Aspen Heidekrueger first became interested in wolves as a child, but she has no idea that they would become so much more than just her favorite animal in later years. Little did she know that the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center less than a mile from her house, and a place she had known of since her family moved to Divide, would become a big part of her life. “I knew I wanted to volunteer there someday as soon as I heard that it was a wolf sanctuary,” she stated in an interview. “I knew it would be such an incredible opportunity.” It took almost a decade until circumstances made it possible, but Aspen began volunteering at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center at the beginning of this year.
At the Center, Aspen works closely with the 14 wolves that are housed there, helps care for the other animals, gives educational tours, and has recently become well-known for the TikTok videos she creates with and about the wolves.
When Aspen heard about Idaho’s intent to kill 90% of the state’s wolves, and with Montana passing legislation to follow in Idaho’s footsteps, she wanted to get involved. She began creating TikToks explaining to people what was happening to the wolves and encouraging them to sign petitions to stop it. Her first TikTok about the wolves went viral, gaining more than 3 million views and inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to sign petitions, duet her videos and raise awareness on social media, write letters to state representatives, and much more.
“The biggest response I got when I posted that first video was that people had no idea this was happening and that they were appalled.” Aspen was shocked to find that many people did not know what Idaho and Montana were trying to do.
After that initial video, Aspen continued creating TikToks updating people on what was happening, and she has become a key resource in the fight for wolves in the Rockies. She is continuing to reach thousands of people and garnering support to help stop Idaho and Montana.
Not only is Aspen an amazing advocate for the wolves, she also uses her TikTok platform as a resource for those who are struggling with cancer.
Aspen is a leukemia survivor who underwent three years of chemotherapy treatment during her high school career. Her goals with her social media platforms and the blog she writes, called Complicated Cancer, are to share her own story, spread awareness about cancer, and to support, encourage, and offer advice to other cancer patients and people struggling with chronic illness.
After surviving childhood cancer and struggling to adjust to long-term health problems after her chemo treatment ended, Aspen became determined to use her platforms to make a positive difference for those who are struggling. “I felt really alone while I was battling cancer—like no one understood what I was going through, and no one ever talked about cancer or what it was like to battle it or put yourself back together in the aftermath,” she says. “I want to do everything I can to make sure that other people out there battling cancer or other chronic illness don’t have to feel that way.”
For years, Aspen has been passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless, and this desire has now expanded to helping the wolves.
Aspen’s videos raising awareness about the wolves have been viewed by millions of people across the world. In some of her videos, she has taken us on adventures through Yellowstone and to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. She has even had the opportunity to feature Steve Cottrell, the real-life Forest Gump, on her platform!
Aspen’s incredible public speaking skills and passion for these causes make it possible for her to quickly bring people up to speed on the issues. In the case of wolves in the west, Aspen’s platform has helped ignite a movement of people all wanting to support this cause. She is a true warrior for wolves!
We are extremely grateful that Aspen has joined our team at IWCN this summer as our communications intern! She recently launched IWCN’s TikTok, click the link below to learn more!
Aspen’s TikTok: @theaspenleaf
IWCN’s TikTok: @wildlifecoexistence