When ice covered the trees near the Wolf Haven International sanctuary, limbs came crashing down and the nearly four-dozen wolves in Tenino had nowhere to hide.
“It was like running through a gauntlet,” animal curator Wendy Spencer said.
The 82-acre property suffered major damage to nearly every enclosure. Fences were flattened, the water system shut down and the park's video surveillance was knocked out.
Amazingly, the animals — a mix of gray and Mexican wolves — made it through the storm unscathed. A couple escaped from their enclosures, but not from the sanctuary's perimeter fence.
"Animals are so much more resilient than we are, they live in the moment and move on,” Spencer said.
For the sanctuary, moving on will be difficult. The non-profit that started in 1982 was forced to close. Damage is estimated at more than $50,000.
It will take two months to pick up the pieces and the staff is worried because the wolves’ breeding season is in February.
"Whenever you have something different, to produce pups — that's a real concern."
"Our whole goal is to provide a peaceful safe haven for these animals, so we'll do whatever we need to do to make that happen," said Diane Gallegos, the sanctuary's executive director.
The plan right now is to move the wolves into different enclosures on the property while they clean up the trees and downed limbs. The sanctuary hopes to reopen to the public in March.
The sanctuary attracts more than 12,000 visitors each year, including thousands of school kids.