Chilkat Valley News

Fund-raising efforts are under way to find homes for a pet wolf and a hybrid wolf-dog mix abandoned in a residential neighborhood in Haines.

Former Haines Animal Rescue Kennel employee Carrie Kinison has been caring for the 6-year-old female wolf named Pawnee and the 4-year-old hybrid since February. The pair had been born in captivity and were brought to Haines while still pups.

"I was working for H.A.R.K., and was asked by the owners to keep an eye on the animals while they were out of town," Kinison said. "I found them locked up and without food. And when the people didn't come back, something had to be done."

Kinison said she began feeding and watering the animals, which she said were not friendly at first, but slowly adjusted to human interaction. Kinison said the couple said they'd return to the Haines home within four or five days, but after a week's time, they had not. She said she attempted to contact the couple but was unsuccessful.

The timing of the abandonment makes finding a new home difficult. The state Board of Game this year adopted new guidelines to curb growth in pet ownership of captive-raised wolves. Owners of wolves and hybrids before Jan. 23, 2002 have grandfather rights to keep their pets. However, sale of the animals or transfer to anyone outside the immediate family is not permitted.

Knowing she is unable to keep the wolf, but not willing to return the animal to the wild, Kinison said the best option is to place it in a sanctuary in the Lower 48.

The Howling Acres Wolf Sanctuary in Williams, Ore. may be an option. The sanctuary, founded as a nonprofit in 1999, spreads over 13 acres, holding 31 wolves at this time. The facility takes in injured or abandoned wolves and educates the public against raising wild animals.

"It's important to preserve wolves still in the wild," Howling Acres board member and volunteer Sandy Donnelly said. "Wolves are predators at the top of the food chain. If you take them away, the whole ecosystem could be disrupted."

The sanctuary is supported by donations and volunteers, but getting Pawnee there comes with an expense and red tape.

"It's very expensive to get her ready to be shipped, then you have to take into consideration the cost for shots," Kinison said. "You also need permits from the government to move the wolf, because it falls under the protection of the Endangered Species Act."

Donnelly paid a few hundred dollars for Pawnee's health exam and shots. H.A.R.K. also chipped in to help cover costs. Consequently, the vet says Pawnee is eating well and is in good health.

Pawnee's ride to the sanctuary could add another thousand dollars to the relocation effort, Donnelly said.

"It would be nice to raise some money here to make sure the wolf gets to where she needs to go," said Kinison, who was credited by Donnelly in "working hard to save the wolf's life."

State wildlife biologist Ryan Scott said wolves don't make good pets. "The idea is to keep wild animals where they are ... It's best. Safety definitely is an issue."

New rules adopted by the Board of Game require owners of pet wolves or hybrids to have them implanted with a microchip and either spayed or neutered by July 1. Owners are required to surrender the pet to local authorities if the animal bites anyone.