Wolf Haven International: Wolf Conservation and Education

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Prepared by Dale Bristow

Submitted to Douglas Schuler

Civic Intelligence: Theory and Practice

Case Study: Wolf Haven International: Wolf Conservation and Education

Week 8, Wednesday, 5/18/2011


  • Historical decline of the wolf

Long before humankind became the dominant species on Earth, wolves held that place of honor. Wolves are considered a keystone species that sits atop of the food chain. They maintained a balance in the eco-systems they inhabited. At one time, wolves covered much of the North American continent. According to wolf biologist L. David Mech, the wolf was originally “the most widely distributed mammal in the world” (Busch 2007). Unfortunately, as humans evolved and expanded in population as well as into the top predator, they began to have conflicts with wolves. In many cultures, the wolf became a thing of evil and danger. As far back as 600 B.C, stories attributed to Aesop talked about the cunning and wickedness of wolves (Busch, 2007). This fear and loathing spread from Asia and Europe and made it’s way to North America. The Native Americans did not share this feeling towards the wolf. They respected and revered the wolf as one of the great spirit animals. Europeans however saw them as a problem that needed to be eradicated and began hunting and trapping wolves by the hundreds of thousands, such that by the 1970’s the only wolves left in the wild could be found in Alaska, Canada and the north eastern tip of Minnesota

  • Endangered Species Act of 1973

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was created to “help endangered and threatened species recover from their low numbers so that they are no longer in danger of qualifying to be classified as endangered or threatened in the foreseeable future” (Archibald, 2004). By this time it was determined that the gray wolf population had been reduced by almost 95% of it’s historic population. Scientific estimates believe that prior to Europeans settling in North America there were as many as 400,000 wolves in the lower 48 states alone. The only wolves that remained in the wild in the lower 48 were a few hundred located in northern Minnesota and Michigan.

When the wolf was listed on the ESA in 1973, only the subspecies, Rocky Mountain Gray wolf was listed. In 1978, the ESA was amended to include all subspecies of the gray wolf as well as the Red wolf. In 1982, the federal government once again amended the ESA to allow for the reintroduction of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park,central Idaho and Western Montana. After numerous legal challenges to the idea of reintroduction, wolves were relocated from Canada to Yellowstone, Idaho and Montana. Since those reintroductions, the population has grown where now there are over 1,500 wolves located in the Rocky Mountain region that encompasses Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah. In the Great Lakes region the recovery is even greater with an estimated population of over 5,000 wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Mexican Grey wolf that was at the very verge of total extinction in the wild. There are currently about 42 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico and the struggle to have those numbers increase continues.

There are a number of organizations and sanctuaries that work for wolf conservation. Most of these began in the 1970’s and ‘80’s and are non-profit's that operate via contributions, gifts and volunteer support. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Wolf Haven, International
  • Mission:Wolf
  • Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
  • Wolf Mountain Sanctuary
  • Runs with Wolves Sanctuary
  • Wolf Education Research Center
  • International Wolf Center
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • California Wolf Center
  • Endangered Wolf Center
  • Northern Rockies Wolf Collaborative
  • Animal Welfare Institute
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Sierra Club
  • Wolf Song of Alaska
  • National Parks Conservation Association
  • Greater Yellowstone Coalition
  • Idaho Conservation League
  • The Wilderness Society
  • Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
  • Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
  • Lakota Wolf Preserve
  • Seacrest Wolf Preserve
  • Timber Wolf Information Network
  • White Wolf Sanctuary
  • Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary
  • Wolf Conservation Center
  • Wolf Hollow
  • Wolf Howl Animal Preserve
  • Wolf Park
  • Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania
  • Wolf Timbers
  • Wolftown


As noted above, the number of organizations that contribute to or are directly involved with wolf conservation in some form is lengthy. This list does not even encompass the large number of organizations worldwide that do similar work. In order to look at how the issue of wolf conservation is dealt with using civic intelligence, I will concentrate on one organization as an example.

Wolf Haven International (WHI), located in Tenino, Washington, is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1982 by a couple that wanted to provide a home for captive born wolves. As WHI grew over the years the mission became that of "working for wolf conservation by protecting wild wolves, providing sanctuary for captive-born wolves, promoting wolf restoration in historic ranges and educating the public on the value of all wildlife". (WHI mission statement)

  • Orientation

WHI's existence is due to a love and respect for wolves. This is shared by all that work for WHI. They operate under a guiding set of principles and perspectives. First and foremost is wolf conservation. To achieve this, WHI provides a sanctuary for captive-born wolves, promotes education on wolves to the general public and partners with other wildlife conservation organizations on issues of wildlife conservation and protection.

In addition to the conservation of wolves, WHI works to help restore wolves to their natural habitat. They participate in the Species Survival Program, a federal program developed to save the Red wolf and the Mexican Gray wolf both of which were on the verge of extinction. As a participant of this program, WHI is a recognized breeding facility for the Red wolf and one of only 3 breeding and pre-release facilities for the Mexican Gray wolf.

To maintain it's focus on these goals, WHI staff and volunteers concentrate on using scientific data and knowledge to make decisions on care for the wolves as well as the information that is shared through educational and political outreach. The organization understands that the love of wolves alone will not help them survive either in captivity or the wild.

  • Organization

WHI is a 501(c)(3) organization that is comprised of a Board of Directors, an Executive Director, a small paid staff that includes dedicated animal care staff and a large contingent of volunteers that are committed to the organizations vision of wolf conservation.

The paid staff and volunteers work closely together to maintain the day to day activities of the sanctuary as well as the promotion of the ideals of WHI. The organization works hard to incorporate all players. The volunteers are involved in decision and policy making right along with the paid staff. WHI believes that everyone has a voice and that it takes collaboration of all parties to make positive changes for wolf conservation.

  • Engagement

WHI's main goal is conservation of wolves in the wild as well as in captivity. To do this, they utilize a number of different tactics.

They continually work on educating the general public about wolves. This is accomplished with tours of the sanctuary as well as outreach trips to schools, presentations at community events and civic meetings and providing and maintaining social media outlets, i.e., web page, facebook and twitter.

WHI is involved in several communities as a member of their Chamber's of Commerce and continues to work with other civic organizations to promote not just wolf conservation but an understanding of how all wildlife play a keen role in maintaining the balance of nature.

WHI is also involved on the political front providing time and energy in meeting and working with local, state and federal officials on all issues related to wildlife conservation.

  • Intelligence

Basing decisions and ideas around scientific knowledge instead of strictly passionate opinion allows WHI to provide a sound and fundamental educational approach to the issue of wolves and wolf conservation. This issue is one of the most contentious environmental issues in the country today. With the recent de-listing of the Rocky Mountain Grey wolf, this scientific and reasoned approach will be put to the test. Can this approach be maintained in the face of growing anti-wolf sentiment at the state and federal levels? WHI is working to answer this question by building partnerships with other wolf and wildlife conservation groups to promote a unified approach to counter the growing anti-wolf trend. Time will tell if this approach is intelligent enough to work.

  • Products/Projects

When looking at WHI as an organization that purportedly uses civic intelligence, there needs to be some type of tangible outcome to help illustrate that usage. For WHI, the long term goal is stated in their mission statement. The goal of wolf conservation and reintroduction remains the same. The process to get there is constant and ever changing. Short term goals to help facilitate the long term goal, center around continuing education for everyone and the ongoing battle with those who seek to derail wolf recovery and reintroduction.

  • Resources

Since WHI is a non-profit organization, it relies on money. Money from tours, merchandise sales, token wolf adoptions, memberships, in-kind donations and grants. To generate this monetary support, WHI works hard to market it's mission to the general public by participating in outreach events and fundraisers throughout the year.

As important as money however, is the need for talented volunteers with a love of wolves and a desire to contribute their time and efforts to protect and care for them. Without dedicated volunteers, Wolf Haven would not be able to continue operations.


Organizations and groups that exhibit civic intelligence are normally those that center around making things better for humankind in different ways. There are a large number that work for the environment and the planet we live on. By saving are environment we save our very existence and future. Wolf Haven International does this by trying to save one of the keystone species in the web of life. Understanding that we are connected with all lifeforms, including those we've feared, will go a long way towards saving our environment. When the top predator in the wild was removed, the effects on the balance of nature were significant and devastating. Since the reintroduction of the wolf into some of it's natural habitat, that balance has slowly come back.

Unfortunately, the fears and paranoia of a select few are once again moving forward to derail the progress that's been made. The recent de-listing of the Rocky Mountain Gray wolf could set in motion the near eradication that occurred in the 19th and 20th century's. By using aspects of civic intelligence, such as deliberation, communication and collaboration, Wolf Haven International continues to work hard to try and educate as many people as possible on the need for the gray wolf to provide the balance in nature and a better future for all of humankind.

  • Bibliography

Busch, Robert H., The Wolf Almanac: A Celebration of Wolves and Their World, The Lyons Press Guilford, CT. 2007

Archibald, Catherine J., Recovery of the Gray Wolf under the Endangered Species Act, Animal Legal & Historical Center 2004 web article

Pattern Language Association


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