Free-roaming wolves finally rescued

In a dramatic rescue operation lasting five weeks, a wolf family who have been roaming freely in the Bokfontein area near Hartbeespoort have finally been caught and has found a home at a local wolf sanctuary.

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Farmers in the area first reported sightings of possibly a wolf early in August after wildlife were killed in the mountain area. Footage of the animal from a hiking trail camera was sent to the All Hearts Foundation Wolf Sanctuary in Broederstroom which confirmed it was indeed a wolf. The Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism (DEDECT) was alerted which supplied farmers with a catch trap

“The male was caught the next day and taken to the Hartbeespoort Animal Welfare Society. Two days later the female was caught and we were alerted that the female was lactating meaning her puppies were hidden somewhere in the mountainous area,” says Lexi Austin of the wolf sanctuary. The couple raced to the scene, and it was decided to place a tracking collar on the female and let her guide them to the babies.

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“The next morning we received GPS coordinates and we climbed the mountain, finally finding the six pups. The mom had chewed off the tracking collar and we found it abandoned. We loaded the puppies and took them to the sanctuary.” she said.

In the meantime conservation officers of DEDECT gave permission for the male in HAWS’ care to also be taken to the wolf sanctuary. “We were bottle-feeding the three-week-old pups and took them to their dad every day to calm him and make him feel safe.”

For the next 37 days, Lexi and husband, Ronnie, went up the mountain almost daily to look for spoor or try and catch a glimpse of the female. “We have never been this fit,” she laughed. “A week ago, a friend went up with us with a drone and because wolves are very inquisitive, Ronnie finally spotted her. Another catch trap was set for the female and we went back every second day to check the trap and reset it. Finally, on Monday we got the call from the farm owners who have been helping us, that the female was in the trap. We were ecstatic. We rushed there to fetch her. She was very skinny but healthy.”

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The mom was taken to the sanctuary where she was reunited with her mate and puppies, now already eight weeks old. “Although she is very skittish when we get close, she has bonded with her very busy puppies and should soon be in a good condition. We are busy building a big enclosure for the family where they will live as a pack. The dad has already been sterilised by HAWS and the mom and pups will also be sterilised as soon as the female is strong enough and the pups a bit bigger. We are so happy with this happy-ending rescue. They have found a home where they will be happy and safe for the rest of their lives,” Lexi said. It is still unclear where the wolves came from.

All Hearts Foundation Wolf Sanctuary is home to over 30 wolves and various other rescued animals. The sanctuary is currently raising funds to buy the property they are located on after recent fears that they may lose their home. Anyone who wants to contribute to the care of these animals and keep their home safe, can visit the Facebook page All Hearts Foundation SA or contact 072 873 3881. Donations to AHF are tax-deductible