Reason to Howl: Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center Welcomes Rare Red Wolves

Wolves come to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center to find their forever homes.
Wolves come to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center to find their forever homes. Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
Nearly thirty years ago, Darlene Kobobel rescued a wolf-dog hybrid named Chinook in Lake George, Colorado. She says she'd grown up fearing wolves, but after hearing that Chinook would be euthanized just because of her mixed breeding, she knew she had to save her.

Soon she realized that she needed to do more for other endangered wolf hybrids, and founded the Wolf Hybrid Rescue Center. As that work continued, Kobobel realized that many species of canids, which includes wolves and dogs, were at risk of extinction, and that the best way to protect them was to educate people about the animals.

In 2002, Kobobel transformed the Wolf Hybrid Rescue center into the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, home to seventeen canids representing four breeds, including gray wolves, coyotes, foxes and wild dogs, on twenty acres in Divide. The center has partnered with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Saving Animals From Extinction program (SAFE) and hosts daily tours of the facility.

"We're a forever home for animals that cannot go into the wild because they have been raised by people,” says Erika Moore, assistant director and animal care supervisor at the CWWC.
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Darlene Kobobel founded the Colorado Wolf and Wilflide Center decades ago.
Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
Starting today, September 21, visitors can see one more breed at the center: the rare red wolf. Two ten-year-old red wolves, Shawnee and Van Gogh, have joined the center after retiring from the breeding program for the species at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas.

“Generally, in the wild, ten years would actually be considered very old for a wolf,” says Moore. “They have contributed their genetics to the red wolf population, and now they are basically coming to their retirement home at the center."

There are about twenty red wolves left in the wild, on the coast of North Carolina; the species used to roam a swath of the Mideast, from Virginia down to Texas and below. Shawnee and Van Gogh are the first red wolves in Colorado, and the CWWC is the only facility in the state that can host them under U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations.

The SAFE program coordinates with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to house endangered animals. To add the red wolves to its menagerie, CWWC spent $35,000 and about a year renovating an old enclosure, replacing the fencing it uses for most of its enclosures with chain-link and building an overhang to help prevent escapes. U.S. Fish and Wildlife wants to avoid any possibility that one of the last red wolves left in the world will disappear.

Red wolves, along with the gray wolves that will soon be reintroduced in Colorado, serve the same function as a keystone species: bringing balance to the ecosystem by regulating prey species. Kobobel was a proponent of Proposition 114, which narrowly passed in 2020 and instructs the state to reintroduce wolves by 2023. Along with helping write the proposition, she participated in the Stakeholder Advisory Group, convened by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to weigh in on the department’s reintroduction plan, which will be presented in December.

“There are so few of them left, and so few people even are aware of these animals,” Moore says. “We decided that it was a really good opportunity for us to be able to be voices for this species that is on the verge of extinction.”

The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is located at 4729 Twin Rocks Road in Divide; it's open Tuesday through Sunday, and reservations are required for tours )$25 for adults during peak season and $20 off-peak; $15 for children under twelve). Find out more here.
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Catie Cheshire is a staff writer at Westword. After getting her undergraduate degree at Regis University, she went to Arizona State University for a master's degree. She missed everything about Denver -- from the less-intense sun to the food, the scenery and even the bus system. Now she's reunited with Denver and writing news for Westword.
Contact: Catie Cheshire