Discover the fascinating world of wolves and wolfdogs at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Cochrane, Alberta.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Cochrane, Alberta, is a unique and fascinating destination for anyone interested in wolves and wolfdogs. The 40-acre sanctuary is home to over 40 wolfdogs, with varying levels of wolf content, that have been rescued or surrendered from across North America. Visitors can tour the sanctuary to learn about wolfdogs and wolf conservation, and even interact with wolfdogs on select tours. There are some adoptable wolfdogs at the sanctuary too.
Upon arriving at the sanctuary, we are struck by the natural setting and sheer size of the wolfdog enclosures. Each enclosure is 1-2 acres and houses a small pack of compatible wolfdogs (packs are small to ensure the wolfdogs’ health and happiness). Stands of aspens provide welcome shade on a hot day. On our visit, however, it’s cold and snowy, and the wolfdogs are basking in the sun. With plush winter coats, they are perfectly comfortable living outside full time.
The permanent resident wolfdogs at the sanctuary were surrendered or rescued for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they are harder to care for than dogs. A result of the exotic pet trade and backyard breeding, wolfdogs are beautiful and intelligent, and too wild for city life (especially if they are mostly wolf, i.e. have high wolf content). In the short film Between Dog and Wolf, that shows how the sanctuary came to be, founder Georgina De Caigny describes the challenges she had with her first wolfdog, Kuna: “The can be very destructive. Wolves explore the world with their teeth.” Our guide Scott sums it up in three words: “They’re not good pets.” Since “they can jump 8 feet,” all enclosures are 10 feet high and dig-proof because wolfdogs are “escape artists”! Scott tosses bones to the wolfdogs and we see how effortlessly they bound into the air.
Kuna now lives a very different life, more natural and less pet-like, but maintains a special bond with De Caigny. Once De Caigny found what worked for Kuna, she rescued and rehabilitated more wolfdogs, eventually growing the sanctuary to house as many wolfdogs as possible (43 as of spring 2023). Whether you go on a self-guided Sanctuary Walk or guided tour, you can visit these majestic animals and see how content they are in this environment.
On the Intro Tour, we learn about Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary’s goals – to reduce wolfdog breeding, rehabilitate and rehome wolfdogs, and promote wolf conservation in the wild – and discover the differences between wolfdogs and wolves. Next, we head to the viewing platform (accessible by tour only) to get a closer look at the wolfdogs. Here, we can see the wolfdogs without chain-link fencing between us, and toss them a treat. While we watch the wolfdogs resting and playing in the snow, Scott shares insights into their behavior, and the challenges facing these animals in captivity (as well as the challenges wolves face in the wild). His knowledge and passion for the animals’ care is clear and makes us feel good about supporting the sanctuary.
In addition to tours and programs, the sanctuary has a small gift shop, where visitors can purchase souvenirs and support the sanctuary. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a non-profit organization, and all proceeds go directly towards caring for the animals and furthering education and conservation efforts.
Overall, a visit to Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary near Cochrane, Alberta, is a must-do for anyone interested in wolves, wolfdogs, and animal conservation. We learned a lot about these incredible animals while supporting their care.
Tours and Programs at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
The self-guided Sanctuary Walk is suitable for families with younger kids (ages 6 & up). Explore the sanctuary at your own pace, read the interpretive signs, and attend a Wolfdog Wisdom session led by a wolfdog expert. You may see the wolfdogs jump, howl, or get fed! Wolfdog Wisdom sessions are available at 11:30 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, and 3 pm daily. No reservations required.
The guided 30-minute Intro Tour (ages 10 & up) includes admission to the sanctuary and provides more in-depth information about wolfdogs and the chance to give them a treat from the viewing platform. We liked the “behind the scenes” feel to this tour and that we didn’t need a reservation. Minimum group size: 2. Note: Drop-ins welcome. Reservations required for groups of 10 or more.
On the guided Interactive Tour (ages 15 & up), you can meet the ambassador wolfdogs, members of the Yamnuska and Cascade packs, and learn about their individual stories and personalities. The ambassador wolfdogs are specifically trained to interact with humans, and by seeing wolfdogs of varying wolf content, you can start to understand the differences between wolf and dog temperaments, and how unique wolfdogs are. Capture stunning photos, and learn why wolves are important to ecosystems as you tour two enclosures and take a guided hike through the sanctuary. Reservations required.
School / Corporate Programs: The sanctuary also offers educational programs for schools and other organizations, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of wolfdogs, wolves, and wolves’ role in the ecosystem. Reservations required.
For hours, more information, or to book your tour now, visit Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.
Know Before You Go
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is open Thursday – Monday, 10am – 5pm (closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays). Tours run from -30 C to +30C, so dress for the weather (but don’t wear fur). We recommend booking a tour in advance so you can make the most of your visit. If you sign up for a tour, arrive at least 15 minutes early for check in and visitor guidelines.
Wolfdogs are very sensitive critters, so there are several guidelines in place to ensure the sanctuary remains a peaceful place for them:
- Dogs (including service dogs) are NOT permitted at the sanctuary.
- Smoking is not permitted.
- The minimum age to visit the sanctuary is 6 years old. Please keep kids close and quiet.
- Speak calmly around the wolfdogs and don’t feed or touch them.
For more information, visit Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary Rules.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is located 14 km from downtown Cochrane / 51 km from Calgary.