Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Colorado organization rescues six suspected Haines wolfdogs


August 4, 2022

While thousands danced and dined at the Southeast Alaska State Fair last weekend, Drew Robertson of Sedalia, Colorado was rescuing a half dozen local puppies that might be part wolf.

The state suspects at least 10 dogs born at 35 Mile Haines Highway in February could be wolf hybrids, which are illegal to breed or possess in Alaska.

The owner of the litter — “Seandog” Brownell — said he suspects the mother, Inja, a lab, could’ve mated with a wild wolf last December on or near his property.

Robertson, who runs an organization with wolfdog sanctuaries in the Lower 48, picked up six of the Haines puppies and took them back to Colorado. The other four possible wolfdogs haven’t been surrendered by their owners.

On the ferry Monday headed to Washington state with the dogs, Robertson told the CVN some of the puppies would be placed in sanctuaries — large, enclosed properties — but “a couple of them were so social, we already plan on them being support animals.”

In addition to running sanctuaries, Robertson’s organization, Mattersville Veterans, pairs rescued wolfdogs with U.S. military veterans experiencing post traumatic stress disorder or other health issues.

Mattersville works to promote “pack healing” — creating bonds between canines separated from their packs and veterans missing their military units. “​​They end up having really, really strong bonds,” said Robertson, who started the organization about a decade ago after his friend, a veteran, committed suicide.

The organization has five sanctuaries — in Colorado, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin and Kansas — as well as a group of support animals. Wolfdogs that act more like dogs than wolves usually become support animals, while the wilder rescues live with animal care teams at Mattersville’s sanctuaries, Robertson said.

“I’m just really happy that he’s going to have a family,” said Jennifer Marschke, referring to her puppy Biscuit, one of the dogs Robertson picked up.

Robertson said he thought Biscuit might be a good fit for a friend of his in Washington state, where wolfdogs are legal. Marschke said she looked forward to visiting Biscuit, whether he’s in Washington or at a sanctuary elsewhere.

“I’m excited that we can continue to be part of his life, even though he won’t be in Alaska,” she said.

The wolfdog saga started earlier this summer when one of the dogs in the litter registered as 50% wolf on an Embark dog DNA test. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) is awaiting results from more accurate laboratory testing at the University of California, Davis, to prove whether or not the dogs are part wolf.

Wildlife managers sent samples from six of the dogs and are seeking contact information for the owners of the other dogs in the litter. Until the results come back, the state will consider the animals legal.

Wild gray wolves rarely mate with domestic dogs, but the two kinds of animals can have viable offspring. Some biologists contend they are two different species; others say dogs are a wolf subspecies.

It’s possible that some, but not all of the Haines litter could be part wolf. There could be multiple fathers because female dogs have “numerous eggs that the sperm can mix with,” ADFG biologist Carl Koch said in an email. “The term for that is super fecundity. Wild wolves will only have one father because of pack dynamics. The father wolf helps raise the young. But with domestic dogs they don’t help the female raise the pups,” he said.

Brownell for several weeks had been working to line up a sanctuary for the dog before the genetic test results came back, while they are still legal.

He started a GoFundMe page in July to raise money for vaccinations, rabies shots, dog food and transportation to new homes for the dogs. That page as of Tuesday had raised $3,061 through 41 donations.

Robertson said he heard about the dogs through a mutual acquaintance with Brownell. He said he would be happy to place more of the suspected wolfdogs in his sanctuaries.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” Robertson said Monday as he pulled into Ketchikan on the ferry. After disembarking in Bellingham, he planned to drive the dogs back to Colorado for veterinary care.

In the meantime, though, “I have six wolfdogs to walk in Ketchikan,” he said. “They’re below deck right now.”

Robertson documented his trip to Haines on his Tik Tok account @pack22alpha.


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