Wolfs of the wild, furry and four-footed variety are taking up new digs in the Las Vegas Valley.
Keilli Caracci, 32, a part-time nanny, has just moved her nonprofit wolf sanctuary from Pahrump, Nevada to a site south of St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, Nevada, creating the only wolf sanctuary of its kind in Clark County.
Known as the Ba’cho Nowhidee Wolf Sanctuary, the 4-acre site houses 15 wolves, with room for five more. The animals come as beleaguered orphans that are too skittish to be adopted and too tame to be released into the wild, making a sanctuary their only viable home.
“They’ve been hurt. They’ve been abused. They’ve been abandoned,” Caracci said. All were born in captivity and are mixed with dog breeds.
The sanctuary looks like a compound, with two layers of steel fencing around the 8-foot-high enclosures where the wolves are kept. Within the pens, wolves can roam, play and climb on wooden platforms. At the center stands a mobile home where Caracci and her husband, Chris, an ex-Navy SEAL who trained dolphins to detect underwater mines, live.
The couple, who have cared for wolves since 2005, don’t plan to open the sanctuary for public tours, except maybe school groups. In fact, the outer fence is shrouded to hide the site from passers-by.
“They’re not these mean, horrible, aggressive beasts,” Caracci said.
In the past 300 years, documented wolf attacks on people in the North American wilderness have been sporadic. Healthy wild wolves have maimed humans only a couple dozen times and might have killed a Canadian man in 2005, though opinion is split on whether he was mauled by wolves or a bear.
Wolf-dog hybrids kept as pets account for most of the serious attacks on humans in recent decades. The animals can make good pets as long as owners understand how they differ from full-blooded dogs, Caracci said.
A human scent sets off a wolf’s defenses, so a person who wants a pet wolf must invest the time to bond with it, Caracci said. When she adopts a wolf, Caracci sleeps with it outside for a week.
Some misguided people adopt wolves as guard dogs, which fails miserably, she said.”Strangers come, and they retreat without question.”
Wolf breeds are more willful and moody than dogs and can never be completely domesticated, she said. They resist attempts to manhandle them.
“If you pick them up or if you try to take control of them, they’ll let you know that you’re not in control,” she said. “It takes knowing the animal to protect yourself and the animal.”
Caracci doesn’t plan to expand the sanctuary beyond 20 wolves, because she would have to hire a helper, who might get flustered and yell or slap at a wolf, traumatizing the animal. Regaining a wolf’s trust can take years, she said.
Limiting the shelter’s size means turning down requests to rescue wolves, something she hates doing because she knows they will be euthanized. It breaks her heart, she said, but she can only save so many.
“The happiest day the sanctuary would ever have is if it closed its doors because it’s not needed anymore,” says Caracci.
For more information, contact the Caraccis at 775-253-4444 or visit www.ourbrotherthewolf.org