Wolf sanctuary in Ramah brings enrichment, educational awareness to their pack - Albuquerque Journal

Wolf sanctuary in Ramah brings enrichment, educational awareness to their pack

Mika is a female, mid-content wolf-dog at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah. Mika celebrated her 10th birthday on April 10. (Tim Waite/Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary)

Although the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is necessarily remote near Ramah, officials are looking to new programs and social media as a means of making it more accessible.

When the 60 animals in residence are treated Friday, April 15, to an enrichment basket full of goodies geared toward their special tastes, it will be broadcast live on Facebook, said Katie Forbis, the sanctuary’s social media coordinator.

The sanctuary on 100 wooded acres currently houses 60 animals ranging from full wolves, wolf-dogs, domestic dogs that were mislabeled as wolf-dogs as puppies, foxes, dingoes, coyotes, even New Guinea singing dogs.

“We do these quarterly celebrations to treat and reward and celebrate all the critters at our facility,” she said. “We fill the spring baskets, similar to Easter baskets, with straw, feathers, eggs decorated with nontoxic coloring, hot dogs, cheese sticks, dog-friendly herbs and spices. We stuff them with lots of different goodies.”

It is an opportunity for folks across the country and even the world to get a glimpse of the pups at play, Forbis said.

“Enrichment is a fun activity for animals in captivity,” she said. “It gives them something new and unique to intact with. Canids utilize a lot of scent-based sense, so the feathers and the straw and the herbs and spices are scents that excite them. It’s a fun, extra treat on top of their regular stuff.”

Teton is a 14-year-old male Arctic wolf that lives at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah. (Tim Waite/Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary)

It also gives potential donors an opportunity to see the animals and hopefully provide treats down the road.

“If someone has a favorite wolf or critter, they can provide them funds for their basket to put a little extra in,” Forbis said. “We’ll also take a video of the event and put it online so people can watch them feasting or destroying the baskets whenever they want.”

This is part of a ramped-up campaign to raise awareness about the sanctuary, she said.

“We’re looking to promote them more heavily because we are so remote,” Forbis said. “These events are a great opportunity for those who can’t come to the sanctuary to see the animals in action or see their donations in action.”

When Brittany McDonald was brought on as executive director in 2020, the emphasis changed to one of improving the viability of the sanctuary among stakeholders.

“Under her leadership, we’re networking with other people, owners and animal care professionals,” Forbis said. “Our goal is to become the leading authority on wolves and wolf-dogs in the country and the world.”

Tehya is almost 3 years old and is female high-content wolf-dog at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah. (Tim Waite/Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary)

That means providing information to people who might have these types of animals in their care.

“When people are experiencing problems with animals, we seek to provide accurate, up-to-date, fact-based information to give them the best life possible,” Forbis said. “Through these efforts, private owners are more willing to trust us with animals in their care.”

A campground on the site will soon be opened, making it easier for visitors to interact with the sanctuary instead of having to stay in Grants or Gallup, she said, and there are plans to upgrade the grounds to make it easier for young children and those with disabilities to engage the animals.

Additionally, the creation of a new educational building and programs make the sanctuary a perfect spot for school field trips, as well as anyone else interested in wolves and wolf-dogs

“It’s where we display a lot of our interns’ educational projects,” Forbis said.

These displays can examine the sizes of different species’ paw prints, a look at fur samples and other tactile information that makes learning an interesting experience, she said.

Additionally, “we’ve created new programs and new departments, like improved vet care programs and educational programs and the enrichment program,” Forbis said. “Our long-term hope is to be involved in species survival plans with the government (for) the red and Mexican grey wolves and potentially releasing them into the wild.”

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