Bill Chamberlain, founder and owner of the of United States Wolf Refuge, takes in wild and rescued wolves, including the endangered gray wolf, caring for them on his property near Palomino Valley and lecturing wolf lovers about the importance of living amongst these creatures.
“There are more pure wolves in captivity than in the wild,” Chamberlain said. He and his staff at the wolf refuge care for purebred wolves found in the wild, in individuals’ homes and wolf-modern dog hybrids, such as wolf- German Shepard mixes. Many of these animals Chamberlain and his staff rescued from negligent homes.
“Wolves are not dogs. Dogs may have descended from wolves and they do share a genetic make-up but these wolves are wildlife,” said Chamberlain. “Too many people want them as pets. But when they get them, they find that they can’t take care of the animal. So often times, they abandon it and abuse it.”
Chamberlain began his work with wolves 30 years ago in Arizona when the Department of Fish and Wildlife reintroduced the Mexican Gray Wolf. “I got involved with wolves when an old co-worker gave one of them to me,” said Chamberlain. “Since then, I’ve been taking care of them.”
Chamberlain moved his wolf encampment to northern Nevada from Arizona in 2000. He found the running space and climate to be more beneficial to his wolves, simulating their natural woodland habitat. Chamberlain works with Jane Goodall and her foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, delivering lectures to conferences and schools about the preservation of the wolf and explaining to the hunting and farming communities that wolves are not a threat.
“Wolves can help areas recover economically,” said Chamberlain. “People visit Yellowstone Park, hoping to see wolves. Those people contribute money to the park and to the surrounding area. People want to see wolves and aren’t afraid by them.”
The wolves at the United States Wolf Refuge roam a 10-acre yard and are able to socialize with each other, forming packs that roam around the refuge. Chamberlain feeds the animals and provides them with local veterinary care. Past residents of the United States Wolf Refuge have been featured in Disney movies, like “The Jungle Book 2,” B-grade horror films and in various commercials. Chamberlain knows that animals on screen look “cute and friendly,” but he knows better and warns other of their territorial behavior.
“I would love to have people volunteer one-on-one with the wolves,” said Chamberlain. “But we must remember that these are wild animals. I’ve been around the wolves for years and they know me. Who knows what they would do to a stranger? If anyone wants to help, they could help with chores and such and I’ll slowly introduce you to the animals.”
Chamberlain is currently seeking donations to purchase a fire-proof building to house the animals in and he volunteers for manual labor work. Some of the wolves at the wolf refuge are also available for adoption. Those who are looking to adopt a wolf are heavily screened to assure that they can provided the wolf with proper care and treat the animals with respect.
“I want people to understand that these animals aren’t dangerous. They aren’t the wolves in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘the Three Little Pigs,” said Chamberlain. “These wolves are an essential piece of Mother Nature’s puzzle.”
For more information about the United States Wolf Refuge, www.uswolfrefuge.org.