WOLF Sanctuary to open to the public in mid-2021
By Shelley Widhalm
When the new WOLF Sanctuary fully opens in 2021, the nonprofit will be able to show the public the wolves and wolf dogs in its care instead of just giving them pictures, stories and education.
The sanctuary will move 10 miles northwest of the current Bellvue property to a 161-acre site in Livermore and be open for tours by mid-2021.
“We are doing things in stages,” said Shelley Coldiron, executive director of the WOLF Sanctuary, a nonprofit founded in 1995 to rescue captive-born wolves and wolf dogs unable to be cared for by their original owners. “Before we can open to the public, we have to have the infrastructure completed.”
The nonprofit will move the animals in fall 2020 to 20 habitats that will be built on the property, three more than at the current site for WOLF, or Wolves Offered Life & Friendship, with a mission to provide rescue, sanctuary and education. The state-of-the-art habitats, or enclosures, will be able to hold up to 30 animals, the current maximum allowed by the county, though the nonprofit hopes to increase that number to 60 sometime after the move.
The enclosures, ranging from ½ to ¾ of an acre, will require 4½ miles of fencing to be installed and shelters to be placed in each one — the current fencing cannot be reused except in some areas for dig-guard fencing.
At the current site, the habitats are lined up in a row, but at the new facility they will be organized into clusters of two to five. A perimeter fence will surround each cluster.
A 3,000-square-foot barn will be remodeled for staff, volunteer and animal uses. One-third of the building will be used for staff and volunteer offices and an on-site infirmary and veterinarian room for routine exams and procedures. The rest will be used for maintenance and storage. An existing small cabin will be converted into space for an onsite caretaker to live year-round.
A new structure will be built to process meats donated to the nonprofit, and there will be an area for walk-in freezers to store the meat, both located by the barn.
An educational pavilion also will be built for visitors to take twice-daily tours Wednesday to Sunday. There will be educational materials on the walls and handouts available for visitors to take home.
“It will be very basic, pretty much like a shed for people to hang out until we collect them and take them on tours,” Coldiron said. “The idea is to be open to the public to show how their support helps. By being open to the public we can do more on the educational side by being able to bring the public into the facility.”
The tours will be guided tours of the facility to some of the habitats and include 10 people at a time.
“During that tour we will give educational presentations about the importance of wolves as a keystone species in the wild and why they shouldn’t be owned as pets or wolf dogs,” Coldiron said.
Other improvements to the facility will include cutting in a new driveway, putting in parking areas and ensuring County Road 74 meets commercial standards, plus installing water and electrical infrastructure.
“Other than the 3,000-square-foot barn and the outbuildings that are out there, everything needs to be built,” Coldiron said.
The Bellvue facility currently is accessed by 2½ miles of private road that allows only five vehicles a day to enter the property, plus, power has to be provided by generators since the area is off grid. There was costly damage from the 2012 High Park Fire, coupled with an ongoing threat of flooding incidents from the fire’s effect.
“It’s very rugged where we’re at,” Coldiron said.
To help pay for the improvements to the new facility, the nonprofit launched a campaign, Wild Hearts at Home, with a goal to raise $2 million. That amount covers the cost to build the infrastructure and purchase the land in 2016.
So far the nonprofit has raised $1.5 million through its campaign and several fundraising events, such as the autumn Wine, Wolves and Art fundraiser and the annual spring gala that has a changing theme. The next gala will be May 2, the Snow Ball Masque-Fur-Aid in Fort Collins.
“In the future we will do quarterly fundraisers, and we do a lot through social media because we’re not open to public,” said Jessica Kole, director of development for the nonprofit.
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