Visit This Island If You Don’t Mind These Friendly Wolves Killing You With Kindness
Wolves have a long history of chilling on planet Earth – one that stretches back at least a million years. Archaeological evidence suggests that they evolved gradually from other carnivores, taking around 300,000 years to develop into something like the wolves we share the planet with today.
Most people try to avoid meeting packs of wolves in the wild, and rightly so! However, there’s one place in the world – a rather magical island – where you can safely chill with the local wolves.
Fidalgo Island – Wolf Paradise
Our digital exploration of this wolf paradise begins in Seattle, Washington. From here, we’re heading north until we get to the top of Puget Sound. That is where we’ll find Fidalgo Island.
Fidalgo is technically an island. However, it’s separated from the mainland by a relatively narrow waterway, so no ferry crossing is required. We can simply drive across the bridge and head to Anacortes, where we’ll find Predators of the Heart.
Touring Predators of the Heart
This lush, ten-acre wildlife preserve is open to human visitors but is primarily home to wolves and other exotic animals (including cougars). If the word “exotic” has you thinking of Joe Exotic and his contemporaries, you can relax. Predators of the Heart may sound like it was named by Carole Baskin, but it’s a far cry from anything you’d see on Tiger King.
Though Predators of the Heart has faced some local controversy, the animals are treated well, and the wildlife preserve is dedicated to education and conservation.
Is the Predators of the Heart Sanctuary Ethical?
The short answer is “yes.” The sanctuary takes in exotic animals and gives them a life of freedom and safety. Along with the beautiful wolves, they take in sloths, reptiles, and around 50 other species.
In January 2023, news broke that the sanctuary is facing a lawsuit from the local community. Unfortunately, three wolves escaped and killed a local dog. While no humans were harmed, this was obviously an unsettling experience for locals.
Making Peace with the Community
Predators of the Heart owner Ashley Carr told local news station King 5 that they want to “be an asset, not a burden” to the community. So, for the sake of all the animals they help, we hope they’re able to amicably settle the lawsuit.
With the legalities and ethics covered, let’s get back to our tour! We’re now around two hours north of Seattle and an hour south of the Canadian border.
Paradise for Predators
The island is a lush paradise for the wolves and other inhabitants of the sanctuary, with water and greenery all around. Since they have spent so much time around people, the wolves are friendly and affectionate.
It would, of course, be a mistake to think of them as just big dogs. However, in some respects, they do share their domestic relatives’ appreciation of pats, love, and companionship.
Your Predators of the Heart Tour Begins
While you can take this digital tour any time you’d like, it’s crucial to book well in advance if you want to upgrade to a real-life tour.
As you can imagine, plenty of people want a chance to visit an island of friendly wolves, but the sanctuary can only welcome a set number of visitors at a time. So, numbers are restricted, and there’s almost always a waitlist to contend with before you can secure your tour.
Fluffy and Adorable but Still Wild at Heart
No matter how cute and tame a wolf may seem, it’s crucial to remember that they will always be wild at heart. So, on your tour of this sanctuary, you must listen to instructions from staff and be respectful of these beautiful creatures.
Thankfully, the sanctuary is run by professionals, so there have been no major safety concerns over the years. In fact, apart from the recent wolf escape, the only other incident of note was when a local pup found its way into the park.
Not a Safe Place for Domestic Dogs
Unfortunately, the wolves’ wild instincts kicked in, and let’s just say that little pup didn’t make it home. With these things in mind, we recommend leaving your beloved family pet safely at home if you plan to visit Fidalgo Island.
Thankfully, the friendly wolves will make up for the affection you’re missing from your pet. Just be prepared for the fact that your pup may smell where you’ve been and feel a bit jealous when you get home!
Spending Time with Wolves in the Wild
Anyone who grew up watching The Jungle Book or George of the Jungle probably dreamed of growing up in the wilderness. While there have been plenty of stories of people being “raised by wolves,” it seems that such things only happen in myths.
Predators of the Heart offers the closest thing you can get to a safe encounter with wolves in the wilderness. However, the wolves are fluffy, friendly, and comfortable with humans.
Wolves Are Bigger Than You Think
One thing that will surprise you when you encounter your first friendly wolf in the sanctuary is just how big it is. You’ve probably encountered large dog breeds. However, a wolf is something else entirely – especially when it comes to head size.
Wolves have large heads and facial features that are thoroughly distinct from those of our domestic dogs. Even their closest relatives – Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies – don’t look quite so wild.
How Friendly Are Wolves?
Wolves can be friendlier than you think but not as friendly as you might hope. For example, you can reasonably hope to get some wolf affection (like this guy did) on your trip to Predators of the Heart.
However, no expert would recommend that you try to keep a wolf as a pet. Remember, the wolves at Predators of the Heart are used to humans, but they are not considered “pets” by the wildlife workers.
Can Kids Visit Predators of the Heart?
Since the wolves on the island are so large, and since they will always be wild at heart, the sanctuary places an age restriction on visitors. Because of their size and temperament, the wolf tours have an age restriction.
Though the kids in your family may be disappointed to hear this, the rules state that you must be 18 years or older to visit the wildlife preserve.
How Long Has Predators of the Heart Been Open?
The sanctuary opened way back in 1998, so 2023 marks its 25-year anniversary. In that time, the wildlife experts have given a home to wolves, cougars, reptiles, sloths, and many other creatures that may otherwise have struggled to survive.
Sometimes, they have to suspend tours to ensure the safety of their animal residents. This was the case in early 2023, and at the time of writing, the park remains closed to visitors.
Rescuing Exotic Animals
In addition to rescuing exotic animals from problematic situations, the park educates people about wildlife. Their goal is to teach people to appreciate wild animals in a respectful way that allows the creatures to live happily and freely.
While it’s not always possible to visit the park, the provision of care for the animals living there never ceases. Also, since the ability to visit Predators of the Heart is somewhat rare, that makes experiences like the one you see in the picture above that much more special.
Learning How to Share Our Planet with Animals
Sadly, humans don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to sharing the planet with other animals. Thankfully, organizations like Predators of the Heart can help us develop our knowledge and get better at helping our fellow creatures survive and thrive.
According to owner Ashley Carr, the park’s mission is to help people “see that all nature is interconnected and realize that apart from it, we cannot survive.”
How Can You Help Exotic Animals?
If you like what non-profit organizations like Predators of the Heart do, you can always volunteer or offer donations. Of course, it’s vital to do your research first to ensure you don’t end up supporting an exploitative organization like those featured on shows like Tiger King.
You can also avoid visiting any zoos, exotic animal shows, or other institutions that exploit animals. Lion and tiger cubs are undeniably adorable, but it’s completely unnatural for humans to play with them in artificial enclosures.
How Can You Tell if a Wildlife Organization Is Legit?
In the US, legitimate operations may have 501(c)3 nonprofit status and should have Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) accreditation. Of course, you should still do some online searches to see if they’ve had any controversies in the past.
Reviews can be helpful as people are often quick to complain if they see animals being kept in poor conditions. Activities like riding elephants, playing with tiger cubs, and watching animals perform are all highly problematic, making them huge red flags that a wildlife organization is not legit.
Giving Animals Freedom to Roam
As Ashley Carr explains, Predators of the Heart “is located in the towering old-growth forest lands of Fidalgo Island.” Crucially, this gives the wolves and other creatures the freedom to roam in an environment suitable for their needs.
Ashley describes the local climate as being “very mild and wet most of the year, with cold light snow most winters.” In other words, it’s perfect for wolves. The one potential red flag about the place is the fact that people are allowed to hug, pat, and take photos with the wolves.
Is Predators of the Heart PETA-Approved?
The close interaction and photograph-taking would probably not sit well with PETA. However, it would be unfair to place Predators of the Heart on the same level as Joe Exotic’s operation.
Predators of the Heart has a 4.9-star Google rating based on hundreds of reviews. People clearly love the experiences they have there. And of PETA’s seven red flags for a problematic wildlife sanctuary, Predators of the Heart only comes close to ticking off one due to the fact that they allow patting and photo ops.
Getting Close to Cougars
As mentioned, the sanctuary offers a safe space for all sorts of rescued exotic animals, including cougars like the one you see below. We’re just not sure how safe or responsible it is to put your face so close to a cougar’s face.
Cougars are nothing like your sweet and fluffy house cat. Even if they’ve come to love and trust a carer, they are unpredictable wild animals. Moreover, they deserve to be treated with respect and given space.
Hanging Out with Sloths
We can’t imagine what kind of person would not feel their heart melting when looking at a sloth. These adorable, slow-moving creatures are the definition of cute. However, they’re also sadly a target for unscrupulous people who collect exotic animals.
As much as we’d all love to cuddle a sloth and perhaps even have one as a housemate, once again, these animals deserve respect and freedom. Rescuing and rehoming them is a positive thing so long as they are given the freedom to roam as they please.
Keeping Exotic Birds Safe
Birds like the ones you see below are also targets for exotic animal collectors. Unfortunately, they’re often kept in incredibly problematic conditions and treated as possessions rather than autonomous living beings.
The team behind Predators of the Heart rescues birds like these from traumatic situations and gives them new, comfortable homes on Fidalgo Island. They’re definitely kept safe and healthy, but we hope they also enjoy their lives in the sanctuary. Birds are made to soar through the air, so we’re not sure how we feel about the cages.
What Do You Think of Predators of the Heart?
The people look happy, and the wolves look healthy, but what’s the deal with those chains? We can’t help but assume the wolves would be more interested in roaming freely than having their pictures taken with tourists.
However, organizations like this one need funds to survive, so perhaps it’s the lesser of two evils? What do you think? Would you visit this wildlife sanctuary and pet the wolves? Would you be prepared to donate funds to an organization without getting to have a photo op like this?