Like many people, Rosemary Scott grew up believing the wolf is a bloodthirsty man-eater that kills on sight.

Having been raised in the country where farmers sought to eradicate the wolf for destroying crops added to the controversy. Attending educational seminars and interacting with live wolves convinced the area resident she was wrong about these creatures whom she now calls, “The most misunderstood animal in the world.”

“I was ignorant about the wolf,” said Scott as she snuggled with Thor, a 7-year-old, 112-pound malamute and gray wolfdog (wolf-dog hybrid). “I love these creatures and would do anything for them.”

A lecture, “The Wolf: An Animal to Be Respected, Not Feared,” presented June 29 at the Bear Creek Nature Center, offered Scott and more than 60 Pikes Peak region residents an opportunity to learn about wolves and how humans can help protect the wolf population. Mark Johnson, founder of the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation, conducted the lecture.

According to Johnson, the nonprofit RMWF preserves and rehabilitates wildlife, and provides wolf-interaction opportunities. Films and fairy-tales have added to centuries-old wolf-killing stigma, Johnson said. The RMWF dispels these myths and teaches humans about the importance of wolves in nature.

RMWF provides a sanctuary, rehabilitation and natural environmental housing for captive-born wolves and wolfdogs that suffer abuse, injuries and/or neglect. Since its inception in 2007, the sanctuary has rescued more than 50 wolves and wolfdogs, Johnson said. “The wolf is a highly misunderstood creature and we work to dispel myths,” he said.

Johnson and his late wife, Cheryl, helped break the myth in 1996 when raising a 98% hybrid wolf. Named Cheyenne, the wolf became known as “The healing wolf” because of her ability to connect with peoples’ emotions and needs.

According to Johnson, a hiker lost his toes to frostbite during a failed hiking trip in the mountains. After meeting Cheyenne, the hiker returned to hike the trail that cost him his toes to heal emotionally. The hiker credited Cheyenne for encouraging him, Johnson said.

“She loved belly rubs, something only a trusting wolf allows,” Johnson said of Cheyenne who died in February 2009.

Johnson said deer eat grass and plants along a rivers’ embankment that can lead to topsoil erosion. During heavy rains, the topsoil spills into the river thereby producing a change in the rivers’ flow, leading to possible flooding.

By preying on aging and weak deer, the wolf keeps the deer population under control thereby leading to a positive change in the river’s flow. “Without the wolf, the eco- and geological system will fall apart, so I hope you can see how important the wolf is to nature,” Johnson said.

Area resident Peggy Greenwood hopes the November ballot offers citizens an opportunity to vote to re-introduce the wolf into Colorado. “The deer population is spiraling out of control and the wolf keeps the population down,” she said.

Johnson shared a film that focused on the positive effects wolves have had on Yellowstone National Park’s ecology. He concluded the lecture with a video of wolves kissing and hugging sanctuary visitors. A photo gallery of RMWF wolves, past and present, moved residents to tears.

Johnson then invited folks to visit with Thor and peruse the foundation’s wolf pelt and skull display.

“Wolves are amazing creatures and I adore them,” said area resident Dellarie Patrick. Her friend, James Cambron, agreed: “Wolves are beautiful, magnificent animals.”

Arizona resident Ruth Thompson, who was visiting her daughter, said, “When I learned a wolf lecture was being held here, I knew I had to come.”

Even Bear Creek Nature Center staff got into the spirit of the lecture. “At this very moment, I am in heaven,” said Interpretive Program Coordinator Ellie Brown as she rubbed Thor’s head and belly. RMWF encourages citizens to visit with wolves to experience their caring, love and wisdom. Tours of the sanctuary are free by appointment. Call 660-5480 or write P.O. Box 215, 3661 County Road 102, Guffey, CO 80820.

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