Michelle Proulx | Wolf Conservation & Welfare

Michelle Proulx is the Director of animal care and educational programmes at W.O.L.F Sanctuary, Colorado, USA. W.O.L.F is an acronym for Wolves Offered Life and Friendship. The wolf conservation charity rescues captive-born wolves and wolf dogs that have previously been kept as pets and provides them with a permanent life long home at the sanctuary’s facility, located in the foothills of Northern Colorado. The sanctuary also works to educate the public about wolves in the wild and the issues that come with keeping wild animals as pets.

It’s Michelle’s job to not only physically care for the animals at the sanctuary, but she also is responsible for developing care protocols, maintaining animal records, assisting with medical examinations and treatments, assisting with rescue operations and managing other animal caregivers and volunteers. Michelle also develops educational presentations and materials and coordinates with events and organizations around the community to deliver educational workshops. She also gives presentations, trains volunteers to give presentations and coordinates ambassador animal visits for various venues.

Why Wolf Conservation?

I work at W.O.L.F. because I have always had a passion for animals and knew I wanted to spend my life caring for them. I am lucky in that I landed a job where I not only get to care daily for some amazing creatures but I also get to share my knowledge and passion for wolves and other wildlife with others in my community. I hope that through the work I do I can make a difference in the lives and futures of not only captive-born wolves and wolf dogs but help to dispel myths about wild wolves in hopes of securing a place for them in our world for generations to come.

Michelle’s career steps

I got my job by being in the right place at the right time. I began volunteering at the Sanctuary during my sophomore year of college, looking for any opportunity I could that would look good on a CV after I graduated. I spent the next three years volunteering weekends at the Sanctuary in whatever capacity they needed me. After graduating with a BS in Zoology, I had nothing to take up my time while I sent in job applications, so I began volunteering full time at the Sanctuary. When W.O.L.F. found out I was looking for employment the Director offered me a job and the rest, as they say, is history.

Before being rescued by W.O.L.F, Denali was taken from his mother to serve as a photo opportunity for tourists at a roadside attraction in Alaska. Denali was forced to live in chains while tourists paid money to take his picture.

Before being rescued by W.O.L.F, Denali was taken from his mother to serve as a photo opportunity for tourists at a roadside attraction in Alaska. Denali was forced to live in chains while tourists paid money to take his picture.

Best thing about the conservation job?

Honestly, being able to spend my days hanging out with wolves and wolf dogs. Seeing them in the wild is an emotional and awe-inspiring experience, seeing them up close in a zoo or sanctuary is cool, but caring for them is where I fell in love. Everyday I get to learn a little bit more about these amazing creatures both as a whole and as individuals. I get to help save their lives and watch as many of them go from being terrified, abused animals to calm and more confident individuals. I get to see how their personalities bloom and develop over time. I find them vastly entertaining, extremely frustrating and amazingly forgiving. There is never a dull moment at the Sanctuary.

Challenges

The biggest challenge the Sanctuary faces is the prolific, exaggerated and often intentional misrepresentation of wolves that strongly divides the American population into two distinct camps; those who love them and those who hate them. There are so many myths and false beliefs surrounding the wolf that it is difficult to talk to people about the species as real creatures and the two sides are overwhelmingly uninterested in looking at the opposing side of the issue. This makes having discussions about wolves and their place in our world almost impossible which will only serve to hinder the wolf’s continued survival as a wild species. Trying to figure out a way to reach people with the facts about wolves and make them realize that while they are a predator they are not the devil and we can co-exist is a constant struggle and our biggest challenge.

How to apply for a conservation job - free eBook
Tundra was rescued from a ‘mill’ type breeding facility where she delivered many litters of puppies in awful conditions.

Tundra was rescued from a ‘mill’ type breeding facility where she delivered many litters of puppies in awful conditions.

Lessons learned

The phrase “9 to 5” does not apply in the animal care field and it is hard, demanding and often exhausting work but in the end extremely rewarding. Keeping an open mind and being flexible is an absolute must. It is important to realize that your way is not the only way, and just because another facility or group has a different philosophy or methodology doesn’t mean they are doing it wrong. There are many different ways to care for animals or run a Sanctuary, so it is important to always be looking for ways to improve yourself, your protocols and your facility in an effort to give the animals the best possible care you can.

Careers advice for budding conservationists

Schooling is important but the best advice I can give anyone looking to get into the animal care field, especially if they are considering a zoo, aquarium or sanctuary, is to volunteer or intern with those organisations. In my experience, these types of organisations are less impressed with academic achievements and more focused on hands-on experience. If there is a organisation that someone is interested in working for, I would highly recommend they start there as a volunteer or sign up for internships with that group (multiple if possible!). If the organisation is already familiar with a person and appreciates the help they have already been giving, that individual will have a much better chance of landing a job with them.

If people are interested in working for a small non-profit sanctuary like W.O.L.F. I would also recommend that if they are going to college they throw in a few business and/or management classes along with whatever animal related degree they are pursuing. When working for a small non-profit you are often asked to participate in many different aspects of the organization, some of which are administrative in nature. Having some basic familiarity with running a business would be extremely valuable.

If you would like to find out more about the work of W.O.L.F Sanctuary and their opportunities for volunteering or internships got to their website www.wolfsanctuary.co or follow them on Facebook.

Career Stories, Conservation Jobs & Careers Advice