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August 2018

Hello everybody! Welcome, and thank you for joining us this month for another round of your trusty Monthly Howl. August marks the final month of summer and the intense heat has now mostly passed. The animals are happier with the temperature, and so are the humans. A couple of pretty cool things took place this last month including the rescue of two new baby foxes! We also had another large shift in our volunteer pool, saying goodbye to one volunteer, welcoming back a previous one, and saying hello to three newcomers. We also experienced a bit of scare due to an animal digging her way into an adjacent enclosure, and despite the fact these new volunteers were inexperienced, they performed beautifully during a spontaneous capture. Read on to get the details!

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Up until this last month, WSWS had only ever rescued one fox, and his name is Romeo. Romeo is an amazing little guy with a huge fan base! He is one of the few animals we have here who was actually born in the wild, and was originally rescued by a zoo. After he spent a few years at this zoo, they lost their funding and had to close down. We originally went to this zoo to rescue Tundra wolves. As fate would have it, Leyton came across this handsome fellow and fell in love. Shortly after the arrival of the three Tundra wolves, we were asked to in our first fox! Romeo has lived with us for nearly a decade!

A few months back, there was a possibility of rescuing two Arctic foxes and the prospect was rather exciting. Before preparing for the potential arrival of new foxes, we applied with Game & Fish to rescue them. Unfortunately, since Arctic foxes are not native to our area, our application was denied. Game & Fish only requires us to provide documentation on the fox and in order to rescue other foxes; we need to apply with them.

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Shortly after, we heard of baby foxes in need. This time, they were a mixture of red and gray foxes, both of which are native to our area! We jumped at the opportunity to bring them into the family. These fox kits were the product of humans breeding several generations of foxes with domestication being the ultimate goal. Their genetics have been selectively bred for over six generations, selecting for tameness and friendly behavior. We believe that the breeders were attempting to recreate the famous, Russian fox domestication experiments.

River and Rumi were born into this world and their original purpose was to become pets in someone’s home. Due to changes in legal zoning in their home state, this eventuality could no longer play itself out and a more permanent home was needed. Thankfully, they were taken in by Keepers of the Bond for fostering until forever homes were found for each of the kits. We were happy to step in for two of the kits.

When they first arrived with their caretaker, they appeared to be somewhat friendly, but very timid and skittish; certainly not a domestic pet! Almost as soon as this caretaker left, they became very stand-offish and even a little nippy, and thus seemed to be display a more “wild” nature, which generations of breeding had not been able to remove. The irony of it is, Romeo is incredibly friendly and yet is wild born!

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At the moment, they are sharing an adjacent enclosure with Romeo and have not interacted with Romeo without a fence in between them. Our hope was that Romeo would be happy to have friends, but he has shown no interest in either of them. Since they will not live with Romeo, we are setting our eyes on fixing up a temporary habitat, all for them. In the meantime, we switch the foxes around so the kits can run and play in Romeo’s side of the habitat, while Romeo explores their space. It’s enriching for Romeo to smell their area, and although he may not pay much mind to the kits, he sure does love their kitty litter box!

August was a month with a huge volunteer turn around and this is not surprising, as the summer often bestows a wealth of volunteers. We said our bittersweet farewells to long-term volunteer, Chase Whitney. We are very thankful for the time he gave us, the hard work he put in, and all he did for the rescues in our care. Chase is an easy going, fun-loving and dedicated young man, and we hope he continues thriving where ever he goes!

Also, our July blog was all about volunteering. We will take the time now to say thank you to Alex, who finished his term in July. Alex was a valuable member to our team for close to eight months. He helped us with Animal Care and worked hard in the Building & Maintenance department. We hope that Alex is faring well back in the northeast!

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We love it when previous volunteers decide they want to take on another round of volunteering at WSWS. It tells us we did not scare them off with all the work we have for people to do around here! Clarissa Gibson volunteer for short time a couple of years ago and has come back for at least another six months. After she ended her first bout with us, she went on to work in the animal field in other ways, like working at an Emergency Vet Hospital. She was blown away by how much she learned at Wild Spirit and how it massively served her in her animal career. Despite the fact that she did great her first time around, she felt that she could learn more and do even better on the second go around. We are happy to have Clarissa back!

We also welcomed three new volunteers in August. They have been giving their all to the rescues and have been rocking it! Welcome to the pack, Quinn Falconer, Maddy Beck and Paul Lavaque! Maddy and Quinn are from the States – Washington and California, while Paul comes to all the way from Argentina. To say there has been some culture shock would be an understatement, but the international presence is one of the great things about being a volunteer here, as it adds so much diversity and lots of opportunity to learn from other cultures. So far things are working out well and we have high hopes for this new team indeed.

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All three have shown to be wonderfully adaptable and to possess the ability to learn quickly, which showcased itself in an emergency capture we had to perform on wolf-dog, Mystique. Mystique lives wolf-dog Kabbalah in an enclosure adjacent to rescues, Draco and Leia. Apparently, she has an intense desire to be with “her babies”! We aren’t sure what relation Mystique is to wolf-dogs, Leia, Quinn and Lyca, but Lyca looks like her the most. We know that Kabbalah is their father. It’s possible that Mystique looks at Leia as one of her own, and Draco being about as young as Leia, potentially cares for him just as much. The ground wire had been fixed once before, but the patchwork was not very strong, leaving a vulnerable spot at the two habitats. With soft sand and strong paws, it took no time for Mystique to dig a hole big enough to get through to the other side. Unfortunately, we do not know how the four would do in a habitat together long-term, so we had to capture Mystique and stick her back in with Kabbalah.

Thankfully nobody was injured and no fight broke out over territory. Mystique was moved back without incident; we added extra chain-link to the ground wire that had been torn apart and added more dirt to the area. This incident made it apparent that we need to add new ground wire to the one our oldest habitats here. We are strategizing on how to approach this new project as it will require at all hands to get the job done efficiently and quickly for Mystique’s sake – as she is not one of our social rescues and does not like to be in the presence of so many humans.

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Last, but not least, we took rescues Argo and Rain to the vet in August. Sadly, both received diagnosis’ that weren’t the best. Rain has a nailbed sarcoma and Argo has a low-grade sarcoma on his front, right elbow. We will not operate on either.

Rain, although only 14 years old, is very frail. Although the toe would be the only thing that would need to be amputated, the aftercare would require us to put hands on her every day for 3-4 weeks. Rain is a social rescue thankfully, but she’s not one that will allow for us to touch her paw without struggle. Staff met about the decision on Rain several times, discussing everything in great detail about what could be done for her, what would be the most humane option and most importantly, what would best serve her. The other option would be to let Rain live out the rest of her days in peace, spray her toe with an iodine solution each day and if needed, cycle her on antibiotics and of course, provide her with pain management.

We decided to allow Rain to live the rest of her life with her companion, Nimoy, instead of risking losing her on the surgery table, as the likelihood of her coming out of anesthesia was lower than we’d like. Nimoy was very happy to have Rain come back that day and when we took her out the next day after spraying her toe, he ran around the habitat howling in distress, thinking that we were taking her away again. Rain sleeps all day, but in the mornings, she’s the most active and relishes in the opportunity to go out on leashed walks with Nimoy by her side. We believe we made the best decision for them both, but will continue to monitor Rain closely. Otherwise, Rain seems to be in good spirits and her appetite is healthy – something that has always been a struggle with Rain, bad toe or not!

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Argo on the other hand, is not a social animal. We would have to keep Argo drugged in order to provide him the aftercare needed if we went ahead with the removal of his growth. However, the location of the sarcoma poses another problem. It’s a very mobile area and doesn’t have a lot of skin to close up with stitches, meaning the stitches would easily tear. As of now, the growth is not impacting Argo’s movement and does not appear to be causing pain. We will monitor the growth, and should it begin to cause issues for Argo, staff will discuss the option of “shaving the growth down”.

Thank you for joining us for the August edition of the Monthly Howl!

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Monthly Howl- July 2018

Hello all! We are very pleased you have joined us for the Monthly Howl! August has been a busy month so we apologize for the delayed July edition. The Monthly Howl was created to give you a vicarious taste of what it is like at Wild Spirit and to keep you informed of the previous month’s activities, success and challenges. For July, we wanted to give you something a bit different and geared towards helping you better understand an important and vital piece of the sanctuary: our volunteers!

For 25+ years, volunteers have been a fundamental part of WSWS. Without volunteers, things would be very difficult and effectively caring for over 65 animals year round would not be possible. If it were not for the immense generosity of the human spirit, and the willingness for complete strangers to leave behind their homes to come serve disenfranchised exotic animals, the sanctuary would likely not exist.

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The accommodations at the sanctuary are not superb, the environment can be harsh, and the work can be very hard. You would consider it a miracle that people actually come here to face down all of the obstacles for no pay! Yes we do offer free room and board, but even those resources are modest because our primary focus is taking care of the rescues, so our monetary resources are predominantly transferred in their direction. Yet, year after year, selfless human beings make it out to the high-desert, New Mexican wilderness to take care of rescued animals in need.

Becoming a volunteer here is not easy either! Applicants first send their cover letter and resume, are then sent an application and then they face a panel interview, with 3-4 interviewers, consisting of challenging and at times, intimate questions. Our application process is thorough so that we can weed out individuals who we feel will not transition well into becoming “part of the pack”. We bring only those we feel are committed to the cause, are generous of spirit and are able to acclimate to communal living.

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For those unfamiliar with sharing a living space with complete strangers, the move into the bustling and bubbling volunteer sphere at WSWS can be a bit of shock. We have one 700 SQ foot kitchen that is sometimes shared by up to ten people! We only have two shower rooms (both located in the campground), making shower time a dance as we all attempt to get our showers in before all of the hot water is used up and trek back to our dwelling. Although we provide food, we do not buy junk food. We strive to supply only “real food” for our volunteers, as we consider junk food to be a waste of the precious and limited resources supplied by our trusted donors. Housing units are rustic and can be considered by some to be primitive. Only two of our current units have kitchens and both are occupied by staff members. Many of our housing units are not on grid power and subsist on the bare minimum provided by solar panels that were donated or purchased years ago. We believe it is quite a feat of the human spirit to be able to give selflessly while expecting very little in return!

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The interview process and environmental challenges are only the tip of the iceberg endured by our volunteers, as arriving here is only the beginning. Every person with an interest in working with the animals must undergo a 2 week training process, with days lasting up to 13 hours in the summer. They must learn the intricacies of sanctuary life, the layout of the land, the names of every single animal and what medications they take, and know where every single lock, chain and clip belongs. It can be a difficult process for some. At the end of their training period, volunteers are required to pass two exams, one written and the other verbal, with 100% accuracy. This way we can ensure that our rescues will get the quality of care they deserve and what we have come to be known for.

Working with our animals is a privilege, not a right, and it is one that must be earned over time. In fact, being accepted as an animal care volunteer does not guarantee that one will be allowed to work with the animals, and it especially does not mean that one will work one on one with a wolf! The staff has implemented a habitat “maintenance scale” moving from Beginner maintenance (relatively safe) to Very High maintenance (relatively risky). There is no guarantee that an individual will move beyond Low maintenance habitats which consist of dogs, New Guinea singing dogs, foxes and low-content or shy wolf-dogs. We do not train volunteers on animals based off of their desire, but instead train based off of the needs of each animal.

 

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Every habitat has specific training parameters known only by a few select staff members, and much of it is knowledge gleaned over years of working with specific animals and by working “in the trenches”. The skill set required to work with higher maintenance animals is broad as one needs character traits of humility, intuition and empathy, as well as the clear understanding of the particulars needed from each individual animal. If a volunteer cannot display this unique combination of traits, it can be the case that the individual will not move to higher maintenance habitats and may spend their 6-month commitment with “safer” animals. This possibility must be accepted willingly as it is important to realize that our bosses are in fact the wolves, wolf-dogs and other canines, as it is them who we are working for.

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If one has never been out to the sanctuary in person, it may be difficult to appreciate how isolated this area is. We are two and half hours away from the largest city in New Mexico and at least an hour away from any town. It is possible for one to experience cabin fever, home sickness and romantic loneliness while spending 6 months or more in a remote location, working one’s tail off in a thankless job. The animals we work for do not say “thank you” for their 365 days of consistent care.

Despite all of the potential stumbling blocks, the reward can be immense if a volunteer is willing to cross these bridges with an open heart and tenacious spirit. Based off of the testimonial of hundreds of volunteers over the years, we know that few experiences can compare to the pure, soul enriching, joy that comes from the selfless work, freely given to the wild canines that reside here. The bonds that can be built with our rescues may last a lifetime. For many, the rescues that volunteers connect with become dear cherished friends; some even consider them on par with family. Few things can be as rewarding!

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Strong human connections are often forged here as well, and sometimes even lead to marriage! Most of us get to know each other rather intimately as we spend nearly every day with one another, share three meals at the same table, and often spend much of our free time together as well. Robust and animated conversations abound and playful banter is the norm. To volunteer here is to truly become a part of a family that is connected by one singular and deeply entrenched purpose.

Many leave here feeling as though they are stronger, more capable and mature individuals. Not much at WSWS is easy, but as the old axiom goes, “nothing good comes easy”. The difficulties and rewards at WSWS are special and unique amongst animal sanctuaries. To volunteer here is not just a trial by fire, but also a living tradition where you can become a part of a pack and do truly meaningful work.

Monthly Howl – June 2018

Hello! We’re happy to have you join us for the June edition of the Monthly Howl! As we’re in the middle of summer, we’re moving forward nice and steady with our mission, while adapting and contending with the heat. June brought out about some changes such as saying farewell to two long-term volunteers and welcoming another. Riot and Cinder received a cave house in June and we also began to plan for our annual Howl-o-Ween event which will double as our Open House as it did last year.

At Wild Spirit, our volunteers become our family. They integrate into a small community with a common mission and fall in love with the rescues they help care for. It’s always sad to say goodbye to those who have come to live and work here, dedicating so much time and their heart to the lives of rescues we provide sanctuary for. Long-term volunteers, Tom Neider and Kaity Moody departed in June. They were both highly valued and appreciated for their daily commitment to our cause.

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Tom was a well-rounded asset around our Sanctuary as he was in trained in our Animal Care department and was also highly experienced in the Building & Maintenance department. It’s not common for Animal Care volunteers to come in with the knowledge that Tom came in with for things in the Maintenance department, so it is an understatement when we say that he was a rare volunteer. Tom will be difficult to replace. He is an extremely hard worker and cares about the getting the job done, and done well. Tom had volunteered with us before for a short period and came back for a full year last summer. We love it when former volunteers come back! Tom is going to school to become a Certified Journeyman Electrician. We could not be more proud of him! We will miss his mild mannered and eclectic sense of humor. We wish him success with all of his endeavors!

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Kaity was a dedicated and competent individual who put in a lot of work to make the sanctuary a better place. Kaity is a go getter and is never satisfied with doing things at a level below her capabilities. As her time went on her, she put her artistic skills to use by working on glass etchings for the sanctuary and was an overall, reliable and useful member of the pack. We hope that whatever she pursues brings her joy and success, and we are grateful for her dedication to this place!

As you all know, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary relies heavily on volunteers to run effectively.  We are sad to say that at the moment, we are experiencing a bit of a dry spell when it comes to volunteer applications and we are feeling it! If you know of anyone who has ever wanted to volunteer with us, now would be a great time to let them know! Besides the fact that the two volunteers who recently departed were awesome, their loss has been amplified by how shorthanded we are during the busiest season of the year. Not only do our visitor numbers increase by 500% compared to the winter, we also have an increased workload related to caring for the animals and helping them adjust to the heat!

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One way we can help our rescues in the summer is by plucking or brushing out the shedding winter coats of our social rescues. By the end of spring, our rescues begin to shed their winter coat to cope with the heat of summer. The molting fur is uncomfortable and itchy for them and keeps them too warm. For the rescues that are not social, they help themselves by rubbing against the fence or trees to get the excess fur off, or they will use their mouth to pluck themselves. For older rescues that begin to have a harder time shedding due to slower metabolism, we provide coconut oil treats to help them shed easier.

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Besides plucking the excess fur off of our rescues, summer is the time we pull out the donated cattle troughs that we call “splash tubs”, place them in all habitats that do not yet have a pond and fill, clean and refill each of them each week. Providing the splash tubs provides immediate relief from the heat. The rescues jump in and “splash” in their tubs, getting the cool water on their legs, face and underbelly. Some have even figured out that they get maximum relief when they lie down in their filled tubs!

Since tub/pond cleaning and filling has become part of our summer routine over the years, we forget how much water we use to provide the necessary cooling relief to our rescues. The amount of water that is displaced (splashed or dumped out, and used to refill) totals at over 2,000 gallons; that’s over 13,000 gallons in a 6 day period! These numbers do not include the amount of water used to fill their drinking water buckets. To say the least, it requires a lot of hard work to keep our rescues cool with this project alone. This is why it is so important to us to have long-term animal care volunteers, as they are central to our success as a sanctuary.

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Thankfully, in order to help us with the increased workload, Sean joined our team! Sean has been a professional chef for most of his adult life and has proven to be quite handy in the Wolf Kitchen. Sean’s presence is certainly being felt and seen as he makes our Wolf Kitchen run more efficiently, helps with whatever is needed, and has a great sense of humor that elevates the mood whenever he is around. Sean lived in Albuquerque for a few years and was looking for his next big adventure. His mother, who had visited before and fell in love with us, recommended the sanctuary as a possible avenue to satisfy his restless spirit. We are happy that the sanctuary fit the bill!

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Aside from some of the challenges in the human arena and keeping up with the demands of summer, we are happy to report that a cave house was built in Riot & Cinder’s habitat! They love it! Our goal is to have a cave house in every habitat one day, but with so many habitats and limited resources, it is slow moving. Every cave house that is built makes us really happy because it improves the quality of life of our deserving rescues. We could not have provided Riot & Cinder a place to get out of the sun and away from the bugs without the help of our team members and without your donations!! Thank you all!

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Save the date! We have begun our planning for our Annual Howl-o-Ween & Open House event. Come out and visit us on October 20th for free tours, discounted ambassador meet & greet opportunities and other fun! Watch our website in September for tickets prices and other activities. If you have not been to WSWS before, October is typically a good time to visit as it brings some of the nicest weather New Mexico has to offer. If you’ve been following us for some time and have seen some of your favorite rescues pass away in the last year, Howl-o-Ween is the time that we properly celebrate their lives. We hold a Fire Ceremony on each “Howl” to memorialize the rescues that have passed in the year, sharing their stories and some of the best memories we have of them. Many visitors throughout the years have called this ceremony “the highlight of the day”.  We are all booked at our rentals but camping will be available for those who want to stay for the closing event. Mark your calendars folks and join us for a howling good time!

 

Monthly Howl – May 2018

Thank you for tuning in for our May issue of 2018! We have a somewhat special issue for you as we are going to focus solely on a coyote update. Think of this month’s update as the Coyote Issue! We often talk about our wolves and wolf dogs but wanted to give you an update that was a little more unique.

At the moment, we currently house four coyotes at our sanctuary, Yuni, Maine, Lyla and Jasa. They live in two separate pairs, both consisting of a male and a female. Both pairs share a fence line, and thus are neighbors with one another. Apparently, coyotes and wolves are very different when it comes to their social constructs and how they are designed to live with one another, and so keeping in them in captivity presents a different set of problems. Both wolves and coyotes mate in the winter and go into heat only once a year. This time of cold and hormonal elevation often leads to very energized and amplified animal communication. They can be more intense, touchier, and more anxious and display greater overall levels of tension and stress; this manifests in two very different ways for the coyote and wolf.

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Wolves can be in packs as large as 16 members strong (which is a very large pack), and in general, the alpha male and female will breed and reproduce. This is a normal part of the wolf social structure and thus sexual activity is not a necessity for the individual members of the pack to bond with one another. Their natural rise in tension during mating season is facilitated by social constructs. This is apparently very different for the coyote. Coyotes often live in small family units and can also be members of larger coyote communities with many separate families living within a relatively small area. During mating season, there are many coyotes mating with one another as there are not necessarily “alphas” that get all the resources. With sexual maturity and a chosen mate, coyotes will bond with another during mating season.

In captivity, we have found that spaying and neutering wolves generally do not present any repercussions on their social dynamics with one another during mating season and in some ways, we have seen that it helps with lowering tensions between some of our companions. However, it has not been the case when it comes to coyotes. We have been told that it is optimal for captive coyotes to leave the female intact and to give the male a vasectomy – not neutering him. With this, the two coyotes are able to connect with another during mating season, bond and diffuse tensions during this time of year. Lyla and Jasa are intact, but since Jasa has a vasectomy, there is no reproducing. With this pair, this situation has been ideal and so far has seemed to work for them.

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For those of you that follow us consistently, you may remember some of the issues we spoke about in our December 2017 Wrap Up issue regarding our coyotes, Yuni and Maine. Just to recap, these two had to be separated due to tensions and small injuries that occurred during the breeding season of 2017. These issues manifested because they were spayed and neutered and were unable to perform their yearly bonding ritual. The tension escalated for months and when it hit an all-time high, we decided separation was best. We built a 20 x 10-foot enclosure inside their shared habitat so that they could still see one another and be in each other’s vicinity.   This separation lasted a few months, and though we had little hope of them returning to a state of mutual acceptance and peaceful coexistence, they have been reunited once again.

So far their reintroduction has been going well and we are happy to report that we expect good results, at least for the foreseeable future. The biggest concern for their compatibility is during breeding season, as this is a naturally high tension time in the life of a wild canine. Since both Yuni and Maine were spayed and neutered early in their life, they do not have the experience, know-how, and capacity to do the normal bonding rituals that are inherent to them. The inability to mate during breeding season indeed amplifies their restlessness and anxiety. At this stage, it will have to be a continual process of monitoring their state during this time and now that we’re aware, we’ll be especially conscious of this next breeding season.

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Although it’s with great happiness that we are reporting Yuni and Maine are back together, we have had to make some changes to their habitat nonetheless. The “temporary” 20’x10’ enclosure will stay in case separation needs to occur again and we needed to create a visual barrier between the neighboring coyote habitats. The two pairs were spending an inordinate amount of time “fence fighting” with one another and feeding off of each other’s energy. With a very delicate balance already in place, we were afraid of undue complications in the individual coyote habitats. In order to facilitate a more peaceful cohabitation, we blocked off view between the two habitats with 360+ pounds of steel sheeting. This solution has so far proven to be very effective and is currently allowing both coyote pairs to live side by side without turning the average day into an episode of Game of Thrones. 😉

Jasa and Lyla are as happy as they have been, and Maine is so happy to have his companion to love bite on, play with and just to lie next to throughout the day. Yuni, our most social coyote, has been continuously improving her sociability. Her original “rescue angel” had taught Yuni how to walk on a harness, but it’s taken almost two years for Yuni to begin to do so at Wild Spirit. In her early days with us, Yuni was shy with new people and it would take time for her to warm up to new caretakers. However, with consistency and a loving hand, Yuni has flourished. She regularly comes up to caretakers she knows with great enthusiasm and demands for pets and she will now “ask” for a walk with our Assistant Director.

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Her first few walks were mandatory, as they were a means to move her out of the habitat while our team assembled the temporary enclosure inside and the first day after the visual barrier was installed, Yuni was so frightened of it that all she wanted was OUT. (At the time, it had not been fastened down and the wind made big scary metallic noises.) Nowadays, Yuni has gone out for at least three enrichment walks, and each one gets longer and longer. A definite sign that she’s becoming comfortable and confident in her walks: marking her territory. Though in the wild this is an unnatural state for a coyote and one we do not recommend people try to attempt, in captivity, increased sociability enhances the quality of life of some animals significantly. It certainly has for Yuni! It also seems that her socialization is beginning to rub off on Maine, so we’ll see where that goes.

All in all, the Wild Spirit coyote neighborhood appears to be on the up and up!

 

 

 

Monthly Howl – April 2018

Hello & thank you for joining us for the April issue of the Monthly Howl! We hope the spring season is proving fruitful for you. This month has been interesting and productive! A recent rescue from a breeding operation in Minnesota enriched our sanctuary with four new animals. Unfortunately, as we say hello to the new, we also say goodbye to Rayne and Nakota. Students from Navajo Tech have visited us once again and have continued to help us move forward on various projects.  Last, but not least, we hosted a couple of cherished supporters, including famous author, Jane Lindskold, and longtime sanctuary friend, Marie Sikora.

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About 4-5 months ago we received reports that a prominent breeder and seller of wild animals in Minnesota was being rezoned and shut down. This was going to create a situation in which many animals would be in need of new homes. This individual bred mountain lions, raccoons, bob cats, foxes, wolves and wolf dogs, amongst others. Even though we had known about this breeding operation for months, we had to wait before rescuing any of the animals due to legal issues the owner was facing. After a long legal battle and much resistance, this breeding operation finally closed down and we were given the go ahead to go rescue four male wolf dogs and four Arctic foxes.

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Unfortunately, those exact circumstances did not play out as we did not have the proper license to take in the Arctic foxes. However, we did rescue wolfdogs, Walking Bear, Sioux, Crow and Chiracowa. Director, Leyton, and trusted driver, Steve Staviski, left for Minnesota on a Saturday, but were turned around mid-way due to a massive snow storm that prevented them from reaching their destination.  After a few days of waiting for the weather to clear up, they departed once again for a five day trip.  Fortunately for all involved, the four boys were social enough to make the loading process into our transport vehicle super easy. Since they were never leashed, they were simply picked up and tossed over their caretaker’s shoulders!

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All four rescues were taken to Canyon Crossroads Animal Hospital to be neutered and to receive health checks. Bear (5 yrs.), Crow (4 yrs.) and Chiracowa (9 yrs.) underwent the surgery to be neutered while Sioux (14 yrs.) received x-rays on his spine. X-rays revealed Sioux has serious arthritis along his spine and therefore was immediately put on anti-inflammatory supplements and pain medication; he also went on a diet to shed some of the weight that may be aggravating the pain. Thank you to the team at Canyon Crossroads for making an opening for us to be seen!

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Because they were extremely social, human-loving animals, some of the new boys had a hard time adjusting to their new home. They were perfectly well taken care of and loved at their former home and being in a new environment was scary for them. After just two days of being here, Crow tried to escape his temporary habitat. It was only due to miraculous timing and quick reactions that a volunteer and staff member were able to prevent the escape by forcing him back into his habitat.  At the time of the attempted escape, our team was working diligently on “Flicker-proofing”Honey’s new habitat. Thankfully, it only needed another hour or two of work, so we moved Chiracowa and Crow into this habitat and continued to work towards completion. After a week of settling into their new homes, we opened the gate to the adjoining habitat so that Chiracowa could walk into his new habitat with new companion, Arya. Later, we took Honey out of her temporary habitat and placed her into her new, much larger, space. Both new couples seem very happy, Honey especially!

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On the day of their arrival, Sioux immediately was placed with Savannah. It took him no more than two days to settle into his new environment. He loves his morning meals and he loves having a new companion in his life. He especially loves forehead and butt scratches! We are already watching him begin to build muscle in his back legs which puts a big smile on his face, and ours too! Bear was put into Flicker’s habitat on the same day. He took the smallest amount of time to adjust to being in a new home and was very loving toward his new caretakers. Unfortunately, due to the Crow incident and watching as 10 human beings went into the direction of his buddies, Bear has now convinced himself that seeing more than one human at one time is not a good sign. Due to the location of their habitats, Bear cannot see that Crow and Chiracowa are not harmed, and are in fact doing just fine. Since the incident, he has not come to the caretakers for attention, but we are hopeful that he will calm down soon.

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Providing new life does not come without losing a life, or in this case, two. For those who have been following us, you are aware that our low-content wolfdog, Rayne, had been diagnosed with splenic cancer in February of 2018. We understood that we didn’t have much time with Rayne, so we continued to focus on giving him the best life. He enjoyed his new companion, Flicker, for the short time that he had her. When his quality of life began to fade, Animal Care Supervisor, Rae, helped him onto the Rainbow Bridge. Rayne was a spunky, fun loving animal and had a signature bark. We miss him and his daily morning demands (barks).

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We also said goodbye to high-content wolfdog, Nakota. Nakota arrived to WSWS with his best friend, Lani, in 2007. After Lani passed away in 2012, we paired him with Silva. The two hit it off without a hitch and spent over 5 good years with each other.  Unfortunately, Silva’s life came to an end in 2017, leaving Nakota lonely and mournful. Arya had recently lost her longtime friend, Ghost, and also needed a mend to her broken heart. The two were introduced, and although it wasn’t true love, both were happy to have companionship once again. In the weeks leading up to his death, it became evident that Nakota was in the beginning stages of organ failure. We always allow the animal to leave this world on their own terms and prefer for them to leave in the comfort of their home, with companions close by. Sometimes, they leave us peacefully and in their sleep. Other times, we standby as the animal goes through their own process. If the animal’s quality of life diminishes, we intervene. This was the case for Nakota. He was such a strong willed animal and we knew that he wanted to go on his own, but in the end, he couldn’t. Nakota was such a strong willed character that we even wanted a second opinion from our veterinarian and had an appointment scheduled for him to have a quality of life discussion. However, the day of the Crow incident (and the day before his scheduled appointment) with so many people around it was abundantly clear that Nakota was not able to help himself along. Assistant Director, Crystal, facilitated his peaceful exit. In the days leading up to his departure, Nakota was visited by a few who had the privilege of being his caretaker in the past and surrounded him with love. We all hold so much admiration for Nakota, the tough, proud and handsome wolfdog.

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Students from Navajo Tech visited us again in April and as always, helped with tremendous progress on a few large projects! They worked on our new perimeter fence project, which is the first step needed before we build two large habitats in the future.  They also worked at one of our rentals, the Retreat Center, where they installed handrails on its massive deck. While they worked on those projects, others assisted our Building & Maintenance department with Honey’s habitat. We are so thankful we had them for this project, as we may not have been ready for the unexpected move of Crow and Chiracowa! For good measure, they also helped with fire prevention by cleaning up downed trees and low hanging brush from the wooded areas surrounding the sanctuary. Thank you to Navajo tech for volunteering your time and to Parris McBride-Martin for paying their expenses for their stay!

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Speaking of the Martin’s; a friend of George’s, who is also a famous and successful author, Jane Lindskold, visited the sanctuary with her family in April. They were the first guests to attend one of our Education Presentations and provided us with great feedback on our new format! We were happy to hear that they loved it and considered it to be an excellent presentation. Jane enjoyed her time here so much that she actually wrote a blog post about her visit! Thanks for visiting us Jane! It was wonderful to host you and your family.

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Last, but certainly not least, cherished friend of the sanctuary, Marie Sikora, visited from Australia and stayed with us for two weeks. Marie’s first visit to WSWS was in 2009 and her love for our sanctuary grew from that moment on. In the years since her visit, Marie has sponsored several animals and has supported many, if not all, of our fundraisers. She has given so much to our rescues over the years and we are so thankful for her love and support. Many guests and supporters cannot say that they’ve seen the “behind-the-scenes” of WSWS. Not only did Marie get to see what goes on, but she was also able to be a part of it, even helping us during the Crow incident. Marie, it was such a pleasure to have you visit with us!  We look forward to hosting you and your family in the future!

We are incredibly grateful to you, our readers and friends. We could not exist with your support!

Howls of thanks, from the staff, volunteers and rescues of Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary!

March – 2018

Hello all! Woo! Spring has sprung and it’s been busy, busy, busy at Wild Spirit! We sincerely thank you for tuning in with us for our March update. We said goodbye to two of our rescues, Storm and Beric Dondarrion; we had a group of International High School students spend their spring break with us and they utterly transformed several areas of our property; our volunteer pool shifted once again and we made a change with our staff.

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It is with deep sorrow that we share the loss of Arctic wolf, Storm. Storm was a quintessential animal and he touched many lives during his time on this earth. Storm arrived here as an infant and was hand raised by Director, Leyton, his family and the staff and volunteers at the time. Storm grew up to be a shining example of the majesty of wolves. He was loving, gentle, powerful, fierce and caring. For many years, Storm was one of our Ambassadors and helped us share with the public the authentic truth about wolves being much more than the vicious monsters that they are often portrayed as. The Educational Rescues at our sanctuary are not just ambassadors for Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary; they also act as representatives for their entire species.

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Although Storm lived to be nearly 12 years old, which is much longer than the average wolf in the wild, the last few years of his life were marred with health problems. Storm suffered from Cushing’s disease, which is an unnaturally high and chronic elevation of the primary stress hormone, cortisol. Even though he had very high quality medical care, the disease took its toll. In the end though, Storm was surrounded by the people he loved, and on his last day, he was even visited by one of his favorite people in the world and got to say goodbye. Storm is deeply missed.

 

28617119_10214044463244604_4424210171897917007_oIt is with great sadness that we also announce the death of Beric D. aka Rudy of the Westeros Pack. We were more than happy to provide Rudy with the care free environment of WSWS in his final years. Rudy, along with 10 other animals, was rescued from Iowa in 2012. George R.R. Martin and his wife, Parris, sponsored and named the 11 rescues after characters of his A Song of Ice and Fire books shortly after their rescue. Although the beginning of Beric’s life was hard, we gave him the best life possible. He received jaw surgery, heartworm treatment and a special diet catered to his needs during his time with us. Best of all, he spent the rest of his days with the beautiful, Savannah, and reaped the rewards of having companionship. We miss his snaggle-toothed smile, his quirks and his soft howl. We are eternally grateful for the sponsors who made a difference in his life!

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Although we had heartbreak in March twice, we were genuinely thrilled to have received some much needed assistance with several projects. Over 20 students from UWC-USA came to the sanctuary for their 2nd year to spend their spring break working with us.  These kids are something else! They were all concerned with doing a good job, there were all great at taking direction and they all seemed to possess a Spartan work ethic!  Suffice it to say, they showed up and transformed various locations of WSWS! After they left, staff jokingly compared them to the Harry Potter world: “they just showed up, waved their wands and magic occurred”. We absolutely love having these students here and hope they return next year, and the year after that!

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As we mentioned, our volunteer pool has shifted again. We’re always in need of man power and there are certain roles at the Sanctuary that must be filled to keep things flowing cohesively. In our most recent shift, outstanding, reliable and productive volunteer, Megan Murphy, moved back to Florida. Megan spent three months with us as a volunteer in the summer of 2015 and returned the following year to spend two more years with us.  Megan was an exemplary volunteer and accomplished a lot while she was here. Although we miss her, we know Megan will be successful wherever she goes!

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Before Megan left, she helped us welcome Chase and Jessica! Since they completed their training, these two have easily fallen into place with us at WSWS! We are grateful to have them here and are excited to see what they will do and learn during their time here.

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Josh McNitt has changed his position from Building & Maintenance Assistant to Guest Services Manager/HR Assistant. Since this change in the beginning of March, Josh has been busy putting new systems into place to help our organization become more effective and efficient. He has already revolutionized a few things, and thanks to his help, you can now book accommodations and tours on our website! Thank you, Josh!

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As we usher in the season of spring, we are met with just a few challenges: tropical storm level winds, invasive grasses and animal allergies. It is also the season with many animal birthdays, because spring is the time when wolves are normally born. We will be celebrating a lot this season and will be giving our rescues some fun birthday enrichments! We will also be kicking off our spring fundraising campaign, giving away a cool free gift and sharing some educational material about wolves and their puppies, so stay tuned!

January & February – 2018

Hello everybody! Due to a variety of extraneous circumstances, we are combining the January and February Monthly Howl into one large post. It has been a busy beginning to 2018! There are many changes taking place. If you haven’t already noticed, we are excited to share that we have released our brand new website, which can be found here! A serious medical condition was discovered in one of our rescues, low-content wolfdog, Rayne. The Flicker saga-drama has, at least temporarily, come to an end, because she has finally been moved into her new mega enclosure! We said goodbye to a few long-term volunteers, and have welcomed a new one. Executive Director, Leyton, helped transport a coyote in need to a new shelter. Last, but not least, we have altered the structure of our specialty tours and the nature of what we offer to the public.

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Unfortunately, the most pertinent news is of the recent diagnosis of cancer in our low-content wolfdog, Rayne. Rayne was presenting symptoms of extreme lethargy and tiredness, and Animal Care Supervisor, Rae, knew something was wrong immediately.  He was promptly taken into the vet where an abnormality in his red blood cells was discovered. The first veterinarian diagnosed him with an autoimmune, red blood cell disorder, and suggested the therapeutic recommendation of a blood transfusion.  Upon his visit to a specialist that same day, the real cause of his abnormal blood readings was discovered: an erupted splenic mass. The spleen was completely removed and they found that it was riddled with tumors. We later found out that the tumors were malignant and that the prognosis wasn’t great; we would have Rayne for no more than six months.  Our hearts are heavy and were more so after the news, as his partner, the infamous Flicker, was just introduced back into his enclosure with him. At the very least, we take solace in knowing he will have companionship and lots of love from us for the remainder of his life. We will do the best that we can for him for as long as he is with us.

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For those of you regularly following our updates, you no doubt have heard some of the issues we had containing the escape artist, our low-content wolfdog, Flicker. Despite all the challenges we have faced keeping her contained, it appears as though we have finally found success! Her new enclosure has been reinforced with fence lines that go out 6 FT horizontally, and are 10 feet high. The photo below this paragraph showcases what we are talking about. Contrary to her initial arrival here, she is a lot less interested in escaping at this point, so the fact that she is not fighting to escape her enclosure also helps.  After many months of feeding, care and safety, it appears that she has at least somewhat learned that we are here to help and not harm. We were thrilled to see her move into this larger space and finally get to watch her zoom around the habitat with her new companion and neighbors! It was such a great sight to see.

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The volunteer pool has shifted in the last two months. We said goodbye to three long-term volunteers who worked diligently for the rescues: Madeline Harrington, Molly Shaw and Meghan O’Keefe. We appreciate all they did while they were here and will miss them. We wish them the best on their next chapters of life!

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We welcomed Alex D’Amico to the pack! Before coming to WSWS, he volunteered at a Llama sanctuary. He will be here for six months working in both the Animal Care and Building & Maintenance departments. Since his arrival in January, Alex has shown exceptional qualities of the volunteer we love seeing around here! We are excited to see what he will bring to the table throughout the rest of his stay.

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We are very happy to report that we launched our new website!  After a whole year in the making, we have done enough work that it is ready for the public. Budgetary restrictions have been a long time issue for us, especially for departments outside of Animal Care. However, with the pro-bono work Felipe Gonzales provided, along with the help of longtime staff member, Georgia Cougar, and volunteers, Madeline Harrington and Paul Koch, we finally have this beautiful website for all to see. We felt that in today’s internet driven world we needed to step up the professionalism and quality of our website as its typically the first thing people see before visiting WSWS. We are entirely grateful for everyone’s help on this important, long overdue task! Although the new website is live, please be aware that we are still working behind the scenes to flush out broken links and unfinished pages. We expect the management of the website will be a full time job! Check it out here!

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We love interacting with the public through our educational programs, standard tours and specialty encounters. Specialty encounters are intimate, onsite experiences with one or several of our social rescues. Specialty encounters have been available for years but are not always easy to provide because it requires significant training to become a Qualified Animal Handler, and animals that actually want to interact with the public are few and far between. Since our Wolf Ambassadors are over 11 years old, we are taking steps to alleviate their workload. Although we have always left it up to the animal to decide if they’d like to do an encounter or presentation, we felt it best to provide other opportunities to our guests. We are now offering Education Presentations that will include three different species: the Australian dingo, the New Guinea singing dog and wolf OR a wolfdog. These presentations will be hands-off and we have been preparing an area of our compound for the sole purpose of the presentations.

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These presentations will also allow us to educate multiple families in one day as we are leaving these opportunities open for 20 slots to be filled on Fridays and Saturdays. We are now providing the opportunity for guests to meet a dingo or a singing dog with our Singer/Dingo Encounters! Most of our dingoes and singers are social critters and love to meet people – therefore these encounters will be hands-on. We will still continue to offer Feeding Tours, Photo Tours (hands-off), K9 Encounters (hands-on) and Wolf Walks, however Wolf Walks may be done with a wolf OR a wolfdog, and we will NOT guarantee interactions. Along with these changes, we have also made some adjustments to scheduling formats. For more information, please give us a call or visit our website! At the moment, we are not scheduling off-site Education Programs. We are working toward programs that will no longer need the presence of a live wolf; however, this will be flushed out before the end of the year.

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Director, Leyton, and volunteer, Steve, helped a coyote in January. Remington, the coyote from Georgia, was found in a family’s garden. They believed he was no more than two days old as his umbilical cord was still intact and his eyes were still closed. They also saw that the poor pup had several puncture wounds and that his tail had been chewed on by an animal. It can only be speculated that he was taken from his den/birth site by an animal, and for some reason, the animal wasn’t able to finish the job. Thankfully, the family took him into their home, believing him to be a dog. Within a few weeks, they quickly realized that he was in fact a coyote! Remington lived with this family for about two years, but they knew they couldn’t keep him forever as it’s illegal to own a coyote in the state of GA. They decided to find him a permanent and safe home and sought out help for placement. Having our hands full with our own coyotes and not having an extra space for a new one, we could not take him in, but we offered our assistance with transportation once we learned that placement had been found in Arizona. Leyton and Steve drove to Georgia to pick up Remington and drove him out to AZ where he now happily resides!