Did you know that even though huskies look similar to wolves, genetically they have more in common with a chihuahua?
Did you know that wolves can go as long as two weeks without eating if they need to and are instinctually fearful of humans?
And did you know that cows kill FAR more people every year than wolves do?! (Apparently, only 3 people have been killed by wolves in the last 100 years in North America, while cows account for approximately 22 human fatalities in the US alone per year. Who knew?!)
Just west of Cochrane, in sight of the Rocky Mountains, is the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, the only one of its kind in Canada. Currently home to around 35 resident wolfdogs, they are a non-profit dedicated to educating the public on responsible wolfdog ownership. Most of the wolfdogs at the sanctuary are rescued from breeding programs or situations where owners did not understand how keeping a wolfdog as a pet differs from owning a domesticated dog.
Families with children ages 6 or older are welcome to come visit the wolfdogs and learn about their needs. Located on 160 acres, the sanctuary offers a lovely respite from city life. You can wander the paths and enjoy time outside all year long. In fact, the wolfdogs are even more fun to visit in the winter, as they tend to be more active and playful. Your admission is good for the whole day — you can even pop back to Cochrane for lunch or ice cream and return for more enrichment activities with the wolf dogs. You’ll learn all kinds of things you never knew you didn’t know!
The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary has three options for families: a Self-Guided Sanctuary Walk, an Intro Tour, and an Interactive Tour.
This self-guided walk through the Sanctuary allows you to see the grounds and view the various packs of wolfdogs at your own pace. This is a great opportunity to learn interesting facts about wolfdogs and wolves, and support the Sanctuary. This experience is for a minimum age of 6 years.
This tour takes you inside the Engadine enclosure onto a viewing platform with one of the guides. Enjoy the opportunity to learn all about the Sanctuary and get an introduction to what wolfdogs are all about through the 30-minute presentation. This is a great way to photograph one of the wolfdog packs, as well as having full access to your very own wolfdog expert. This experience is for a minimum age of 10 years.
Come enjoy an up-close and interactive experience with the Yamnuska and Cascade Packs. Throughout this tour, you will gain a better understanding of wolf behaviour through the wolfdogs at the Sanctuary and how this behaviour fundamentally differs from that of domestic dogs. This is also a great opportunity to learn about the importance of wolves in our ecosystem, and why it’s so important to preserve them in our natural environment. This is an immersive experience with ambassador wolfdogs that welcome you into their space, so be prepared to follow very specific guidelines throughout your tour. This experience is for a minimum age of 15 years.
Our family made the short drive to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary to take the Intro Tour. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the wolfdogs Quinn, Grizz, and Aspen from a special platform and take pictures without fences in the way. Our guide told us all about the sanctuary and explained the differences between wolves and dogs: how to tell what features of a wolfdog are more wolfie or more doggie. We enjoyed walking the paths and visiting the other wolfdogs when our tour was finished, trying to spot the different features we had just learned about.
The Wolfdog Sanctuary is a natural place to visit in the summer when you can enjoy the outdoor weather. But our guide pointed out that the sanctuary is open every day except Christmas Day, and a visit in the winter can be a completely different experience, as you’ll see the wolfdogs in their big winter coats and you can watch them being much more playful and active. In the summer, they get lazy and tend to want to sleep a lot, only coming around for food.
Sounds a lot like teenagers to me.
Summer or winter, as long as your kids are ages 6 and up, plan your own visit to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary!
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary:
Address: 263156 Range Road 53, Rocky View County, AB
Phone: 587-890-WOLF (9653)
The author would like to thank the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary for this interesting and educational experience.
Photos: Charity Quick