Calgary

Wolfdog sanctuary at capacity in part due to breeders, Game of Thrones popularity, manager says

A sanctuary for wolfdogs in southern Alberta is at its limits and they are hoping people will think twice before buying one from a for-profit breeder as interest is driven in part, by pop culture representation.

'People are intentionally breeding them and it’s not an ideal thing'

Wolfdog sanctuary at capacity 1:12

A sanctuary for wolfdogs in southern Alberta is at its limits and they are hoping people will think twice before buying one from a for-profit breeder as interest is driven in part, by pop culture representation.

"It is people doing it so they can make a profit out of it," Alyx Harris told CBC News.

"It's not that they make very good pets, it's that people want something that is cool and they can brag to their friends. They don't understand that there are challenges that come with that and there is a reason that wolves and dogs are not naturally breeding."

Alyx Harris, the manager at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary outside of Calgary, says she hopes people will reconsider buying a wolfdog from a breeder. The sanctuary is already at capacity. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Harris is the manager at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, about 40 kilometres northwest of Calgary.

The sanctuary is full, with 23 permanent residents in seven enclosures.

"Last year we reached our capacity," Harris said.

"Within about a month we had five animals come in. They all had a significant amount of wolf content so they need to remain here as permanent residents."

Harris said the sanctuary plans to build one or two more enclosures this summer. 

Some wolfdogs with low wolf content, can be adopted in some cases, but others with more wolf DNA do not make good pets.

"They can make a profit," Harris said of breeders.

"People are intentionally breeding them and it's not an ideal thing. There is a market for them because people want to have cool, exotic pets."

The animals being used in shows like Game of Thrones could be a driving factor in their popularity. And there's another connection to the sanctuary.

Kuna is a high-content wolfdog and an alpha female at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary about 40 kilometres northwest of Calgary. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

An Arctic wolfdog at the sanctuary named Nova is a cousin of Ghost from the popular HBO drama.

"I find with movies and TV shows, they never portray wolves correctly," Harris said.

"They either portray them way too confident and friendly or really aggressive and mean, which they are neither. They are fearful animals that don't want much to do with humans. It's so rare to see a wolf out in the wild. They are so elusive, they see or hear humans and they take that flight response and go as far away as possible."

Nova is a high-content Arctic wolfdog in the sanctuary's Yamnuska Pack. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Harris says the animals are altered to avoid reproducing. "We are running out of space. Breeding would be adding to the problem."

And she's urging people to reconsider buying one from a breeder.

"It is a very frustrating thing because that person went out and likely purchased that animal from a breeder and then is giving up and we are left to pick up the pieces."

With files from CBC's Monty Kruger