DIVIDE — In our exclusive new series Adventures with Alan, we'll travel across Southern Colorado week-by-week to show you thrills and chills, hidden gems and well-known spots.
This week, we visit the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide, which is dedicated to the rescue and education of wolf and wolf-hybrids.
The center is home to 14 wolves and 4 foxes, and is the only sanctuary in Colorado to have earned the approval of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
They offer a variety of tours and one-of-a-kind experiences to the public, with a strong emphasis on education, conservation and preservation.
Our Adventure begins with the Standard Tour
Our guide for the day is Kirk.
He starts the tour with a history of these beautiful, often misunderstood creatures.
Prior to the European settlement, it's estimated that around 450,000 wolves roamed the lower 48.
Sadly today, their population has been reduced to around 6,000.
Most of the wolves at the sanctuary are timber wolves, more commonly known as the gray wolf.
Gray wolves are not always grizzled or gray in color. They can also be white, black or brown.
Kirk is the perfect guide. On the tour, he shares with us his vast knowledge of the animals, and with them, a near constant supply of treats.
Micah, one of the older gray wolf males, demonstrates the power of his jaws while snacking on treats.
His bite is loud and snappy, and is said to be more powerful than a lion.
Meet and Greet Encounter with Kekoa
Nicknamed the ladies man, Kekoa is a sweet, handsome and lovable guy.
Joining me in his enclosure is Erika Moore, who is the Animal Care Supervisor at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center.
Upon entering, Moore tells me to squat down and my put my hand out to welcome Kekoa.
His fur is super thick and dense, and he seems to enjoy our company.
I can't believe that I'm face to face with such a powerful yet beautiful creature.
What comes next Moore warned me about, but I must admit that it still catches me off guard.
Kekoa gives me two big, sloppy, wet kisses on the face.
The power behind the howl
Next, Moore sends us off with the perfect goodbye.
She lets out a great big howl, which triggers a chain reaction that leads to howls from nearly every wolf at the sanctuary,
"Howling is very important because it allows them to communicate over very long distances, like 10 miles on open land and 6 miles in forested area," said Moore.
Each wolf has their own voice, and researchers are committed to studying how these animals communicate.
"They believe that their howling system is as complex as the dolphin communication system. Every howl has a different meaning. We haven't quite de-coded exactly what those mean, but we know that they know what they're talking about," said Moore.
The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center offers daily tours to the public as well as meet and greet sessions. More information can be found on their website wolfeducation.org.