Back in May or June, Shannon and I sat down to try to sort out an itinerary for our trip. One thing that Shannon had suggested was that we visit some sort of animal sanctuary while we were away. This led us to an online search of sanctuaries in British Columbia and Alberta, and our eventual find of Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre, located just outside of Golden, BC.
In the summer of 1998, Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre owners Casey and Shelley Black adopted a female wolfdog pup. This pup, named Aspen, was 25% Husky and 75% Grey Wolf. Aspen became the Beta wolf the year following when the centre adopted two more wolf pups, and the natural maternal instincts she displayed enabled her to help raise every new pup the centre adopted in the years to come.
The centre itself was subsequently established in 2002 and is now home to eight wolves (of which at least five are 100% Grey Wolf). In the eleven years since its founding, Northern Lights has been home to a total of ten wolves. Two pack members have since passed due to old age and/or cancer — Aspen in 2013 and Tuk (one of the original puppies that Aspen helped raise) in 2011.
During our visit we were introduced to the remaining members of the pack — Wiley, Maya, Scrappy Dave, Flora, Moab, Keehta, Moki and Mack. I instantly developed an affection for Wiley (the pack’s Alpha) and Maya (the pack’s oldest member at fourteen years of age and Tuk’s sister).
We were provided with an educational talk on the wolves, their habitat, the centre and other wolf-related topics, and were even given the honour of being present for a spontaneous pack howl. During the talk most of the wolves were very calm and relaxed, but there were a few times when they all perked up because they noticed Casey or Shelley walking by in the background. Wiley may be the pack leader, but they definitely see their humans as some of their own.
The pack lives in a 1.25 acre enclosure on the property, and the centre even offers guided off-leash wolf hikes with a professional photographer. Unfortunately the off-leash walk was out of our traveller’s budget, so we made the most of our experience by appreciating the simple fact that we were standing just a few feet away from these creatures. Fence or no fence, we were in the company of wolves.
Luckily enough I had my phone ready when the wolves started their howl. I’m still not sure what triggered it, but it continued for almost two minutes. Being there for that moment gave me goosebumps. I don’t know if I’ll ever be present for a wolf howl ever again, so this moment definitely goes down in my books as a moment of a lifetime.
Don’t mind the shaky camera work — just turn up the volume and close your eyes. The most distinct howl you’ll hear is from Alpha wolf Wiley.