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Musings of a lowly pilgrim
Nature | Photography | Social Issues | Stewards of our planet

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

May 10, 2019

I know it has been a long time since I blogged, but, when you are having fun…………

I drove out to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in April. I have driven past many times, and it has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I decided to have a birthday fundraiser for the sanctuary and managed to hit my goal of $600 (ten dollars for each year I have occupied physical space on this planet). I learned a lot that I did not know prior to my tour. I was not aware that we (humans) created this hybrid. Wolves and dogs can interbreed as they share most of the same DNA, but wolves and dogs rarely breed together naturally. Wolves are very territorial and will protect their home ranges from other canines such as dogs, coyotes and other wolves.

Breeding wolfdogs has become a lucrative business for breeders, who often neglect to properly inform prospective owners of the typical characteristics of a wolfdog. While wolfdogs appear to behave like domestic dogs as puppies, the wolf nature does not make for a suitable pet. And when owners can no longer deal with the challenges of caring for a wolfdog, they will usually surrender them, either to a rescue or a sanctuary. If an animal rescue that accepts dogs and cats receives one of these beautiful creatures, the likelihood of euthanasia is very high.

Loki (low content wolfdog)

There are wolfdog sanctuaries dotted around North America that take the wolfdogs, but there aren’t enough. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is presently planning on expansion, but funds are always needed. These are raised by doing tours through the sanctuary, sponsorship, memberships and donations. The increase in wolfdog ownership and subsequent surrender may be due to the popularity of “Game of Thrones.” Nova, one of the high content wolfdogs at the sanctuary, is the cousin of Ghost, one of the “direwolves” on the show.

Nova, the Arctic wolfdog (high content)

Wolfdogs cannot be released into the wild because they were not born in the wild. They are destined to live their lives out in sanctuaries if they are lucky enough to be surrendered to one. The best case scenario would be to stop breeding wolfdogs, but there are no laws against breeding or owning them in Canada. Occasionally a wolfdog at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary can be rehomed, but the potential owners are vetted carefully.

But, seriously, why? Why would you want to perpetuate wolfdog breeding? They don’t belong in the wild, and they don’t belong in a house. If you can provide the right home for a sanctuary wolfdog, yes, that’s wonderful, but please don’t encourage breeding. All wolfdogs at the sanctuary are sterilized. Adopt, don’t shop!

*Buyer beware: If you genuinely want a wolfdog, make sure that is what you are paying for. Dogs that look like wolves are sometimes sold as wolfdogs! At $2,500, you would want to get your money’s worth! Before emptying your bank account for a wolfdog pup, check out wolfdog sanctuaries in your area.


Any prospective owner should do extensive research on wolfdogs to get the facts and consider if they would be able to manage a wolfdog. The emphasis is on manage, as that is the word our guide used. We visited with some of the sanctuary ambassadors, the ones who accept humans in their environment, but we had to wait for them to come to us, and they only approached because we had treats. Just reaching out to pet one of them would have been enough to scare them away for the duration of our visit. I felt blessed to have one of the wolfdogs come up to me and allow me to touch her briefly. We were instructed only to touch them if they appeared to be willing, and then, very slowly. The wolfdogs are beautiful to look at, but all were very cautious. There was even one named “Quinn”!

The sanctuary is home to other creatures as well. There is Rango, a coydog, who I fell in love with. I was a little sad that he didn’t have a partner, but I was assured he had playmates when he wasn’t in his enclosure. Coydogs are more prevalent in the United States than in Canada. Here, coyotes are often considered pests.

Rango the coydog (high content)

Then there are the Goats of Yamnuska! Yes, the sanctuary provides a home for goats as well, some of which have been rescued from livestock auctions. And on the day I was there, a turkey had just arrived. He and I chatted for a bit, and he seemed to be quite content.

My pensive buddy

Goat on a swing being pushed by a friend

The sanctuary offers volunteer internships year-round for anyone interested. The guides I met were fantastic, eager to answer any questions. There are various tours offered, and you are free to roam the property before or after your tour.

For those of you who are local, you may remember the horrific case of the Milk River hoarder, who had 201 dogs seized from her property near Milk River, Alberta in late 2014 and early 2015. I discovered that three of the wolfdogs at the sanctuary came from her place. I did see Horton, who is a low content wolfdog with a fair bit of Irish Wolfhound. He looks like an Irish Wolfhound! My heart hurt watching him pace back and forth in his enclosure. He did not like being observed by us humans. This is possibly due to the abuse and neglect he endured in Milk River.

Horton’s comrades from Milk River, Shadow and Kiba, are not part of the tour. They are extremely shy due to the trauma they experienced while in the care, if you could call it that, of the woman, and so their enclosure is secluded.  The lady in question is at present being charged with 13 counts of animal cruelty and one count of failure to appear in court back in 2016 and was in court yesterday. In 2010 she had 80 dogs removed from her property in Saskatchewan and received a ten-year ban from owning more than two dogs. Unfortunately, the ban only applies to Saskatchewan. We need to do more for the poor creatures we are stewards of who have been so abused.

Horton….it was difficult to photograph him as he never stopped pacing. Poor guy!

There is a bit of information on Canada Goose at the sanctuary as well. I’m always happy when I see information offered to the public about animal abuse that they may not be aware of. It just occurred to me that their no-fur, sheepskin, leather or down wearing policy may be more of a statement about animal cruelty than perhaps wolfdogs’ likes or dislikes. I applaud you, Georgina De Caigny, for your stand. I am ever so grateful for sanctuaries that offer animals a safe place to live out their lives, where they are loved, cared for and have companionship. Thank you, Georgina De Caigny, for opening up your heart and life to those who have been cast aside or abused.

Some info on Canada Goose products

All in all, it was an education. I strongly advise anyone interested in owning a wolfdog to visit the sanctuary if possible. If you aren’t in the vicinity, do your homework. These animals are fearful of humans and aren’t receptive to affection the way dogs are. While I’m sure it is possible to develop a strong bond with a wolfdog, there is a great deal of time and effort required in living with one. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is more than just a sanctuary. It promotes awareness about wolves and wolfdogs and provides educational programs while also working towards rehoming those who are suitable as pets. Time is well spent touring the sanctuary and learning about these majestic creatures, appropriate for all ages.

  1. Very informative piece! And who knew that sanctuaries like this existed and are needed! Of course, I knew about the sanctuary from your previous posts. Stunning photos too!

    1. Glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, the things we humans have to do to fix the things we have done! I’m always so grateful for those who do the fixing.?

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