Written for The Colorado Courier/GoldRush on of the Colorado Community Newspapers - 09/22/2006
Sue Cranston won't eat chicken. The wolfdogs and coydogs at the Indigo Mountain Nature Center eat 80 pounds of leg quarters a day and that's just too much chicken for one person to look at for nine years and expect to be able to eat it too, she said.
Indigo Mountain has 29 dog and wolf or coyote mix canines, four black bears, 20 sugar gliders, one Serengeti cat and two minks, all on 37 acres near the Teller/Park county line. Each was born in captivity and rescued from road-side menageries, backyard breeders, fur farms, small zoos with surplus animals and individuals who bought them as pets and couldn't care for them.
Sugar gliders are the latest craze in pets. These small marsupials are native to Australia and other parts of the South Pacific. Despite the hype, they don't make good pets, Cranston said.
"They need a special diet, they're nocturnal, you can't house break them and they bite, hard," she said.
Wolfdogs and coydogs also don't usually make good pets.
"Maya, one of our coydogs, is too energetic," Cranston said. "She's like a pogo stick with teeth. In the wild, wolves and coyotes communicate with each other with their mouths. This can be scary, especially if the owners have children."
Two of the black bears came to the sanctuary as babies, the other two were adults that were part of an education program.
The mink were jail breakers from a fur farm, Cranston said.
"Except for the mink, we don't take escape artists," Cranston said. "That would be dangerous."
Once the animals are brought to the sanctuary, they're checked for parasites, inoculated, wormed and altered. Animals that come in together are usually kept together.
Besides chicken, the center goes through hundreds of pounds of ground beef, bushels of fruit, vegetables and grains, bags of kibble and vitamin supplements.
Each type of animal has a special diet. Sugar gliders eat a mixture of honey, eggs, wheatgerm and human baby food. They also like fruit and nuts.
"For dessert we give them meal worms," Cranston said. "A day isn't complete without meal worms."
The bears are fed grains, fruit, vegetables, chicken and fish.
"We don't feed dog food to our wolfdogs but the bears eat four cups of kibble every day," Cranston said. "Around Thanksgiving we'll give them their last meal of the year. We probably won't see them again until March or April."
Cranston and Carol Scarborough started the center in 1997 after volunteering at other animal sanctuaries for several years.
"Carol and I traveled and talked to people and visited other centers in Florida, California and Texas for two years, asking questions about space, containment, care and feeding and health," Cranston said. "We didn't want to re-invent the wheel."
"The USDA has basic rules on containment sizes, but those are the minimum to keep the animals alive," Cranston said. "We didn't want to stop at that. We wanted the animals not only to survive but to thrive. We want them to have a quality life."
Quality doesn't even come close to describing the lives many of these animals had before they came to Indigo Mountain. Several of the wolfdogs in particular bear the scars of their former lives.
On a walk through the compound, Cranston knows each animal on sight and tells their stories. Some were rescued from a "sanctuary" in Texas that was better at duping people out of their money than it was at caring for animals.
"Of the 60 animals housed there, only 20 were alive when authorities shut it down," Cranston said.
The center is licensed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Division of Wildlife. Park County doesn't limit the number of animals they can quarter but new DOW rules will limit the numbers of species they can take in.
"We have to be certified by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association before we can add other species, which is ironic since we're not a zoo," Cranston said. "We're a sanctuary and we're not open to the general public."
Like most nonprofit organizations, Indigo Mountain Nature Center needs volunteers and money. As a 501(c)(3) organization all donations are tax deductible. While money is good, in-kind donations also are needed,
"We need a Bobcat," Scarborough said. "One with an auger would be nice - we're always having to dig holes. Or someone with a Bobcat could volunteer for a day."
Other needs include food, paper towels, food storage bags and building materials - concrete and timbers .
While not open to the public, the center offers educational opportunities - internships and lectures at Mueller State Park, local schools and civic organizations.
For information on volunteering, making donations or booking a lecture, call 748-5550 or visit www.indigomtn.org.
©Colorado Community Newspapers 2006
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