Forget everything you know, or think you know, about wolves – after all, history has done a tragically thorough job of villainizing them. They’re the predators, the pests, an overall metaphor for bad behavior. As with so much else in the world, it’s time to see with new eyes, and embrace an understanding, enlightened attitude. Wolf Hollow educates the mind, and soothes the soul.
A mission begins, and continues…
Wolf Hollow, is actually officially as the North American Wolf Foundation, having been established by Paul Soffron and his wife, Joni, in 1988. Two years and one acquired pack of five gray wolf pups later, Wolf Hollow officially opened to the public. Wolf Hollow’s goal was (and is) to educate the public by allowing them to see wolves in a natural environment. You can see some beautiful pictures of the Soffron family with their wolves on their official website’s Our History page.
Sharing a purpose…
To say that Wolf Hollow operates with a pack mentality would be an understatement – the very foundations of this organization are built upon the bonds of family and community. After Paul Soffron’s death in 2001, Joni has continued on as Director, along with their son, Zee.
Indeed, 114 Essex Road is not just home to the wolves in their care, it’s actually the Soffron homestead, just as it was before Wolf Hollow’s founding. Upon entering the property, you’ll see that the family home is to the left, and the entrance to the wolf sanctuary itself is to the right. In fact, the visitor center used to be in the living room of the Soffron home until a separate building specifically dedicated to that purpose opened in May of 2018.
I think I must have been about 14 when I first visited Wolf Hollow. I remember sitting in basic wooden stands under the bright sunlight, and looking at the wolves with wonder. Then, as now, the presentation came to a close with an invitation for the audience to howl, which could possibly initiate howling in the wolves as well. That first time, all of the wolves howled almost in unison – to say it was incredible would be an understatement!
Fast forward to early last summer, my first visit to Wolf Hollow in some 20 years or so. Now, the seating area still consists of wooden stands, but they’re much more professional and enclosed – a welcome, shady place to view the wolves from!
The new visitor center is lovely, too – it’s filled with excellent souvenirs and educational items. It can also double as a lecture space. A little over a month after the new visitor center opened, Wolf Hollow hosted Dr. Jon Way there to discuss his research on eastern coyotes and coywolves. I attended that lecture, and it was, in a word, fascinating!
Things to know before you go…
Wolf Hollow is open year-round, though on a reduced schedule during winter months. I’ve included a screenshot of their schedule (as of this writing), since I cannot do it justice by simply describing it! Please click on the image to take you to the respective page on their website, since these hours are subject to change at their discretion:
I highly recommend purchasing a membership – visit their Become a Member page for more info on the levels and corresponding packages. Members get free admission with their yearly membership (again, family vs individual depends on level), so if you plan to visit often, it more than pays for itself.
Although you can purchase tickets upon your arrival, it’s somewhat iffy to take that approach since they can often sell out in the summer months. It’s preferred that you purchase them online at their website – your name will be added to their registration list, and all you’ll have to do is walk into the visitor center, give them your name, you get a great wolf paw hand stamp, and you’re good to go!
When you get there…
They do everything they can to accommodate parking – seriously, one time I got there and Zee literally directed the car into the Soffron family’s own driveway area! If parking is a particular worry point for you during the summer months, I recommend going to the first presentation of the day if possible, and getting there as soon as the gates open at 1:00PM. Place your trust in the volunteer staff, and they’ll never steer you wrong (no pun intended).
Please note that, especially in warmer months, bugs become a factor, so you might want to wear bug spray. While you can take photos, under no circumstances can you film or record the wolves. Also, it’s important that wolves be able to see eyes of the humans visiting their environment. Again, the seating area is covered and provides ample shade. So, unless your sunglasses are prescription, it’s best to leave them on top of your head or in a pocket or purse whenever you’re in their presence.
Speaking of which, as of this writing, Wolf Hollow has their wolves spread out among several enclosures. When I first visited early last summer, the main enclosure consisted of Nevaeh Arrow, and Grendel. Here are a couple of pictures that I took during that visit:
Note: there are protective fences around each enclosure, hence their presence in the photos. There are strategic areas that allow for clear, fence-free photography, though those are reserved by reservation, and still allow no actual contact with the wolves. You can learn more those photo opportunities here.
Arrow and Grendel were just as curious about the audience as we were about them!
Zee Soffron with Nevaeh (she has the darker fur) and either Arrow or Grendel.
May of 2018 was certainly an important month for Wolf Hollow. In addition to their new visitor center, they welcomed a trio of wolf pup siblings – Akela and Askulee (“Skully”) are the boys, and Qantaqa the girl. The second time I visited, all of us got quite a happy surprise when we got to see the pups as they were walked around the front yard by the volunteer staff. Here’s my picture of that:
Akela, Askulee, and Qantaqa with volunteer staff.
As of this writing, the main enclosure now only consists of the pups (who look like fully adult wolves now – see the newest pictures of them over that Wolf Hollow’s Facebook page). Another enclosure houses Argus, Linnea and Arrow, while Grendel lives with Nevaeh.
The first enclosure that you see when entering the sanctuary is on the immediate right, and houses the gorgeous wolf Osa, and the charming wolf-dog hybrid, Bear (who happens to be my favorite). Osa likes to hide amongst the shrubbery, but Bear is usually out front looking at visitors. See the page, Our Current Wolves, to learn more about each of them. Here’s my picture of Bear:
The presentation (usually led by Zee Soffron) lasts a solid hour, which includes a Q&A. Although Wolf Hollow’s presentations are meant to focus on the science behind wolf anatomy and behavior, chances are that if the weather’s temperate, at least one of the wolves (Askulee’s the best candidate) will probably incite awwwws by wanting to cuddle with Zee or one of the volunteer staff members who enters the enclosure halfway through.
After the presentation, you have time to ask more questions, observe the wolves, and take one last look around the visitor center before calling it a day. In total, I would say that the visit will last about 2 hours, and could not be a more positive experience!
Other Wolf Hollow-Related Resources:
- “New center officially opened for ‘God’s beautiful creatures’” by John P. Muldoon for The Local Ne.ws
- “Wolf Hollow: Where Some of the Most Misunderstood Animals Roam” by Kieran Kesner for Mashable
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