A little mouth to mouth with a pack of hybrid Alaskan Timber Wolves in Lake Hughes, CA.

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Most people would probably say they were but with less than 30 reported wolf attacks (only three of them fatal) on humans in North America in the entire 20th century, those fears are often overblown.

Wild wolves generally fear people and rarely pose a threat to human safety.

In fact, you have a much greater risk of being killed by a mosquito, domesticated dog or even another human being than you would ever have of being eaten by a wolf.   – Gates Notes

Paul and Collette Pondella, founders of Shadowland Foundation, hope to dispel most of our misconceptions about wolves by educating us about the true nature of this keystone species.

The wolves live on an 11-acre ranch called Freedom in Lake Hughes, CA. Surrounded by the Angeles Crest National Forest, the property includes space for education and outreach, one-of-a-kind wolf weddings, a small gift shop and an Airbnb rental known as the Wolf Pack House.

“With our programs, documentaries and films, it is our intention to expose, educate and eradicate the myths and misconceptions about this magnificent creature, the wolf. Wolves in nature mimic the human being more closely than any other species on our planet. We are confident that as people get to know and experience our pack, they will love them as we do; making way for future generations to live in harmony with them and each other.”   – Shadowland Foundation Mission Statement

After a short documentary, it was time to meet our first wolf.

A big white fluffy one…

…with eerily beautiful amber eyes.

After the presentation, we headed outside to meet a few of the wolves from their pack.

As we made our way through the fence, we were reminded to keep our fingers tucked in and to only offer the back of our hands for them to smell.

After a brief meet and greet, we made our way into the enclosure to meet the rest of the pack.

Now that we were officially on their turf, we were told to line up around their platform so they could check us out one last time.

…and check us out they did.  – Photo by Avoiding Regret

Wolves naturally organize themselves into packs to maintain stability and assist with hunting. These are often groups of three to seven wolves led by an alpha male and alpha female. From there, the couple’s pups and possibly younger, unrelated wolves comprise the rest of the pack. The beta wolf comes next. Beta wolves act as the second in command, taking over if the alpha male dies and possibly remating with the alpha female. The omega wolf is the weakest and the least cared for in the pack. Aside from being the pack’s punching bag, the omega wolf also instigates play among the wolves to ease tensions.

After the alphas made sure we weren’t a threat, we were allowed to interact with the rest of the pack.

They seemed to really enjoy the attention we were giving them.

Wolf Smile

Chenoa was my favorite.

That smile…

…those eyes…

…and that soft white fur helped Chenoa rise above the rest of the pack in my book.

Hangry?

Fortunately, Paul knew just what to do.

Now it was our turn to feed these adorable hungry “beasts.” In a game I like call, “Hide the Kielbasa” each participant was given a chance to feed the wolves by hiding a piece of sausage in their hands…

…hair…

…and even in their mouths.

I tried all three.  – Photos by Avoiding Regret

Swapping spit with a bunch of wolves may not be everyone’s idea of a good time but I have no regrets.   – Photos by Avoiding Regret

I think I’m officially in the pack now.   – Photo by Joe Russo

Wanna join the pack? Contact the Shadowland Foundation for more information.

Shadowland Foundation
18832 Pine Canyon Rd.
Lake Hughes
818-766-1825
shadowlandfoundation.org