Canada / Chronological / Destinations

Running With Wolves in Golden, British Columbia – A Photo Essay

The scent of sweetgrass wafted past my nose as the wolf raced excitedly down the path. I was hiking in a forest in Golden, British Columbia with two wolves – a singular experience if ever there was one. The wolves are captive animals at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre in Golden, which is one hour from Canada’s famous Banff National Park and less than three hours west of Calgary.

Wolf in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

A close-up of beautiful Maya. © Melanie Votaw

It was August, and the temperature was comfortably in the 70s, Fahrenheit. Our two wolf companions were named Maya and Wiley. Maya was very reticent and kept her distance, while Wiley was almost as friendly as a puppy.

Wolf in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

A portrait of Wiley. © Melanie Votaw

At one point, Wiley became interested in my fanny pack and began to chew on it, but I wasn’t at all afraid. He was raised in a zoo and is very accustomed to people. I wasn’t afraid of Maya either, but she was certainly a bit afraid of me and wanted to know where I was at all times.

Wolves in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Casey Black feeds his eager wolves. © Melanie Votaw

Casey Black, who runs the Centre, says that many visitors are moved to tears from the experience. I don’t know of any other place where you can stroll with wolves in the woods off leash, so it’s certainly something I will never forget and will gladly return to experience again. For safety reasons, children are not allowed on these hikes, but mature teens 16 and up can participate. Nevertheless, the wolves came to Casey immediately whenever he called them, and he carried meat with him to feed them periodically.

Wolves in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Maya and Wiley are always happy to be outdoors. © Melanie Votaw

Wolves may look like dogs at first glance, but if you pay just the slightest bit of attention, you can tell that these are not really domesticated animals. In fact, wolves sometimes eat dogs.

Wolf in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Maya checks out a rock formation in a British Columbia creek. © Melanie Votaw

While the wolves at Northern Lights were all born and bred in captivity and cannot be released into the wild as a result, they still maintain most of their wild nature. Northern Lights serves as a sanctuary, adopting animals that would otherwise have nowhere to go.

Wolf in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Wiley takes a drink. © Melanie Votaw

The Centre takes the animals into schools to educate children about wolves, and it allows visitors to view the animals in their 1.25-acre enclosure. Admission is just $10 for adults and $6 for children, with a price break for seniors and families. This includes a 20-minute talk about wolves.

Wolf in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Maya yawns and manages to look fierce in spite of herself. © Melanie Votaw

My experience was the more expensive romp in the woods with the animals through an organization called Blackwolf Photography. For $295, I could spend 1-1/2 hours with the wolves, taking all of the photographs I wanted.

Wolves in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Wiley and Maya pause to make sure Casey is near. © Melanie Votaw

Even with a simple camera, you can get images that will be the envy of all your friends, but it’s the experience of walking in this majestic setting with these equally majestic animals that is priceless and indescribable.

Wolf in Golden, British Columbia, Canada

Wiley in a contemplative moment on the forest path in Golden, British Columbia. © Melanie Votaw


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