This project truly encompasses what WildHeart is about.
After more than 10 years, Mission: Wolf is now home to the largest wolf enclosure in the United States.
In June, we contacted Mission: Wolf to see if they had any projects they needed help with. Just like any wildlife sanctuary, there was a huge list of needs. But one in particular caught our eye: a 26 acre playpen, designed so that any of the resident wolves can be switched into it for the day so they all get a turn playing in it. It was a daunting project, started more than a decade ago and worked on every so often, only to be put on hold every time by more pressing projects.
Our part seemed simple, we needed to finish putting up the top part of the chain link fence. The fence itself was 8 feet tall, and there would be another 3 foot section on top of that, angled inward towards the inside of the enclosure. This is called a “tip-end”, and is designed so that if any animals climbed up the fence, the tip-end would prevent them from getting over the top. Easy enough, except when there’s that much fencing. And when you’re at 9,300 ft. elevation. And when most of the enclosure is on a steep hill.
That didn’t scare us off! We began our planning. We partnered with the Zookeeping students at Pike’s Peak Community College and called on a few of our other volunteers to help us. The staff and volunteers at Mission: Wolf began gathering materials, laying out fencing and piping along the perimeter of the enclosure, and making sure we had all the tools and equipment necessary for this huge undertaking.
Weekend one began with more than 20 volunteers total, and we completed the first phase. We had to put angled poles up on every current existing fence pole so we could extend the fence. After those poles were up, we had to string fence wire all along the perimeter. We used nearly three quarters of a mile of this wire.
Next came the hard part. We spent an additional three weekends working on the enclosure. WildHeart staff would get to the sanctuary on Friday and were giving sleeping arrangements for the weekend. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a pack of howling wolves is one of the most serene experiences, and being greeted by those same wolves while you’re drinking your morning coffee is just as amazing.
After patching up the final section that used to get our vehicles in and out of the enclosure, it was time to let the wolves in. The staff and volunteers of both WildHeart and Mission: Wolf walked into the enclosure and stood in one group, where they could watch the wolves explore for the first time. The pair that got the honor of being the first wolves to use the playpen was Zephir and Arrow, one white wolf, one black wolf.
For the first time, these wolves could run at full sprint without being able to see a fence. They could chase rabbits, they could explore. While they sat on the top of the hill in their new enclosure, they could
see all the way to the horizon as if a fence didn’t exist.
This project truly encompasses what WildHeart is about. The animals we help will spend their lives in captivity, but with our support and hard work, they can feel happy and at home.