California Wolf Center in Julian, CA
The California Wolf Center is a conservation facility. Their goal is to promote wolf research, educate the public and participate in species survival plans. On Saturday, we went to one of their public tours. First, we saw two wolves of the Northwestern subspecies of the gray wolf - Yana and Poppy. When our group first came to their enclosure, they were lying in the grass many yards away. They seemed curious and soon came down to the fence line. They are very large and very fluffy. They have small ears and huge paws. One was almost white and one was a strawberry blonde. We had a terrific guide who told us so much about wolf biology, wolves in California, wolf conservation, the history of the program and much more. Our group asked many questions and our guide was very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic.
Next, we saw three Mexican gray wolves - Emma, Thor and Durango. They were less interested in us, visitors. They were relaxing under the trees, but did watch us. One was nestled in a funny hollow in the trees. The Mexican wolves were very beautiful with thick gray fur, large ears and dainty feet. They are part of a species survival plan to increase the numbers in the wild. Our guide explained that captive-bred pups are introduced into the litters of wild wolves. The mother wolf is accepting of the new, unfamiliar faces and raises them along with her own pups. This increases the genetic diversity of wild populations, many of which are isolated and in danger of inbreeding. It was fascinating and surprising.
We could also see some of the other wolves in their enclosures. The most surprising thing was watching the staff enter the enclosures while the wolves were present. The guide explained that the wolves are very shy of humans and move away when the staff enter. The Center also has interns who do wolf research. One research project focused on the gut biome of wolves.
This was a great experience for a wolf nerd or anyone interested in wildlife conservation. It was amazing to see the wolves so close. The tour is about an hour. The Center is about a ten minute drive from downtown Julian. You have to arrive a half-hour early at a gathering point just outside the KQ Ranch Resort. Then, a guide leads a caravan of cars through the gates and into a parking lot. The wolf enclosures are a short walk from the parking lot. There are toilets and a small gift shop. At the end of the tour, there is a reverse car caravan out of the facility and back to the road. This takes about a half-hour. So, allow for two hours for the whole experience.
The Center also maintains a Visitor Center in downtown Julian. We didn't have time to stop by, but will next time. It was a beautiful time of year to visit Julian. There were lilacs in bloom. We had lunch at Jeremy's On the Hill, picked up hard cider at the Julian Station and bought bread at Dudley's in Santa Ysabel.