I recently attended a photography conference in Fort Myers, Florida, which offered a workshop at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary outside of Naples. The mission of the Sanctuary is to provide lifetime refuge for abandoned wild and captive-bred exotic animals.
The exotic animal trade is a multi-billion dollar industry. Animals are illegally captured and/or bred and sold to people who should not be contributing to this industry through the mindless purchase of animals they have no mental, spatial, or financial abilities to care for. Even if a person had somehow managed to score the trifecta of brainpower, space, and finances, obtaining wild or exotic animals for sheer personal pleasure should be a highly punishable crime. As a result, these rescued animals are left in a sort of limbo land, or purgatory, if you will, between true freedom and captivity.
At the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in addition to wolves, there are other recues, such as panthers, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, prairie dogs, and raccoons. Because of federal licensing, none of the animals can be re-released into the wild.
As anyone who knows me or has read my blog, you have probably deduced I am a big supporter of animals. Huge. It is upsetting for me to see animals in zoos or anywhere else they do not belong or are not being properly cared for. Although every animal at the sanctuary looked extremely healthy and were clearly well loved based on how the care takers interacted with them, it was still depressing to see these beautiful animals in cages.
Some of the wolves were hybrids (wolf mixed with dog) and had come from homes where the owners decided this “pet” of theirs was acting more aggressively than they thought it should….it’s part wild for God’s sake; how stupid to purchase an animal such as this and think all will be as fine with Fido. Given most people can’t adequately care for a rabbit, why someone would decide purchasing something that was proven to not be a stable pet, through no fault of it’s own, is well beyond my fathomable abilities. I sum it up to people being stupid and selfish; and many times, people just suck. Big time.
A few of the care takers/volunteers who had developed a special bond with these hybrid wolves tried to adopt them and take them into their homes, but the hybrid wolves did nothing but pace once inside their homes. I think this is because the wolf-dog is more wolf than dog and is not capable of being confined indoors.
We were allowed to go into some of the pens with wolf-hybrids who had come from human homes, but they were frightened by our cameras. As soon as a camera came up to take a photograph of the wolf, the animal would duck and shy away. Although we were told some of theses wolf hybrids were “quite friendly,” I was a little nervous about being in such close proximity with these partially still wild animals, which may have been previously abused in some manner. As with any wild animals, because these hybrid wolves were still somewhat wild, their behaviors could be unpredictable. I could see that the hybrid wolves were nervous about us as well through their constant pacing back and forth in their pen. That pacing made me want to get out of their space and leave them alone.
My Final Thoughts: The Shy Wolf Sanctuary is doing an incredible job of rescuing these animals but if there weren’t irresponsible, egocentric people in the world, places like this would not need to exist. Although I would not want to see the impetuous destruction of innocent animals as a result of people’s stupidity and selfishness, I can’t help but wonder what is really in the best interest of these animals after they have been rescued. Is it really better to spend the rest of their lives in a cage? I don’t know.
The Shy Wolf Sanctuary visits schools, adult residences, and community events each year to share the message regarding the need to leave animal species in their natural ecosystems. Some of the animals, including their hybrid wolf ambassador of the sanctuary, can be taken to these presentations for a more impactful presentation.
For more information on the Shy Wolf Sanctuary visit their website: http://shywolfsanctuary.com/