencing and jumped. We worked with wildlife biologists, a veterinarian who aided with the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, media, authorities, other sanctuaries and neighbors to keep Cree safe and guide her safely back to the sanctuary and to her companion. Cree was never a danger to people; she was frightened from being in an unfamiliar place. The imminent danger was Cree being hit on a roadway or being shot out of fear.
At the time of Cree’s escape, Dr. Coldiron had been the Executive Director for less than a year, dealing with the devastation of the High Park Fire and subsequent flooding events. Cree’s adventure brought to attention modifications needed for enclosure build, which were implemented. Additionally, what this instance provides is assurance of our transparency of W.O.L.F.’s operations.
As with Cree, we will notify neighbors, authorities and media immediately of an escape. We have tried to join local online Nextdoor neighborhoods such as Red Feather Highlands as a quick way to stay in touch with our neighbors, but the moderator of the Highlands Nextdoor group apparently is not amendable to adding W.O.L.F. into their Nextdoor community. We understand the Glacier View moderator is amenable to our joining their Nextdoor community list, and we’ll research other Nextdoor communities in which we hopefully can be included. And W.O.L.F. will research other methods whereby it can quickly notify neighbors.
All of our wolf dogs are regularly examined and vaccinated against rabies, distemper, parvo and other common diseases and given preventatives for parasites such as heartworm. Animals over the age of 12 may not be vaccinated per veterinary protocol because of sufficient immunity from past vaccinations and the risk in an elderly animal of having a negative immune response. If a new wolf dog is coming into the sanctuary from out of state, W.O.L.F. must receive a health certificate from the originating state with a health history for that animal. If no health history is available, that animal is first driven to one of our local participating veterinary hospitals and given a thorough health evaluation. If the wolf dog has health issues where it may need to recuperate before being released into its new enclosure at our sanctuary, it is taken care of at our off-site infirmary. [An on-site infirmary will be available at our Livermore property; having an on-site infirmary at our current Rist Canyon location is not feasible, unfortunately.]
- W.O.L.F. is staffed 24 hours/day, seven days a week. There is always a highly-trained staff member on site to monitor the animals.
- W.O.L.F. will have a number of security cameras placed throughout the property that will record and be monitored day and night by on-site personnel. This will allow staff to identify and remediate situations quickly, be it within an enclosure or elsewhere on the property. We will have at least one person also walk the area at random times, day and night, to watch for any unusual activity and check on enclosures and the animals. Unwelcome two- and four-legged mammals will be dealt as the situation requires.
- When bears are active in the area, we have solar-powered electric wire on the exterior of the enclosures and meat storage shed to dissuade the bears from approaching these structures.