Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary provides a safe haven for wolfdogs

Last Updated on July 6, 2020 by Irene Seto

Wolfdog behind fence at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
A beautiful wolfdog at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.

Just a short drive outside of Calgary, you will find the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. It’s the only facility of its kind in Canada for a very unique animal. It oversees the rescue and safe sanctuary of wolfdogs that have been neglected, abandoned, or otherwise displaced.

What is a wolfdog?

A wolfdog is exactly as it sounds – it’s when a wolf and a dog is bred together to create a new mixed breed. These animals are intentionally bred as part of the exotic wild pet trade. If visions of Tiger King and Joe Exotic are flashing through your mind, that’s exactly what’s going on. Wolves and dogs do not commonly breed on their own so these wolfdogs are a whole new creation. Unfortunately, these animals are not nearly as domestic as dogs, making it difficult for many people to keep them as regular pets.

Irene petting a wolfdog.
During interactive sessions, a wolfdog is brought out for viewing.
This is a low content wolfdog that is more friendly with humans.

Through phenotypes (observing of characteristics) or even through a DNA test, it can be determined if an animal is actual a wolfdog. Characteristics include a narrow chest, very big paws and toes and long legs. This allows them to do single tracking so they only leave one set of tracks behind. Wolfdogs are also unable to wag their tail up. These dogs have very natural wolf instincts and a high prey instinct.

There are three rankings used to describe the wolf content in the animal: high, mid, and low. At the Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary, you’ll see examples of each type of wolfdog on hand. During my visit, it was really cool to see how different each wolfdog could look depending on the wolf content each had.

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary entrance

What does the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary do?

This home for abandoned wolfdogs provides a sanctuary for this unusual hybrid animal. The wolfdogs taken in by the facility often come from animal seizures, business closures or surrendered by owners that could not take care of them. It helps ensure that these animals have a place to survive and thrive as they don’t easily fit into either domestic or wild environments.

In addition to caring for almost thirty wolfdogs, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary does tons of educational programming to teach about responsible wolfdog ownership, what a suitable home for a wolfdog looks like as well as the importance of preserving wolves in the wild.

Pair of wolfdogs
Pair of wolfdogs

Tours  at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary                                                  

With general admission, you can visit the sanctuary at your own pace and enjoy a standalone interpretive walk throughout the large facility. But if you want to get really up close with the wolfdogs, I highly recommend signing up a tour. It’s a great way to learn more in-depth about these beautiful animals.

Intro tour signage

During the Intro Tour, your guide will bring you into a special enclosure to get a little bit closer to these special wolfdogs. Some of the interesting facts I learned are:

  • Wolfdogs rarely bark but use facial and body language to communicate
  • All of the sanctuary wolfdogs are spayed and neutered. They don’t have regular veterinary checks though as they are not like dogs.
  • Dig guards are placed throughout the enclosures to prevent the wolfdogs from trying to dig out. None have escaped – yet!
  • By nature, wolfdogs are very shy and timid. It takes time for them to bond with others. Because of this difficulty to add new dogs into a set wolfdog pack, they introduce them through the fence lines instead.

During the tour, the guide feeds the animals with frozen raw meat and bone. I loved seeing these lovely wolfdogs in action as they quite agile and nimble – especially when food is involved.

Wolfdog catching piece of meat.
Wolfdogs love their food especially this frozen meat that lets them
chow down and helps their teeth.

One of the biggest takeaways from my visit to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is that they do not recommend adopting a wolfdog. Most people can’t handle them and then they up at places like the sanctuary. Wolfdogs are not loyal like domestic dogs, which makes it harder to live as pets. The sanctuary is contacted weekly about rehoming of dogs (which is so sad!). That’s why responsible wolfdog ownership is one of the key aspects of the sanctuary’s work to ensure that existing wolfdogs end up in the right homes.

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary visitor tips

It’s important to remember that this is not a zoo, but a safe haven for displaced wolfdogs. To help keep the sanctuary safe for the animals, visitors and staff, there are some important rules to follow:

  • Other dogs are not allowed on the premises.
  • Wear good walking shoes as the trails are packed down, but not paved.
  • Keep the noise down and be respectful to give a stress-free environment for the wolfdogs.
  • Know the dress code – no furry clothing, dangling lures like pom-pom or open-toed footwear. See photo examples on the sanctuary website here.
  • Take COVID-19 precautions – bring your own hand sanitizer and water bottles. Do not visit if you are feeling unwell.
Dog resting inside enclosure at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.
Wolfdogs have beautiful fur coats that grow even thicker in the winter months. It’s worth another visit to see what the dogs look like in different seasons.

The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is open year-round and is about 45 minutes from downtown Calgary making it a quick and easy day trip for a visit. Learn more at www.yamnuskawolfdogsanctuary.com and plan your visit soon!

RELATED POST: Get interactive with the lemurs at the Calgary Zoo.

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#hosted: Thanks to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary for letting me
join the wolf pack for the day.

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