Children meet wolves up close and hungry

By Michael Le Desma
Chair, Boulder Valley Inner City Outings

When we awoke after our first night at camp, we found ourselves and the children in our care surrounded by many hungry, slavering wolves. Thirty-seven wolves stared at us, all eager to bolt down fresh meat like…well…wolves will do.

Does this sound eerily like a movie plot? It’s not. It’s a real experience our Boulder Valley Inner City Outings (ICO) volunteers provided for several children (ages 10-15) from the Project YES! program in Lafayette, Colo. Offering this unique outing experience was Mission: Wolf, a non-profit, educational wolf sanctuary near Gardner, Colo.

Wolf photo 1

But, back to our story. We gathered the kids together and got busy, butchering a massive (but old and very dead) draft horse to feed the population of rescued wolves that one finds at this incredible mission. It was a hot day and the work was difficult, but we finished in time for the “big feed,” when volunteers throw the meat, pell-mell into the surrounding wolf enclosures, where the waiting animals bolt it down in a flash.

After the wolves had eaten, we had a chance for a more intimate visit with three of the sanctuary’s ambassador and people-friendly wolves. We learned the proper way to greet a wolf – which involves baring one’s teeth, looking them in the eye, and then being licked very enthusiastically in the face. Happily, wolves don’t have dog breath!

Later, in the evening at our campsite, we were treated to wolf songs and an expanse of stars such as is rarely seen even in the alpine. The following morning, wakened by the howling of wolves, we helped with a smaller “daily feed” of kibble, meat, and medicines. Then it was time to pack up and head home, just as another dead horse arrived for cutting up.

Not a petting zoo

The children interacted with these wolves in a way they will likely never forget, and neither will we Sierra Club volunteers. We all learned that Mission: Wolf is not a petting zoo and these wild animals are definitely not just big dogs. This was the real deal of nature: beautiful, strong, and literally in-your-face.

Work at Mission: Wolf never stops and neither do its volunteers, who kindly guided our own volunteer work, gave us a tour of the facility, and taught us about wolf behavior, habitat, and biology.

Wolf photo 2

Boulder Valley ICO is an outreach program of the Sierra Club that provides nature and wilderness experiences to children who would not have these opportunities in any other way. You can see a short video from this outing by visiting the Boulder Valley ICO channel on YouTube or our blog.

If you’d like to be part of our all-volunteer program, please contact us at We really need volunteers, especially those who like backpacking.  We thank Caroline Hogue, Grant Irland, Michael Le Desma, and Mike Whiteley, who organized and/or lead our Mission: Wolf outing. Special thanks also goes the National ICO directorate for providing special funding to support this outing.

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