SUGAR’S HISTORY ~ The story of Sugar and her family (The Arctics) and why they live at Wild Spirit is a long one, but we feel it is important to share it. On May 3rd, 2006, Alice and her siblings were born to captive-bred parents, Yukon and Sierra, at a breeding facility. The story we heard was that Yukon and Sierra were born to wolves who were taken from the wild. The breeder who owned Yukon and Sierra had been selling their pups to select private owners or for exhibits like zoos. Very sadly, in order for wolves to be socialized to humans at all, they must be taken from their parents before they open their eyes. Even then, they may remain too wild-spirited to be comfortable around people and will never behave like a domestic dog. For eight years, Yukon and Sierra had each of their newborn litters taken and sold.
Before The Arctics became a part of Wild-Spirit, we had rescued a very unique high-content wolf-dog named Raven the day before he was scheduled to be euthanized. High-content wolf-dogs have a bit of dog in their ancestry but look and act predominantly like wolves. Raven surprised us all and proved to be an extremely powerful part of our education efforts. He retained his wild spirit like all our rescues do, but Raven became comfortable in many public situations and enjoyed meeting people.
Education is the key to change, especially among young people. When our sanctuary began, the negative and long-standing myth of the Big Bad Wolf was alive and well. A large part of our mission is to educate people about wolves, their wild natures, loving family structure, and their vital role in the health of our environment. We stress that wolves are not evil creatures eating grandmothers, but they are also not meant to be pets, companions, or included in our human families.
The impact of meeting our rescues in person and hearing our message leaves an ever-lasting impression on people of all kinds. We have met many of our largest supporters at outreach events with one of our wolf or high-content wolf-dog rescues. Over the years, Raven literally changed hundreds of people’s lives in a positive way, and people continued to spread our message after meeting him. Most notably, Raven inspired a change of heart in a wolf-hating rancher who bought us dinner and opened his home to us at any time. The trend continued when Forest, another one of our rescues, inspired a hunter to change his philosophy. After meeting Forest and hearing our message, the man decided to cancel his upcoming wolf hunting trip. These moments proved to us just how important educational outreach is for wolves and wolf-dogs, both captive and wild.
As Raven got older, we hoped to find a puppy in need who we could help and who could follow in Raven’s very large pawsteps to continue educating the public. The breeder who owned Yukon and Sierra offered to donate two puppies from the litter they were expecting. In our view, we would be giving these pups a safe, secure life, where they would not end up chained or euthanized like so many wolves and wolf-dogs. We would also have the chance to continue our crucial outreach and education programs.
Sierra had a litter of six puppies including Alice, Thunder, Sabine, Sugar, Storm and Powder. Unexpectedly, none of the puppies were sold, and the breeder was left with six puppies who needed to be bottle-fed and cleaned every two hours, constantly with people to maintain socialization and continually exposed to many different situations. We had volunteers eager to help, so we agreed to take all six puppies (and eventually went back to rescue Sierra, Yukon, and Axel, too). Even with a full staff and many volunteers, raising wolf puppies is exhausting work. Despite being surrounded by people and hand-raised by humans, only two of the six puppies grew up to be comfortable meeting the public – Storm and our late Sabine.
Wild Spirit has grown a great deal since we became an official non-profit back in 1993. We realize we are always evolving, and we work hard to improve and change along the way to ensure we reach our mission statement goals of Rescue, Sanctuary, and Education. In order to ensure that our true message is heard and those most in need are offered help, we have decided not to seek out wolf puppies to socialize in the future. If there is a puppy in need of rescue and we can offer them sanctuary, of course, we will. However, we know that the animals most in need are often older, already poorly socialized, and suffering from serious misunderstanding and mistreatment, so those are the ones that we will pursue most diligently.
Our Arctic puppies were introduced to a litter of Arctic/timber high-content wolf-dogs in June of 2006. The Arctic/timbers wolf-dogs were the same age as our Arctic/timber wolf litter, and although they were supposed to be at WSWS temporarily, their rehoming plans fell through. Since the puppies were all so young, they were raised together as one large pack and naturally divided into pairs or smaller packs of their own choosing as they aged.
Sugar was on of the largest of the puppies. When she was about three weeks old, she demonstrated how powerful even her little baby wolf jaws were. When getting bottles ready to feed hungry puppies, our Director, Leyton, put his hand up against the cage to try to comfort a wailing Sugar. She bit onto the pad of his finger. His wife, Georgia, had to open the cage and squeeze on either side of Sugar’s teeth until she finally let go! The pressure was so strong, Leyton’s skin was white and puckered. As she grew older, she showed no interest in being around people much, and so was not considered to be one of our ambassadors.
Sugar originally lived with all of her siblings. The wolf pack in the wild is made up of mostly family members. The alpha male and female are mom and dad, and the other pack members are their children. There are changes in the pack over the years. Some disperse to find mates and form a new pack, some are chased off because of conflicts. As our pups grew older, it became clear who would get along with whom. Sugar finally was grouped with her brother Powder, her sister, Sabine, and one of the timber wolf-dogs, Dakota. They got along fairly well, with the normal amount of squabbling that they worked out among themselves. Sabine was the Omega, or lowest in the hierarchy.
After about 7 years together, the squabbles began to get more intense. Sugar continued to dominate Sabine, but their interactions began to worry us. Dakota also began to join in and pick on Sabine. In the wild, Sabine would most likely have dispersed due to the tension. Sadly, because captive wolves can not naturally respond to conflict by dispersing, conflicts can result in injuries and even death. After a final serious argument, we decided to remove Sabine for her safety. Sugar still lives with Dakota and Powder, and thankfully, there is much less conflict with the three of them now.