Surprise wolf pup at McCleery Ranch

Unexpected McCleery wolf pup

by Wendy Spencer,  Director of Operations, Wolf Haven International

We have some unexpected news to share from our McCleery Ranch in Montana.

One of the biggest challenges here at McCleery Ranch has been managing the aggression between the females in two large family groups As a reminder, we care for 34 wolves here and though several are in pairs,  there are two large family groups and both have multiple reproductively viable females,  who are far more prone to aggression during breeding season than males. Although at this time we have no plans to breed the McCleery wolves, they all still remain intact, which poses a definite challenge.

Wolves are seasonal breeders (winter), so prior to breeding season we made the decision to remove some of the females from the largest group which consisted of ten females and four males. In January, we were able to chemically immobilize via a remote drug delivery system (dart gun) four of the females from that group and move them to the one vacant enclosure that we had on site, reducing that group to six females and four males. And while there was still some aggression between them, it was much more reduced than what we saw our first year here.

Four members of a McCleery Ranch group.

Four members of a McCleery Ranch group.

During the breeding season, we were able to separate one of the family groups into same sex groups, but even though aggression levels were reduced, we were concerned about sealing all six females in a single enclosure (they currently have access to two enclosures with a corridor that connects them so they are able to move back and forth).  Based on their history and given the fact that when we did semen collection the year before the males had no viable sperm, we made the decision to leave the group together.

Surprise! Turns out one of the males was still reproductively viable – because we ended up with one little female pup. As a sanctuary, breeding does not align with our philosophy (with the exception of our participation in Mexican and red wolf Species Survival Plan programs {SSP}). Wolf Haven takes precautions to make sure that we are not intentionally breeding more wolves to spend their lives in captivity (where, of course, wolves do not belong). However, the pup is here, and we will do whatever we can to give her the best life possible, as we do with all our animals. She is about 8 weeks old now and the rest of the family dotes on her… she pretty much runs the show!

Mexican Wolf Pair Welcome Nine Pups

Furry pile of pups sleeping in their underground den.

Furry pile of pups sleeping in their underground den.

Mexican wolf parents M1360 (Kochi) and F1422 (Vida) had a litter of nine pups at Wolf Haven on April 30. Although Wolf Haven does not breed the rescued wolves who call our sanctuary home – we wouldn’t want to contribute to the tragedy of wild animals living in captivity – we occasionally have litters of species who have been designated as critically endangered: red wolves (Canis rufus) and Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi).

Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs are cooperative animal programs designed to oversee the population management of select species in captivity in order to enhance their conservation in the wild.

One of two collared wolves release into the wild in 2013.

One of two collared wolves release into the wild in 2013.

Mexican wolves were declared endangered in 1976. Since 1994, Wolf Haven has actively participated in their recovery, both as a captive breeding facility and one of only three pre-release sites in the US. Toward that end, there have been 10 litters of Mexican wolves born at Wolf Haven, the first one arriving in 1996. Three families from Wolf Haven have been released into the wild, with the Hawk’s Nest family group being among the first three packs of Mexican gray wolves released into the federally designated reintroduction area in Arizona’s Apache National Forest.

From our first “official” photo of Vida and Kochi’s litter, all in a furry pile in their den, to their first required health care check six weeks later, these five males and four females have certainly grown. They will receive their second round of inoculations, deworming and also get microchips later this month. In the meantime, the nine pups all appeared healthy and robust, as you can see at their first checkup.


Meet Volunteer of the Quarter – Beth Barham

Beth Barham making loaf for the wolves

Beth Barham making loaf for the wolves.

by Cindy Irwin, Director of Education & Volunteer Services, Wolf Haven

What makes a team of volunteers successful? Some of the elements include:

·         Passion for the mission of Wolf Haven
·         A desire to work for people as well as animals
·         Versatility
·         A willingness to learn and share that knowledge respectfully

These qualities are exemplified by our volunteer of the quarter, Beth Barham. Beth is one our most busy volunteers, because she wears many hats. Not only does Beth help make loaves of meat for the wolves using yummy meats like tripe, heart, and kidneys, she also is a member of our cemetery clean up crew. Beth enjoys public interaction at educational events, and she assists me in the volunteer department. Whatever the task, Beth shows up with a smile and a gracious attitude.

Beth comes to us from California, where she and her husband raised 4 children. Now retired, Beth gets to fulfill her love of nature and animals by volunteering, hiking, and camping. Beth’s household includes three dogs, one cat, two birds, and a turtle! This busy gal also volunteers with foster children, giving back to our community in yet one more way.

I often think of our volunteer team as the engine and fuel that drive Wolf Haven.  Beth is an example of one of the vital parts of this engine, without which we could not continue as a sanctuary. We are all grateful for your work and energy Beth. We look forward to many years to come!  

Happy National Volunteer Week!

Cindy recognizes Wolf Haven volunteers at previous Volunteer Appreciation picnic.

Cindy recognizes Wolf Haven volunteers at previous Volunteer Appreciation picnic.

by Cindy Irwin, Director of Education and Volunteer Services

April 19-25, 2020 is National Volunteer Week. And Wolf Haven International would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU yet again to our wonderful volunteers.

Wolf Haven is so grateful for the talented and energetic volunteers who work with us for wolf conservation. So much progress has been made in recent years. Together, we have created a true sanctuary for both wolves and people. It is a joy to share a passion for animals and wildlife with all of you. Thanks for your work in the sanctuary, the classroom, with events, in the prairie, and the office. We could not imagine doing our important work without you!

Volunteer Rosina Newton & others getting food

Volunteer mtg

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead



Continuing Education during COVID-19

Zoom meeting with Girl Scout troop 44537 in Woodinville, WA

Zoom meeting with Girl Scout troop 44537 in Woodinville, WA.

Continuing Education during COVID-19

Faye Peebles, Education Coordinator, Wolf Haven International

While many of us are adjusting to what is becoming a new normal, some things remain the same -though they look a little different now. One of these is Girl Scout troop meetings. Here in Western Washington, Girl Scouts were given notice in early March to cancel all events including meetings.

Anyone who has been a part of any youth organization knows it is a big deal. The need for members of these groups to stay connected is extremely important, especially now, when everything looks vastly different than it did a month ago. I was able to witness this firsthand, through my computer camera.

Girl Scout troop 44537 in Woodinville, Washington is continuing to stay in contact with each other and using this time to work on their BRONZE award. They were scheduled to come to Wolf Haven this month, but as we are all aware, their plans were forced to change because of the health crisis. Instead of them coming to us, I went to them. Via modern technology from my own home office, I took them on a virtual tour of the sanctuary. After getting to see (virtually) the wolves on our public visitor route, the girls had questions and comments for me and each other. One 10-year-old was celebrating her birthday, which prompted a spontaneous, out-of-sync round of the Happy Birthday song. It was an unexpected and heartwarming virtual hug for all of us.

They also received packets and a video from me so they can work on their badges. I will see them again as the girls work through their project. While it doesn’t look the same, life as Girl Scouts, as humans, continues through the use of modern technology. Our virtual meeting brought a little bit of normalcy to my life and provided the girls a chance to learn about wolves while staying connected to their larger group.

If you are interested in a remote educational presentation, contact Faye Peebles at or leave a message at 360.264.4695 x220.

Faye Peebles with Girl Scout's Woman of Distinction award.

Faye Peebles being presented with Girl Scout’s Woman of Distinction award.

Un lugar para los lobos en la naturaleza/A place for wolves in the wild

This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of the bilingual environmental publication ECO-Lógica. Reprinted here with permission.

A place for wolves in the wild – Un lugar para los lobos

by Pamela Maciel, Sanctuary Co-Manager, Mexican Wolf Specialist, Wolf Haven International


Speaking in Spanish about Lobos and Nature

Breathtaking scenery

Breathtaking scenery/Photo credit: USFWS

by Christopher Montero,  Outreach Coordinator, Wolf Haven International

“Do you think there are wolves in these mountains?” the young man asked, pointing to the snow-covered peaks around Lake Wenatchee. “Well…for sure about 30 or 40 miles South”, I answered.

“So, no wolves here?” he kept pressing.

I thought about it for a second, then I said: “I bet there are dispersing wolves moving up and down these mountains, seeking a partner or a new pack. Who knows? Maybe there is a curious wolf sniffing us from up there, at this very moment,” I pointed with my chin to the distance.  “¡Qué chido!” (Cool!) he replied… and his eyes got wider.

Spending time with nature.

Spending time with nature/Photo credit: USFWS

Those are the moments I feel I have accomplished something good.

I had similar conversations with different audiences around the Snoqualmie National Forest. But what was especially significant about this interaction, was that it was entirely in Spanish.  It happened early this April at an event called Camp Biota.

Chris talks to students outside

Chris talks to students outside/Photo credit: USFWS

Camp Biota is a science camp geared towards migrant middle-schoolers. What makes this experience even more special, is that these Latino teens were selected because of their low scores in math and science.  The idea is to kindle their interest in natural sciences and inspire them to learn more.  During a whole week, the students participated in hands-on experiences on field data-collection, talks, experiments and outdoor activities. Camp Biota is the result of a collaboration between the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery and the North Central Educational Service District and it involves thirteen organizations, including Wolf Haven International.

Chris and Pam in the classroom.

Chris and Pam in the classroom/Photo credit: USFWS

This was the second year I was invited to participate as an instructor at Camp Biota and this time we were excited to include Pamela Maciel, Wolf Haven’s Sanctuary Co-Manager and Mexican Wolf SSP Liaison.  A significant portion of the students at Camp Biota were girls, so it was empowering to see and hear a role-model like Pam, a migrant Latina who has a solid background in sciences and biology.

Ecology hike

Ecology hike/Photo credit: USFWS

Being part of Camp Biota was immensely satisfying for Pam and me.  We supported activities and nature hikes, facilitated field data collection, gave talks and even translated to Spanish in real-time.  Most of students spoke and understood English with no problem, but connecting with these teens in our mother tongue went beyond sharing our passion for wolves, animals or conservation…it was about making a difference while honoring our unique cultural identities.

Chris & Pam with Bioteca students.

Chris & Pam with Biota students/Photo credit: USFWS

Teaching conservation in different countries have shown me that cultural diversity has a lot in common with biological diversity: both generate richer and more beautiful interactions and that’s the base for more resilient communities and systems.

That’s why Pam and I love to teach in Spanish.

Native Plant Appreciation Week April 21-27, 2019

by Marinka Major, Wolf Haven International


Wolf Haven mounded prairie

Wolf Haven mounded prairie

Native plants find sanctuary at Wolf Haven where 37 acres of rolling, grassy Mima Mounds harbor dozens of rare prairie plants. Prairies have a diverse population of native plants that provide food to many animals, some that only live in prairie ecosystems such as the Mazama pocket gopher, Thomomys mazama and the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas editha taylori.

Controlled burn at Wolf Haven

Controlled burn at Wolf Haven

Native prairie plants are fire adapted and thrive in prairies that experience regular burns. Centuries ago, indigenous people thoughtfully burned prairies to ensure the survival of the many fire dependent plants.  At Wolf Haven, The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) manages and preforms prescribed burns on the prairie, keeping it healthy just as people did generations ago.



Many of the native plant species found in our South Sound prairies have great significance to people for their use as food or medicine. One of the showiest plants on the prairie is the common Camas, Camassia quamash a traditional food still being harvested and eaten today. The Camas produces an onion-like bulb that can be eaten after cooked and the periwinkle flowers cover prairies from late April to mid-May in a spectacular show.

Chocolate lily

The Chocolate Lily, Fritillaria affinis, also produces an edible bulb and has a unique blossom that resembles a dark brown tulip with bright yellow stamens and pistils that can be seen blooming April through May.

Early morning violet

Early morning violet

Another enchanting flower of the prairie is the early-blue Violet, Viola adunca. The short plant produces purple flowers that several butterfly and nectar eating species depend on.

Western serviceberry

Western serviceberry

Not only does the prairie provide edible bulbs and flowers but berries too! The Western serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia is a large shrub that blooms with spiky white flowers in the spring giving way to fat, dark purple berries at the end of summer.

Wolf Haven prairie sign

Interpretive signage guides you through our rare prairie.As we celebrate Native Plant Appreciation Week, let’s be sure to not only stop and smell the roses, but to look around and enjoy the wonders of our native plants!

Volunteer of the Quarter – Kieran Lynch

by Dan Monn, Animal Care, Gift Shop & Volunteer Assistant

Wolf Haven International is very lucky to have an amazing and diverse group of volunteers. Our newest Volunteer of the Quarter, Kieran, also happens to be one of our youngest, yet the first day I met him, he told me he would have started much sooner if he could.  He had quite a wait to meet the age requirement (17), given he wanted to be a volunteer at Wolf Haven ever since visiting in the 5th grade.  Knowing his time commitments as a Senior at Black Hills High School with other interests, we are honored that he commits as much time volunteering at Wolf Haven as he does.

Managing his time between school, marching band and working toward his pilot’s license Kieran still spends most Sundays helping us at the docent table.  He does a great job engaging and interacting with our guests as they wait for their scheduled sanctuary visits.  He has a warm and friendly personality that makes him very approachable for any who are interested in learning a little more during their time with us.

Beyond his interactions with the guests, Kieran also does a lot to help around the grounds.  He arrives a couple hours before each docent shift to do some extra work. Usually it is a lot of weeding and pulling blackberry, though some Sundays our Sanctuary Manager Erik Wilber, will steal him to help with a special project.  This led to one of Kieran’s favorite memories.  Recently working with Erik, Kieran got to help with the preparation for our newest wolf enclosure.  This “glamorous” job involved brush clearing in preparation for Southgate Fence Inc. to set posts, hauling away limbs and clearing brambles and blackberry. He was excited to contribute as we work to provide more space and flexibility for the care of the wolves – and WE are excited to have the help of such a dedicated volunteer.

A wolf called London – blog by Jenny Landor