As the director of Predators of the Heart (POTH), Ashley Carr knows a thing or two about the natural world– and she’s dedicated her life to sharing this knowledge with others.
POTH is a wildlife sanctuary, environmental education center, and exotic animal rescue based in Anacortes. The sanctuary is also known for offering a truly one-of-a-kind experience: Up-close-and-personal encounters with wolves.
POTH was founded in 1998 by Carr’s father, Dave Coleburn, and focused on wildlife education for 19 years. Under Carr’s direction, its focus has shifted to conservation and rescue. Many of the animals at the sanctuary were abandoned, saved from the exotic pet trade, or are unable to live in the wild.
POTH is insured and licensed by the USDA, meaning that each animal receives proper, humane care in their “forever home.” Visitors to the sanctuary will find species ranging from wolves to cougars, bobcats, birds of prey, reptiles, and a menagerie of small mammals (including a sloth named Adagio).
“We educate people on how essential wolves are to the ecosystem,” explains Carr. “We also teach them about all other animals that we have here at our compound that have come in through fish and wildlife,, animal control, or private ownership where [owners] can’t provide for them adequately enough, and they can’t be released into the wild. We take them in so that they don’t have to be euthanized.”
For visitors, the main draw is the opportunity to walk alongside two wolves, Max and Kakoa. POTH began offering wolf encounters through Airbnb experiences just four years ago; within two months, the experience shot to No. 1 worldwide.
The website is filled with reviews raving about Carr’s knowledge, passion, and care. She takes safety seriously, making sure that guests fully understand protocol and arrive appropriately dressed. During encounters, the wolves always have the option of retreating to a private space if they feel oversocialized.
When leading wolf encounters, Carr and her staff teach visitors about wolf behavior and biology in addition to dispelling common misconceptions about apex predators. Carr hopes to impart a compassion and respect for wildlife– and to “make it clear that an animal’s value is not determined by its similarity or services to humans.”
“You have to have that respectful fear for them. It’s when people get too comfortable that things happen,” says Carr. “You have to love and respect them and their boundaries and not force them past that.”
In addition to Airbnb experiences, the nonprofit also works with school districts and even the Make A Wish Foundation. Visitors travel from across the country to meet the wolves, and Carr notes that the nonprofit brings business and value to Anacortes.
“We want our community to feel safe, and we want them to feel their value,” Carr says. “We get all of our stuff locally printed and embroidered in Anacortes because we’re trying to support our local mom-and-pop [stores] as much as we possibly can.”
At the end of the day, Carr says that POTH is about more than just interdependence in the natural world– it’s about the interdependence among animals, humans, and their respective communities.
POTH is planning to improve facilities in 2022, and Carr invites curious readers to learn more online and on social media. To support the nonprofit, patrons can donate online or even sponsor an animal.