Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a rescue facility for wolf-dogs (canine-lupine crossbreeds). Executive director and founder Georgina De Caigny, a wolf-dog owner herself, spent summers during university working at a sled-dog kennel and drew on that experience to start the Yamnuska sanctuary in 2011 after she was approached by another wolf-dog owner about taking in their animal. In 2014, the sanctuary moved from its original two-acre location near Canmore to a 160-acre spread just outside of Cochrane. In addition to sheltering wolf-dogs the sanctuary also facilitates adoptions and serves to educate the public about these animals by offering interpretive tours.
6 things about Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary worth howling about
1. The sanctuary counts eight packs of resident wolf-dogs (around 23) and attracts approximately 15,000 visitors per year.
2. When it comes to determining the level of wolf content in a wolf-dog, DNA tests are not very reliable, says sanctuary manager Alyx Harris. At Yamnuska, they prefer phenotyping – assessing physical, behavioural and biological traits.
3. Low-content wolf-dogs exhibit more dog-like behaviour, while wolf-dogs that have higher wolf content exhibit more wolf-like behaviour. “Low-content wolf-dogs are a little bit more challenging than your typical husky,” says Harris. “Wolves are instinctually fearful of humans, so the more wolf content, the more you’re going to see that fearful behaviour coming through.”
4. Wolf-dogs are highly intelligent – good luck trying to pull a fast one on them. “They are very, very smart animals; they pick up on pretty much anything,” says Harris. They are also “master escape artists.” One low-content wolf-dog came to reside at the sanctuary after consistently scaling a six-foot-high backyard fence at his former city home.
5. Two sanctuary residents, wolf-dog Quinn and coyote-dog Rango, are minor celebrities from their appearances in the locally shot TV drama Heartland.
6. Wolf-dogs are not the only residents at the Yamnuska sanctuary. De Caigny also rescues goats and Harris estimates the sanctuary has around 30 of them.