Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, about a half hour outside of Colorado Springs, the town of Divide is home to one of the most unique mayors you’ll ever meet — a timber wolf named Shunka. On our recent trip up Highway 24, we made a stop to see this special dignitary.
Away from the high-pressure world of politics, Shunka makes his home at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, where he can be himself and fit in as one among a pack of wolves. On the day we visited, the mayor was taking a nap under the shade of a tree, no doubt exhausted from the many responsibilities of overseeing a city. But he wasn’t too tired to join in when the pack began to howl. It’s just the sort of refuge every public figure dreams of, assuming he’s a wolf.
If you’re looking for a unique, educational opportunity in Southern Colorado, you must add the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center to your travel plans. Founded in 1993, when Darlene Kobobel rescued a wolf-hybrid named Chinook, the center’s mission is to provide a sanctuary to wolves, coyotes and foxes where they can be provided with spacious enclosures, a healthy diet and top-notch veterinary care. The resident animals have been rescued from often-times heartbreaking situations that make it impossible for them to live outside of captivity. Yet thanks to the efforts of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, they’re able to live out their days enjoying the crisp, clear mountain air and the loving TLC of their caretakers.
The center also strives to educate the public about the plight of wolves in the wild, helping us all to better understand the importance of conservation efforts. I was especially touched when I heard how the red wolf was nearly driven to extinction. Today, thanks to conservation efforts, more than 50 red wolves make the wilds of North Carolina their home, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
If you’re ready for an adventure of your own, the center’s one-hour tour is a great introduction to the elusive wolf. The knowledgeable guides explain the social dynamics of wolf packs, the backstory of each resident animal, and the important part that wolves play within the ecosystem. On our tour, despite the warm weather, many of the wolves came close enough to the fences of their enclosures for us to be able to see them. And the tour ended with the chance to howl with the wolf pack, a truly magical moment!
For the truly adventurous, if you’re ready to take a step on the wild side, consider taking the Alpha Tour. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this tour allows you to get into the enclosure with a few of the wolves so you can interact with them face-to-face. One of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had was meeting Keara, an Alaskan Interior wolf. Thankfully a staff photographer captures the encounter for you so you can live in the moment and embrace this unique experience. Well worth the cost, this tour will give you a new respect for these beautiful creatures.
Ready to have a howling good time? Check out the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife’s website for more information, and be sure to call ahead for reservations.