ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Wolves are coming to the University of New Mexico campus.
The Biology Undergraduate Society is bringing the school’s mascot to life in an effort to raise awareness about wolves and provide accurate information about them, according to co-Vice President Audrey Haesen.
“The main point is to educate about wildlife conservation,” she said. “We want to educate people from different backgrounds who may not have knowledge of wolves.”
Wolf Fest 2018 will take place April 20 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Popejoy Hall and the Fine Arts building.
The stars of the show will be Angel and Bindi, two ambassador wolves from the Wanagi Wolf Rescue in Tijeras. They will be at the event from noon until 3 p.m. Angel is an Arctic wolf, while Bindi is a mix of coyote, gray wolf and husky. Attendees will be able to pet the wolves and take a photo with them for a $10 donation that benefits the Wanagi sanctuary.
Stephanie Kaylan started the sanctuary 25 years ago on her property in Tijeras after moving to New Mexico. Previously, she lived in Los Angeles and worked in the music business. She said she fled after the Northridge earthquake in 1994 that killed more than 60 people.
“I said, ‘I’m out,'” she said. “That was it. I left a lot of money, but the quality of life in New Mexico is so much better.”
Kaylan said she always had a fondness for animals when she was growing up, which sometimes frustrated her mother.
“I was one of those children that would bring home animals that were hurt,” she said. “My mother told me, ‘When you have your own house, you can have any animals you want.’ Now look.”
Kaylan has a pack of 12 wolves she rescued. Her organization rescues wolves that were born in captivity. None of her wolves were born in the wild. She said people breed the wolves and sell them as pets and that doesn’t work out well for either party. She said the wolves may end up at a shelter and eventually euthanized. She speaks out against breeding the animals and hopes to educate people on what to expect when owning a wolf.
“These wolves have not been socialized by the breeders,” she said. “The human doesn’t know what they are about to get into. Then (the wolf) eats their couch because they are bored.”
While Kaylan’s group deals exclusively with wolves born and bred in captivity, the event also aims to raise awareness about wild wolves, which can be a controversial topic in New Mexico.
In March 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started its Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project. The aim was to reintroduce the endangered Mexican gray wolves back into their natural habitats in New Mexico and Arizona.
Both ranchers and environmentalists have criticized the Fish and Wildlife Service’s management of the wolves. Ranchers assert the wolves are a danger to their livelihoods, sometimes killing livestock, and environmentalists want the organization to release more wolves.
Kaylan started her sanctuary after Jacque Evans, founder of Wild Spirit Sanctuary, entrusted her with two wolves from her sanctuary. The Wild Spirit group rescues captive-bred wolves, wolf dogs and other breeds. Evans opened the sanctuary in 1991. Kaylan attends events around the Albuquerque area frequently and sees it as part of her mission.
“I want to show people how amazing and beautiful and intelligent these animals are,” she said.