As Google Maps took us from highway to rambling back-roads, a thought came to mind. This is how Stephen King novels start out. Three young girls travel to a quintessential New England town to visit a wolf sanctuary…sci-fi & horror ensue...I was outlining the plot in my head, when the Siri-wannabe blurts out, “your destination is on your left”.
Welcome To Wolf Hollow Wolf Sanctuary of Ipswhich, Massachusetts
We pulled in, and our first impression was...wait, is this it? or is this someone’s driveway? In front of us was a moderately sized charming New Englander with a couple of raised bed gardens on the side lawn, and a fence stretched out blocking our view of the back. We parked hesitantly, and I was about to check google maps again, when all of a sudden I heard it. Howling. It was soft and low at first, but it grew as more voices joined in. Yup. This is definitely the place... and I am definitely in a Stephen King novel, I thought.
Little did I know at the time, that thought is the exact kind of thing Wolf Hollow was created to fight.
So Why Does A “Vicious Predator” Like A Wolf Need A Place Like Wolf Hollow Wolf Sanctuary?
First of all does this look like a “vicious predator”?
We thought not… Wolves are more like humans than we give them credit for. They actually exhibit very clear and specific personality traits that you’d find in your best friend, or your boss, or even yourself. For example...
Meet Bear & Osa.
When we came up to Bear & Osa’s enclosure, Bear confidently pranced over to us, eager to meet some new ladies and make a good impression. Imagine John Stamos in those Oikos Yogurt commercials, but as a wolf.
Osa, however, held back. She walked along the fence at the back of the enclosure, eyeing us warily, slightly nervous and skeptical of our presence. Not unlike a small child meeting her new babysitter for the first time.
3 Things Wolves and Humans Have In Common
FACT 1: Wolves spend time grooming each other.
FACT 2: Wolves mate for life.
FACT 3: They hold funerals when a wolf pack member passes.
If wolves and humans are so similar, why all the hate?
Because we’re not so different. We need space and food. They need space and food, and when wolves discovered that our livestock were easy targets....Well, let’s just say wolves don’t understand our sophisticated “dibs” system, so after one too many cows turned into wolf treats, farmers used their political pull to lobby for Government sanctioned Wolf-Extermination programs (i.e. hunt-until-your-hearts-content programs). By the middle of the 20th century a creature that was once as common in the lower 48 states as squirrels, were nowhere to be found. Virtually extinct except for a few hundred wandering in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan with their tails between their legs.
Thankfully in 1974 wolves were put on the endangered species list. Now, ironically, the same government that couldn’t wait to pull the trigger mere decades before, was now in charge of saving the species. With that being said it's probably good that people like Paul Soffron exist, who care enough to step up to the plate.
Paul C. Soffron, Founder of Wolf Hollow Wolf Sanctuary, Proves One Man with a Dream Can Make an Impact
Paul Soffron founded the North American Wolf Foundation (NAWF) in 1988 as a state and federally licensed 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The purpose was and always will be “to preserve the wolf in the wild, through education and exposure”.
Over the next few years the Soffron family home transformed into Wolf Hollow Wolf Sanctuary (which explains our initial reaction upon pulling up). Today it features 4 separate fenced in enclosures, a separate viewing pavilion for weekend presentations, and a gift shop... in their living room.
Before opening to the public in 1990, Joni Sofforon (Paul’s wife) and Zee, (their teenage son) took behavioral and animal husbandry training in preparation for their inaugural wolf pack, which consisted of 5 wolves from 3 different litters so that a family could begin.
READ MORE: The History of Wolf Hollow
Paul passed away some years ago, but his son, Zee, carried on in his memory, taking over the position of Director of Wolf Hollow and a walking Wolf Wikipedia. He is always one of the first living things the wolves see when they open their eyes at 12-15 days old, and he continues to work closely with the wolves throughout their lives. This makes him like an uncle to them and they treat him like one of the pack.
It's remarkable to be able to see so clearly how wolves use body language and small actions to communicate, and to see how Zee has learned to interpret their actions and act accordingly to communicate across species. Although sometimes he may not be on point. He told us a story about an encounter he had with the alpha male during a particularly off day...
But Enough About Humans, Let's Meet The Wolves of Wolf Hollow!
Walking the grounds of Wolf Hollow, it doesn’t take long to realize that all the terrifying lore surrounding wolves, is just ridiculous propaganda perpetuated by a misunderstanding of nature and our place within it. Who are we to decide which species stays and which go? After all humans are just a slightly more evolved animal. Sure we may have gained a greater capacity for understanding and learning over the last few thousand years, but are we using that capacity appropriately? Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. So Let’s not be those roommates that eat all the food in the fridge and leave nothing left. Let’s share the wealth and respect the space of our fellow Earth residents.
All photographs via Daniela Maria
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Wolf Hollow is open Saturday & Sundays April 1 - Nov. 30th from 1 to 3PM (weather permitting)
Presentations start at 1:30pm
Check Out Wolf Hollow's Adopt-A-Wolf Program
Get admission discounts and gift shop benefits. (No, you don't get to take home a wolf. We asked.)
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