Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary was founded in 1991, originally as The Candy Kitchen Wolf and Wolfdog Rescue Ranch, by the late Jacque Evans, a local artist who used the profits from the sales of her paintings to support the rescued wolves and wolfdogs. News of Jacque’s compassionate devotion to the rescues spread, leading the ranch to expand and to the partnership with Barbara Berge, credited as the co-founder, in 1993.
Barbara Berge was rescuing wolfdogs in Albuquerque, New Mexico when Jacque met her in June of 1992. Over the course of 10 years, Jacque and Barbara collaborated to transform the young rescue into a fully operational non-profit organization regulated by the USDA.
In October of 2003, Leyton J. Cougar, Education Director, was promoted to the position of Executive Director, and thus the transformation of the ranch into Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary began. With Leyton’s vision, charisma, and dedication, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary evolved into an internationally renowned sanctuary, which currently cares for coyotes, New Guinea singing dogs, red foxes, and Australian dingoes in addition to the wolves and wolfdogs.
In the 2000’s, Leyton frequently traveled throughout the United States with Raven, an educational ambassador wolf. Raven helped Leyton teach the public about wolves, wolfdogs as a truly unique species, the importance of rescue, sanctuary, and education, and the effects of taking on an animal without the proper understanding and preparation beforehand, which results often in the animal requiring relocation such as to a facility like Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. Leyton operated and insisted on vocalizing anti-ownership of wolfdogs and wild canid species, including foxes, coyotes, New Guinea singing dogs, and dingoes, which for the average person is sound advice.
In November of 2018, Leyton adopted the new title of Director of Development while Crystal Castellanos, Assistant Director and team member since 2011, was voted in to be the Director of Operations. Both worked diligently as leaders of the sanctuary until the summer of 2020. At that time, Leyton became a contracted employee focused on fundraising for Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, which provided him ample time to focus on his personal business and Wolf Daddy brand. Crystal Castellanos, on the other hand, decided to make a huge move to Hawaii after spending her 20’s at the sanctuary. Driven by compassion, respect, and love for the rescues, Crystal was an exceptional caregiver whose passion was infectious. All chapters must conclude, however, and Crystal decided to pursue new growth and goals after having learned a great deal at Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.
In June of 2020, Brittany McDonald, Executive Director, traveled across the country to accept her new role and to build upon the foundation set by Jacque, Leyton, and Crystal before her. Brittany arrives with a great deal of wildlife experience having worked at other sanctuaries as well as a zoo. Fresh with ideas and new perspective, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary will undoubtedly transform under Brittany’s direction.
You can read more about Brittany’s experience in this article.