Our Human Pack

Brittany McDonald

Brittany McDonald

Executive Director and Bonafide Nerd

Brittany first fell in love with wolves when she was just 8 years old and has been actively pursuing her dream of working with them ever since! Though she is Minnesota born and raised, her passion for wildlife has led her all over the United States where she has gained experience caring for wolves, big cats, primates, reptiles, and so many more.
As a long-time supporter of Wild Spirit, Brittany has always admired the sanctuary’s dedication toward making our rescues’ health and happiness our number one priority, and with her knowledge of concepts like animal health and behavior, enrichment, and operant conditioning, she’s excited for the opportunity to further contribute to that philosophy!

It goes without saying that the role of Executive Director is one that encompasses many responsibilities, but as she prepares to follow in the footsteps of those that came before her, Brittany is confident about her abilities to lead the team toward continued growth that will forever aim to honor each of the “wild spirits” that call the sanctuary home.

Mike Budd

Mike Budd

Building and Maintenance Volunteer

VOLUNTEER OF THE DECADE!
Mike has been assisting our maintenance department for several years, and he personally handles many daily tasks that could otherwise fall to the wayside. Of course, our B&M team is always facing an overwhelming list of tasks, and Mike helps ensure that we are steadily accomplishing those tasks. Mike also goes on “meat-runs” for the sanctuary, meaning that he drives into Gallup or Albuquerque once a week to pick up meat donations for our rescues, without which we would not be able to survive.

Katie Forbis

Katie Forbis

Social Media Coordinator

Katie was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and is a life-long lover of wolves, a passion ignited the moment she first saw a photo of a grey wolf. In college, she studied business marketing and began her career doing strategic marketing in healthcare. However, corporate work could never satisfy her insatiable need to work with canids.

Her work with wolfdogs began in January 2019 when she rescued a special needs low content wolfdog, Nymeria. Caring for a chronically naughty animal with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) and severe bilateral hip dysplasia forced Katie to learn on her feet very quickly. She sought out mentors who would aid in her education on wolfdogs, a core mission she aims to pass on to others interested in these animals.

While she currently lives in Nashville with her husband and dogs, she is excited to bring her marketing and social media knowledge to Wild Spirit and travels to the sanctuary as frequently as possible to keep a close pulse on the culture, priorities, and, of course, the animals.

A little known fact about Katie is that she was found, as an infant, in dumpster, explaining why she has an affinity for sour milk and over-ripe bananas.

Sierra Hinkle

Sierra Hinkle

Animal Care Intern

My name is Sierra and I am from Southern California. I love wolves and pursuing a career working with them has always been my passion ever since I was a little kid. I remember watching documentaries and reading books about wild wolf reintroductions and just knowing I wanted to help wolves in some way. I graduated with my Master’s degree in Environmental Studies at the end of 2020 in order to work with animals. While I was doing my Master’s program I interned with wolves in my home state and knew I definitely wanted to work with wolves and educate the public about their importance and dispel myths surrounding them. In 2021 I interned with big cats to gain further working experience with carnivores, as I love all carnivores. I am excited to get more hands on experience with wolves and wolfdogs, as educating about wolfdogs is another passion I have. I have a pet buffalo named, “Max”, that I ride to work each morning.
Seokhyun Hong (and Lulu)

Seokhyun Hong (and Lulu)

Animal Care Intern

My name is Seokhyun Hong and I am from Seoul, South Korea. I have been here in the US since 2015 for studying, and just graduated from Arkansas State University, majoring in animal science. I have studied animal management and nutrition courses and am very interested in conservation and management of zoo and exotic animals, and have always had an ambition to interact and work with animals in the field. Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary gave me this great, unique opportunity to interact with wolves/wolfdogs and apply my studies in the field. Here, I am learning proper management of animals, how to build relationships, their habit, and many other things that you may never learn anywhere else. One day I want to be an animal specialist, and with my internship here, I feel like I am one step closer to my dream. My cat, Lulu, loves it when I put on my sequin-encrusted bathrobe and sing Barry Manilow songs to her.

Carlee Horstmann

Carlee Horstmann

Animal Care Staff & Document Lamination Coordinator

Carlee is from upstate New York and worked at an animal shelter for 3 years prior to coming to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. She is taking online courses in canine behavior, and hopes her internship here will help her pursue her goal to work in animal rescue and rehab. Her interest in canines began when she led an expedition of 5th graders to the Arctic Circle to hunt yeti. Unfortunately, 3 hours in, the frozen, hungry kids mutinied, and left her there alone. She was found by and befriended a miner, who took her in and trained her with sled dogs, and for prospecting silver and gold. Carlee eventually headed back south for warmer climates, and continued looking for ways to care for canines. Interestingly, her former teacher, Cornelius, would find and befriend an abominable snowman, but he never found the motherlode he was after.

Cody Jones

Cody Jones

Animal Care Intern

I am originally from North Carolina. I have a degree in Wildlife Biology with a concentration in Wildlife Rehabilitation. During college, I spent two years working at a wildlife rehabilitation center as a student mentor. Prior to coming to Wild Spirit, I traveled the country from Nebraska to Texas accruing knowledge through different internships. My ultimate goal is to work with wolves and similar species.
Stephanie Leitch

Stephanie Leitch

Gift Shop Manager & Superstar

Stephanie joined Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in 2019 working in the gift shop. She moved from the Philippines and is now living in the area. Stephanie helps with inventory, customer service, and keeping our gift shop nice and tidy. Stephanie says working at Wild Spirit where everyone welcomed her and made her feel like family has been life-changing for her.

Merry Smith

Merry Smith

Bookkeeper

Merry is the new Bookkeeper and comes to us from the windswept West Texas Plains. After a brief stint as a trapeze artist, Bayou riverboat captain and prospector, she began her career as a bookkeeper. She never wanted to be a bookkeeper, but you don’t choose the bookkeeping life, the bookkeeping life chooses you. And luckily, it’s that choice that brought her to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.

Decades of working have given her a huge heart for non-profits and their respective visions. Though Merry is an avid animal lover and owner of a dappled mini para-weenie, she’s never worked with animals with the exception of a feral, bare-footed childhood with her beast of a sibling. While her sibling was eventually tamed, Merry remained a red-headed messy-haired hippie.

She hopes to crunch Wild Spirit’s numbers into submission and form meaningful connections with staff and rescues alike.

George Stapleton

George Stapleton

Animal Care Volunteer

With almost 30 years experience working with Wolves and Wolfdogs both in Rescue and Private ownership; this is George’s 3rd time here. In 1993 he came to this exact property and spent the next 4 years here. Then known as Candy Kitchen Wolf Rescue, the transformation to today’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary has been incredible to participate in and watch. George has worked with over 400 Wolfdogs and Wolves in all those years, with too many to name individually. When he talks of them you can hear the connection in his voice he had or has with them. That connection transforms into a passion in everything Wolfdog. George’s focus has been on difficult or even dangerous (all Wolfdogs classified dangerous are in Rescue) Canines mostly all high content Wolfdogs. George has worked with these animals all over the US and on visits to England. George lives the phrase; Wolfdogs are a Way of Life…

Danielle Steakley

Danielle Steakley

Enrichment Program Coordinator/Animal Care Specialist

Danielle has always had a passion for animals especially large carnivores so Wild Spirit is a perfect fit. She has a degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management from Moorpark College. Danielle has lived in California all her life so she was excited to make a change and move to New Mexico for the summer internship, little did she know that her internship would end up with her becoming a staff member. She enjoys the rescue aspect of Wild Spirit and giving animals in need a forever home. A curious fact about Danielle is that she is, in reality, only 11 inches tall, and uses Jedi mind tricks to make herself appear to be much larger.
Victoria Uliano

Victoria Uliano

Grant Coordinator/Donor Relations/Animal Care Specialist

As opposed to many of my fellow animal-lovers, my passion for canines did not start from childhood. In fact, I was scared off of dogs for the first fourteen or so years of my life, after being knocked around by one as a toddler. It wasn’t until after high-school that I felt a draw toward animals, and in a total life-changing decision, I left my major in graphic design and started working at a small town shelter called All Breed Rescue. This ended up being the best decision of my life. I spent the next three years at the shelter, learning everything I could about the domestic dog from medication distribution, to body language and behavioral training. I fell in love with animals and can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

Being a born and raised small town Vermonter, opportunities in the animal care world did not come easily. My time at the shelter had reached a point where I couldn’t learn anything more from them, and I was itching to broaden my experience. My desire to work in animal conservation was only growing, and after hearing about Wild Spirit, I applied as soon as I could. I’ve never been off the East Coast in my life, so it’s a huge but welcomed change. My experiences so far in training here have been amazing. In this short time I’ve learned much about wolves and their differences from domestic dogs, and the team I’m working with is a very close and incredible batch of people. I can’t wait to learn more about the canid family and get the most out of my experience here.

Tim Waite

Tim Waite

Web & Multimedia Developer/Part-Time Intergalactic Defender

Tim is responsible for most of the digital madness that happens at the sanctuary. He has worked in a number of tech-related fields, including web design and development, video production, computer networking and server management, and customer support for large broadcast news systems. He spent 13 years in the US Army, including several years overseas, in Germany and two tours in Southwest Asia.

More recently, Tim was a photography instructor at a community art center and taught courses at his own studio, both near his former home, south of Boston, MA. In fact, he and his wife Stephanie came to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary for the first time in July, 2016, bringing with them ten photography students for an adventure to photograph the wolves. They returned with another group in July, 2017, and that was the end of their time in Massachusetts! They went home after that trip, closed their two successful businesses, sold their house, bought a 36′ RV, and traveled across the country to their new home in Candy Kitchen, NM, arriving in December, 2017, with two dogs and two cats.