A Wolf Licked My Face!

One great experience I had this summer was helping care for wolves at Mission: Wolf in Westcliffe, Colorado. I was able to do something I thought I could only dream of: meeting a wolf.

I was able to visit Mission: Wolf thanks to a company called The Road Less Traveled. I went on a program called Colorado- 5280. 5280 refers to the altitude of Denver, although the only time I was in Denver was when I came and departed from the two-week trip. In addition to volunteering, I was lucky to be able to participate in whitewater rafting, and rockclimbing as part of the program.

My adventure started when we arrived at Mission: Wolf at around 2:00 pm. Since we could tell it was going to rain soon, we sent up our tents and then put our bags in the newly set-up tents. After all 18 of us were done, we walked up a steep driveway to the main part of the sanctuary. We soon saw the director feeding Magpie, Abe, and Zeb, the ambassador wolves. Magpie, Abe, and Zeab travel around to show people that wolves are not the violent creatures most people think of, thanks to fairy tales. After watching the wolves get fed for 15 minutes, we met our leader, R2. She told us we only had enough time to have a tour and that we would help out over the next 4 days. On the tour, my group learned about 14 wolves out for the 30 wolves at the sanctuary. I learned about the troubled pasts these wolves had and  how they have handled being at Mission: Wolf. The tour was one of my favorite parts because not only was it interesting, but it motivated me to want to help the wolves.

On day two, after a sleepless night due the howling wolves, my group and I hiked up to the main sanctuary.  My group split up to help out all around the camp. My friends and I decided to clean and organize both of the sanctuary’s cars. For two-three straight hours, we vacuumed out the cars and scrubbed down the windows. At around noon, my group had lunch. Then we had a new assignment: to sift and unsift the dirt for an on-site greenhouse to make food for the staff. For hours, my friend, a different Jack, and I did all of the work in the unsifted area. Although it was hard work, Jack and I did have a fun and felt like we were making a meaningful contribution to the sanctuary. When we were done for the day, my group and I had the experience of a lifetime: meeting the wolves. Kent, the director, taught us what to do and how to handle ourselves in almost every situation. We learned to act like “the coolest people in the world” and to not to look directly at the wolves, as a way to show superiority to them. At that point, the wolves become interested in you.. and you then get what you want: a lick. I followed these exact rules and had many licks to the face. It was awesome!!!

Of all of the days at Mission: Wolf,  day three was my least favorite day. Most of the activities of Day 3 were dull and not exciting. To start out the day,  I woke up, ate breakfast, and walked up to the main area. For about five hours of the day, shoveling dirt was all I did, and it was dirty and grueling. After finishing our goal of 4.5 tons, we went to to the gift shop. I bought a disc on the trophic cascade and a bracelet made of shedded wolf fur for my brother. After that, I had dinner and went to sleep.

Day four was simply breakfast and leaving for our next adventure.

Although meeting a wolf is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I was dispointed that I was only able to spend about 30 minutes with the wolves.  The rest of the time was spent helping the staff with chores, so the staff could spend more time helping the wolves. I wish I could have done more, but I would not have traded my experience for anything.

–Jack Greff


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