The Weekly Wolf

I spent six years living with the wolves of Mission:Wolf.
Each Monday, this page will feature a new photograph and story of these wolves.

January 25, 2010

Woodland Park Zoo Wolf 

Woodland Park Zoo 

I first visited the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA over 20 years ago.  Growing up, I couldn't wait to get to the wolf enclosure and practically drug my family there.  Sadly, I almost never spotted the wolves... they spent most of the time hiding from visitors behind a screen of bushes by their den.  Despite my disappointment I always remained hopeful that I'd get to see them the next time.

Then, in 1994, Woodland Park opened their new Northern Trail section of the zoo, featuring animals native to North America, including a new exhibit for gray wolves.  In the years since, I have gone back to visit and watch the wolves many times.  While it is still relatively common for the wolves to hide in their den, they tend to feel more secure in their hilltop enclosure and can often be seen relaxing under the trees and keeping a close eye on their elk neighbors.

After visiting the zoo again this week, I decided to feature a picture of one of the two wolves who live at Woodland Park in the Weekly Wolf.  While I don't know her name, this wolf and the many others who have lived at the zoo over the years continue to inspire my work and satisfy my need to be around wild creatures even while living in the city.

January 18, 2010



Orion is a black male wolf who was born in the spring of 2005 in Tennessee. He comes from a long-time breeder and a line of pure wolves bred in captivity. Orion was terrified of humans from birth and continued to become more afraid as he aged. When only a few months old, he was sold to a lady in Vermont and lived with other wolf-dogs in a giant pen in her back yard. Due to his skittish and wolfy behavior, Orion’s owner realized that she would not be able to socialize him and keep him with her other “pets.” Friends of Mission:Wolf rescued Orion, paid for his flight across the country and accompanied him from Vermont to Denver. Our staff drove to Denver, picked him up and brought him to Mission:Wolf. He was named Orion by staff members for the star constellation at was overhead when he arrived.

In the months that followed, Orion continued to be very frightened of humans. He lived in our vet building with another recently rescued wolf puppy named Soleil. They became fast friends have been inseparable ever since. As they grew, Orion and Soleil became very independent and kicked their surrogate dog mother, Kona, out of the pack. We tried splitting the two pups up and introducing them to older wolves for guidance and socialization, but Orion and Soleil would have none of it. They revolted against the older wolves and insisted they be put back together. Since then, Orion and Soleil have essentially raised themselves – looking to each other for the courage to meet visitors.

Now nearly five years old, Orion has grown into a stunning black adult with an intense gaze and a seemingly serious demeanor. But, when he doesn’t think we’re watching, Orion will twirl, pounce and tumble with Soleil and reveal his clownish side. Although he is still nervous around people, he occasionally works up the nerve to sniff someone on the toe. The fact that he allows people to be around him at all is exciting!

January 11, 2010



Jazmine and her siblings, Hina and Bowdi, were born in April of 1992 to a private breeder in Montana. Mission:Wolf soon received a call that the three pups would be euthanized if a new home wasn’t found. Hearing the plight of the pups, refuge staff pooled their personal funds to pay for gas and food, and two dedicated volunteers set off for Montana the next day. They returned to the refuge with three timid black puppies who had brilliant wild eyes. Little did we know that the arrival of these three pups would change the face of Misson:Wolf forever.

Jazmine’s grandparents were wild wolves who were caught outside of Barrow, Alaska. She and her siblings inherited their ancestor’s instinctual fear of humans and spent their lives hiding from the refuge staff and visitors. As pups, they were introduced to the main pack, in the hopes that the older wolves would serve as parents and mentors. Jazmine and the other pups thrived in their new home. When the 1993 breeding season arrived, the males were separated from the females with a fence to prevent mating. Unfortunately, a male wolf named Lucus slipped in with the females and mated with Jazmine. We were able to separate them so quickly that we hoped Jazmine was not pregnant, but we could only cross our fingers and wait. Three months later, four little black pus followed Jazmine out of her den. Asha, Tierra, Whisper and Fenris grew up to have their mother’s distinctively bright yellow eyes and their father’s dominant personality.

The main pack split into a few smaller packs due to social conflicts, and for the next two years, Jazmine lived in peace with Hina and Fenris. All of the males at the refuge had received vasectomies at this point, to prevent any more unplanned litters. So imagine our surprise when both Hina and Jazmine gave birth to pups in 1995! We can only guess that Fenris’ vasectomy failed. A mother once again, Jazmine was happy for the human help she got from the refuge staff in raising Guinness, Ned, Mowgli Porini and Kestrel.

Once her puppies were grown, Jazmine was reunited with her brother Bowdi in a large enclosure overlooking the rest of the refuge and the whole Wet Mountain Valley. They spent their days chasing magpies together and looking down on visitors from high above. After the sudden death of Bowdi in 2001, Jazmine again moved across the refuge, this time to live with Merlin, a very outgoing and boisterous male. With Merlin’s influence, Jazmine slowly warmed up to humans and even started to curiously walk up to visitors to see what they were doing. She gained so much confidence that Jazmine bossed Merlin around and stole his food.

Then, on a sunny afternoon in March 2006, Jazmine fell ill. She lost her sense of balance and couldn’t stand on her own. The refuge staff carried her down to our vet building, but there was nothing to be done. We believe she had a stroke that stole the rest of her strength. It was difficult watching this wild little girl pass away, but we were reassured that she would now be free, hopefully to run with her wild ancestors.

January 4, 2010



Sabretooth came from a private breeder in Montana. While his siblings went on to star in the documentary “Wolves at our Door,” Sabretooth and his sister came to Mission:Wolf when only 3 ½ weeks old. Sabre earned his unusual name on his way to the refuge by accidentally piercing Kent’s finger to the bone while slurping down chicken baby food.

When Sabretooth (also known at “Sabre,” “Tooth,” and “Sabes”) was young, he traveled with the Ambassador Wolf Program. Although Tooth was wary of strangers, he showed absolutely no fear of traveling. His favorite part was exploring new places when he was taken for exercise. By the age of three, Tooth and his mate Peaches retired from traveling. They spent the next ten years living together at the refuge, basking in the attention of visitors and frequently climbing atop the kitchen roof to howl. They were two of the happiest and most outgoing wolves anyone had every seen.

Sadly, Peaches passed away from old age in 2005. This left Tooth shell shocked, lonely and scared. He just didn’t know what to do after losing his lifelong companion. After months of fear-howling and seeking solace from the staff, Tooth seemed to finally accept that Peaches was gone.

Nearly a year later Sabre welcomed Raven, a younger and very enthusiastic female wolf, into his life. As Tooth got older, he relaxed a bit more around strangers and actually welcomed visitors into his enclosure for greetings. He and Raven often teamed up to both kiss the same person at once. Even as old age set in, Sabre didn’t let his failing legs slow him down. He scrambled all over his enclosure, trying to keep up with younger Raven. Then, in April 2008, Tooth’s legs finally gave out. While the staff gathered around, Sabre peacefully passed away.