2014 Is Our 30th Anniversary
by Bill Chamberlain
U.S. Wolf Refuge Founder & Director
It was 30 years ago when I first embarked on this joyous journey. At that time I had no idea how much it would change my life and make me a better person. It was in the summer of 1984 when I first started rescuing wolves and wolf-dogs. Since that time the U.S. Wolf Refuge has saved the lives of over 1850 of these magnificent animals. Over 625 of them have at some point in their lives called the U.S. Wolf Refuge their home. In the years since I have learned a great deal about both human and wolf behavior. I have become quite aware that if we humans lived our lives with the same values, ethics and behaviors as wolves the world be a far better place and we would not be experiencing many of the environmental, societal and biological problems that we can't seem to fix.
HOW IT BEGAN
It was 1983 when I got a male vizsla puppy from a friend. I named him Bear. A 1½ year later I acquired a female Norwegian elkhound puppy to keep Bear company. I named her Heidi. The bond between them was instantaneous and they were immediately best-pals. They loved each other and everyone else.
One summer week-end Bear, Heidi and I went to a huge arts & crafts festival. At this event I experienced one of the most momentous events of my life. I always had them on leases. They would always intrigue people and they always wanted people to pet them and oogle over them. After wandering around this crowed event for several hours, a man came up to us and said, "What a well-behaved wolf you have." I responded with total astonishment. I never thought Heidi had any appearance or behavior of a wolf. I considered myself fairly knowledgeable about the many dog breeds. In the remaining time that we were at this festival several others came up and made similar comments.
These comments triggered my natural curiosity and I began to read everything I could find about wolves and wolf-dogs. I came to learn that they are a species that should be admired and respected - not feared or detested. I found that wolves were an essential part of Mother Nature’s complicated puzzle of life. I also learned that wolf-dogs had a significant presence in this country and they were controversial both behaviorally and legally. I strongly oppose the breeding of wolf-dogs. Because of what I learned about their behavior I began to question a lot of about human behavior. I found that working with wolves was where I felt the most comfortable and where I was the most effective at making the world a better place.
My involvement with wolf rescue taught me that there was a rescue group for virtually every breed of dog. There were very few rescues for wolves and wolf-dogs, and those I did find were deplorable. I started taking in wolves and wolf-dogs and before I knew it I had 27 of them. I tried to adapt many of the common practices used by many dog rescue groups and I quickly found that they were severely lacking when it came to dealing with wolves and wolf-dogs. The policies and procedures now used by the U.S. Wolf Refuge are result of years of "trial and error." The U.S. Wolf Refuge is now considered one of the finest wolf sanctuaries in the country, and how we now do things has proven most effective and is used by many others wolf facilities
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
The U.S. Wolf Refuge now has a staff of volunteers that is second to none. They give so much of their time, energy and money. I am so proud of each of them. Without them this organization would not be nearly as great as it is today. Many drive great distances to serve the needs of these animals and to develop this facility. Many even do a great job online and within their communities to spread our message.
I have always tried to surround myself with people I considered better than myself. The U.S. Wolf Refuge is now aligned with some of the world's finest wildlife conservationists and scientists. Their knowledge and input has aided us in our mission in more ways than I can describe. When we attend the World Wildlife Conservation Expo in San Francisco every year we are surrounded by the "gods" of the wildlife world and we are awed just to be in their presence. We find them to be very approachable and quite willing to share their expertise. Their input has made all of us at the U.S. Wolf Refuge better people. We are able to see things more clearly and are able to better understand nature.
The U.S. Wolf Refuge is now the home for 19 diverse canine personalities. They range from those who are more comfortable sleeping on a couch or watching TV to those who have intense anxieties about just being indoors or around humans. Some are very social and love to be with people and others are anxious when any human is around. We work tirelessly with each of them in an effort to provide them the highest quality of life possible. Through numerous life-enrichment techniques we are able to give these animals the mental, emotional and psychological stimuli that are as essential to them as food, air and water.
The U.S. Wolf Refuge has developed a series of events that we attend each year. They include big events such as the Stanford Pow Wow (Mothers Day weekend - Palo Alto,CA), Wildlife Conservation Network Expo (early October - San Francisco, CA), Petfolio Magazine's Art Paws in the Park (2nd/3rd weekend in July, Reno, NV) and others. But we also conduct numerous seminars, public presentations and public media events all across the west. The audiences of these events range from elementary school children to university graduate students and state and federal wildlife agents. Recently I have expended a great deal of time and money traveling to and speaking at the many state wildlife agency commission hearings and federal wildlife public hearings concerning the future of wolves in this country. The U. S. Wolf Refuge is often contacted as a resource for wolf related information and has been called into court as an expert witness. Our 30 years of direct experience with the hundreds of animals that we have is a rare resource that many agencies and organizations turn to for credible and reliable information.
In August of 1992 I completed the application process to be became a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. This enables us to solicit tax-deductible contributions and encourages others to join in our mission. It's unfortunate that after 30 years a significant portion of the U.S. Wolf Refuge's budget still is derived from what I earn. Trying to run the U.S. Wolf Refuge and having a job has proven to be overwhelming.
All during these 30 years I have been jotting down many of my thoughts and observations of things that humans and wolves do . From them I have drawn many hypotheses and conclusions. For the past several years I have been trying to put them together into a book. It is going to be called A Wolf's View of Man - A Sociological Comparison of Human & Wolf Behavior. It is intended to be an educational tool for us humans to see a better way to live our lives, care for our world, and to treat all life. What I have learned about wolves has made me seriously question many things about human behavior.
Over the years recruiting volunteers has been difficult. The vast majority of our projects require the strength and stamina. There have been many who have given all that they have to accomplish these tasks. The donation of a small skid-steer or garden tractor would enable many of these tasks to be done without the physical exertion required to do them using hand tools.
The 5 enclosures which range in size from just under an acre to just under 3 acres gives the animals adequate space to run and exercise. It also gives each of them the space to rest and relax in without being encroached upon by the others within that enclosure. There are provisions within each enclosure that facilitates feeding and watering without the threats or challenges of pen-mates.
WHERE WE WANT TO GO
There are numerous images of the future of the U.S. Wolf Refuge. Which of these images emerges will depend on what happens today. Presently the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed to take the wolf off of the list of endangered species. This nation's most credible and reputable scientists has found serious flaws in this proposal. There are only about 5000 wolves in only 10 states within the continental U.S. In Idaho, Montana and Wyoming alone over 2500 wolves have been slaughtered in just the last 3 years. Just recently the state of California classified any wolves within California to be endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. This inconsistency in policy is simply unacceptable.
Also presently there is no verifiable means to differentiate between a pure wolf, a wolf-dog or a dog. This has created a great deal of confusion and consternation in the legal/judicial world. I suspect that the many advances being made in canine genetics will soon correct this
This is another example of our legal system not keeping up with science. When this happens I'm hoping that the number of wolves and wolf-dogs in captivity will drastically diminish and the number of wolves in the wild will reach the level mandated by nature and not by man.
With these two things being unknown today, the future of wolves and the U.S. Wolf Refuge is uncertain. I would like to see the need for our mission and activities to no longer be needed. But as long as the impact of human existence puts our world out of balance and we do not see the effect of our behavior, the U.S. Wolf Refuge will continue.
For those who have been with us through these tumultuous years I truly thank you. For those who are just learning about us I look forward to your support and allegiance.