About the California Wolf Center
The California Wolf Center is a one-of-a-kind education, conservation, and research center located 50 miles east of San Diego, near the town of Julian, California. Founded in 1977 to educate the public about wildlife and ecology, the Center is currently home to several packs of gray wolves, some of which are exhibited for educational purposes. Our wolves serve as ambassadors representing wolves in the wild. We also host highly endangered Mexican gray wolves, now being reintroduced into the southwestern United States. A visit to the Center provides a unique experience involving one of the most charismatic and controversial species in North American history.
Photo Credit: Gary Borland
The California Wolf Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit wildlife education center committed to increasing public awareness and understanding of the importance of all wildlife by focusing on the history, biology, behavior, and ecology of the gray wolf (Canis lupus). This is accomplished by offering engaging educational presentations, participating in conservation programs, and hosting and funding research on both captive and free-ranging wolves.
Wolves once roamed North America in countless numbers. Despite their important ecological role, and posing no real threat to humans, wolves were hunted nearly to extinction in the lower 48 United States. Today in the U.S., the haunting melody of a howling wolf pack is heard in only a handful of states, as wolves have been exterminated from a vast majority of their original range.
By learning factual information about wolves, people come to understand that this highly social and intelligent animal also plays a key role in the functioning of a healthy ecosystem, and we learn to coexist with an animal we once feared. This new understanding deepens our appreciation of and our sense of stewardship towards other species and the habitats they need to survive. Our survival depends on theirs, and their survival depends on our decisions and actions.
Our goal is to provide the best, most natural environment for all wolves living at the California Wolf Center and to provide complete and balanced information about gray wolves and the environment to the public so that people can make informed decisions about the issues that affect us all.
Photo Credit: Bonnie McDonald
The California Wolf Center is home to several packs of gray wolves, including an impressive pack of Alaskan gray wolves as well as multiple packs of Mexican gray wolves. Some of our wolf packs are featured in our educational programs. Seeing our resident wolves helps people form a bridge of understanding and heightens interest in conserving wolves in the wild.
Our ambassador pack of Alaskan gray wolves is an intact pack that retains its wild nature. This allows thousands of visitors each year to observe the natural social interactions that occur in wild wolf packs. It also gives students and researchers opportunities to learn valuable information about wolf behavior.
Mexican wolves once roamed the southwestern United States in countless numbers, but government-sponsored eradication programs almost wiped out this distinct subspecies of North American gray wolf. In the mid-1970's, only seven unrelated Mexican wolves were available to start a captive breeding program. Today, as a result of that successful breeding program, there are approximately 42 free-ranging Mexican wolves living in the wild. However, they remain one of the rarest land mammals in the world.
The California Wolf Center participates in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, a bi-national effort to help Mexican wolves recover in the wild. We are the third largest breeding and host facility for Mexican gray wolves in the United States.
Most of the Center’s Mexican gray wolf packs reside in spacious, off-exhibit enclosures that help prepare them for potential release into the wild. Retaining their wild nature by keeping them off-exhibit will help them to survive if they are selected for release into the Mexican Wolf Recovery Area in New Mexico and Arizona. The Mexican wolves that are not candidates for release or breeding are on limited display during some of our educational programs. This gives visitors the extraordinary opportunity to view the distinctive physical features of this magnificent and unique subspecies of gray wolf.
Erin Hunt, General Manager
Chelsea Davis, Animal Care Manager
Kevin Schmelzlen, Education and Outreach Coordinator
Christina Souto, Conservation Associate
Lauren Richie, Associate Director, Northern California
Karin Vardaman, Associate Director of Development
BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Norm Switzer, DVM
Chairman of the Board, Executive Director
Profession: Veterinarian, Partner at Midland Animal Clinic
Daniel Moriarty, PhD
Profession: Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, University of San Diego
Patrick Valentino, JD
Director of California Wolf Recovery Efforts
Profession: Partner, VLP Law Group LLP (San Francisco)
Profession: Clinical Research Nurse/ Registered Nurse
Profession: Teacher and Guidance Counselor
Profession: Retired Educator
Profession: Animal Care Supervisor, Collections, Husbandry, Science, San Diego Zoo; Vice President of the American Association of Zoo Keepers