Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary hopes to expand as 15 new additions settle in

Fourteen wolf-dogs and one coy-dog — a coyote-dog cross — are getting used to their new home in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.

They came from a breeding kennel on Vancouver Island. The Warmland Wolf Kennel was closing down operations and needed help finding a home for the partly wild animals.

Being the only non-profit of its kind in Canada, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary west of Calgary stepped in.

“There was a wolf-dog breeder and he was basically closing down his operation. He had reached out to us to see if we’d be able to assist,” operations manager Alyx Harris told CBC News. “So we kind of sprung to action and tried to kind of figure out a plan of how we were logistically going to take in all these animals.”

Harris says it was quite the feat moving their 15 new residents over the period of two months, as it’s a lot different rescuing wolf-dogs as compared to domestic dogs kept as pets. 

6 new enclosures coming

“It’s been quite the whirlwind, but we’ve got all of these new guys here at the sanctuary all in temporary containment at the moment and kind of coming into the warmer season here of the spring, summer, fall, we’re looking at building six new enclosures for to account for all these new guys here,” she said.

They had to make two trips: the first in December that focused on ones with less wolf content that were easier to catch, and the second for the more wild animals with a “difficult side.” They also had to convince these animals that don’t like small spaces to get into crates for the journey.

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The second batch arrived right before Alberta’s cold snap in January — a bit of shock for the dogs used to Vancouver Island weather that still had shaved bellies from being spayed and neutered.

Many of the new additions that came from a longtime wolf-dog breeder on Vancouver Island closing down its operations are related. (

“So we had to very quickly figure out where we were going to put these animals because most of the time they just go right out outside because that’s where they’re most happy and most comfortable,” said Harris.

“But everyone’s doing really well and everyone’s starting to really settle in and we’re starting to get to see a lot of their personalities come out.”

Wolf-dog breeding is legal in many parts of Canada, and Harris says it’s really hard to keep track of “backyard breeders.”

“The thing with wolf-dogs is that they categorize them into three different categories of low-, mid- or high-content and that refers to how much wolf content is in them,” she said. “So the more wolf content, the more they’re going to behave like a wolf and the more that they’re not going to behave like a pet.”

Fundraising campaign coming soon

In Alberta, it’s legal to have a high-content wolf-dog despite the challenges they present. Harris says that can lead some people to surrender the animals after they realize “they’re no longer able to keep them.”

Then there are ones like their coy-dog, Wildfire, who are not fans of human interaction.

A dark brown coyote-dog cross stands near a fence.
Wildfire is a coyote-dog cross, which is quite rare. The sanctuary says the coy-dog is one of the most shy animals that came from the Warmland Wolf Kennel. (Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary/Facebook)

“I think a lot of people get them thinking that they’re going to have this animal that, you know, you can go on hikes and you can sit on the couch and cuddle with them,” said Harris, adding walking on leash can be quite difficult. “That’s not really their true nature as far as things that they would enjoy doing.”

The sanctuary hopes to launch a fundraising campaign soon to help with the costs of their six new two-acre enclosures as the ground thaws, as one alone can cost roughly $65,000. The fee for visiting the centre and its 57 residents also goes toward their care.

“If they don’t come to us, a lot of times the answer for them is sadly that they are euthanized,” said Harris. 

“So we’re really passionate about the work that we get to do and we’re really grateful for the work we get to do with having supporters that help to support this cause.”

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