The Ramah Wolf Sanctuary provides enrichment and educational awareness to their pack

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Mika is a female wolf of average content at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah. Mika celebrated his 10th birthday on April 10. (Tim Waite/Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary)

Although the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is necessarily remote near Ramah, officials are turning to new programs and social media to make it more accessible.

When the 60 animals in residence are treated to an enrichment basket filled with treats tailored to their particular tastes on Friday, April 15, it will be streamed live on Facebook, said Katie Forbis, the sanctuary’s social media coordinator.

The sanctuary on 100 wooded acres is currently home to 60 animals ranging from full wolves, wolfdogs, domestic dogs that have been mislabeled as wolfdogs to puppies, foxes, dingoes, coyotes, even singing dogs from New Guinea.

“We hold these quarterly celebrations to treat, reward and celebrate all creatures in our facility,” she said. “We fill spring baskets, similar to Easter baskets, with straw, feathers, eggs decorated with non-toxic dyes, hot dogs, cheese sticks, and dog-friendly herbs and spices. We stuff them with lots of different treats.

It’s an opportunity for people across the country and even the world to get a glimpse of the puppies in play, Forbis said.

“Enrichment is a fun activity for animals in captivity,” she said. “It gives them something new and unique that they can stay untouched with. Canids use a lot of scent-based senses, so feathers and straw and 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 who lives at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah. (Tim Waite/Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary)

It also gives potential donors the opportunity to view the animals and hopefully provide treats along the way.

“If someone has a favorite wolf or creature, they can provide funds for their basket to put a little more into it,” Forbis said. “We’ll also be taking a video of the event and posting it online so people can watch them feast or smash the hoops whenever they want.”

It’s part of an accelerated awareness campaign at the sanctuary, she said.

“We’re looking to promote them more because we’re so far apart,” 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 gifts in action.”

When Brittany McDonald was named Executive Director in 2020, the focus was on improving the viability of the Sanctuary among stakeholders.

“Under his guidance, we network with other people, owners and animal care professionals,” Forbis said. “Our goal is to become the leading authority on wolves and wolfdogs in the country and around the world.”

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

This means providing information to people who may have these types of animals in their care.

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

A campground at the site will soon be open, 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 improve the terrain to make it easier for young children and those with disabilities to care for the animals.

Plus, the creation of a new building and educational programs make the sanctuary a perfect place for school trips, as well as anyone else interested in wolves and wolfdogs.

“This is where we post a lot of our interns’ educational projects,” Forbis said.

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

Additionally, “we have created new programs and departments, such as enhanced veterinary 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) Mexican red and gray wolves and potentially release them into the wild.”

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