That One Day At… St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary

Well, more like those two days at St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary. We first visited the sanctuary in October, 2013 when MaiTai was almost one. We had a repeat tour with one of his unschooling groups earlier this year.

The wolf is my primary spirit animal. I’m pretty sure MaiTai’s spirit animal is vastly unrelated to the wolf… probably something more like a monkey. Or Spiderman.

In any case, we learned so much about these majestic pack animals, and MaiTai enjoyed hearing them join together in a haunting chorus of howls midway through the tour.

The experience of being in the presence of real, wild animals so close you can feel their breath and the heat of their bodies… it’s not to be underestimated, especially for a child of any age.

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Place Stats

Web site link: St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary

Description: Via web site – Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary (SFWS) is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity in Montgomery, Texas, run by volunteers and created to provide a permanent home for non-releasable wolves and wolfdogs to live out the rest of their natural lives safely and comfortably with loving care and attention. These animals have suffered much and deserve a stable and loving home. SFWS is also committed to educating the public about wolves, conservation issues, and the downsides of exotic pets.”

Location: 2757 Saint Beulah Chapel Rd, Montgomery, TX 77316

Hours: Closed to visitors on Mondays and Fridays. Standard Tour offered all other afternoons at 3 pm, and Saturdays at 11 am and 12 pm. Visits by appointment only. Don’t show up unannounced please.

Fee: No required fee, but suggested minimum tax-deductible donation of $5 per child and $10 per adult.

Food: No. They try to keep water on hand but if you’re certain you’ll need some, bring your own.

Bathrooms: I was advised beforehand that public bathrooms aren’t technically available as the sanctuary is a private residence. If you will require access to a bathroom, call in advance to make arrangements.

Contact Them: 936 – 597- WOLF (9653)

Other: We took the Standard Tour both times, but SFWS also hosts other options for visitors including Howl Nights, VIP Tours, and birthday parties.

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Photos & Feelings

Things to know:

1). Online GPS’ing was not reliable for finding this place. Just follow the written directions on the web site — or expect to pull into the driveway a bit late.

2). You’ll walk a quarter mile or so from the parking area to the wolf pens. It’s mostly dirt walkway so don’t even think about wearing nice shoes, especially if it rained recently.

3). The space where the group gathers for the tour has a covered area with benches in case you need to sit down or get out of the sun/rain. Thankfully you’ll stay within earshot of the guide.

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St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. A wolf lover is my favorite kind of guy! Good ol’ Francis! Read more about him here.

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The tour began by introducing us to each wolf/wolf hybrid in their respective pens. The guide told us how they arrived here, in what condition, why they were placed with a certain roommate and separated from others, how they form and keep relationships with the other wolves (and human caretakers), and how the volunteers must learn to act a certain way around each animal.

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We learned about the harms of “backyard breeding,” the dangers of keeping a wild animal as a pet, how to treat wolves who suffer from common or unique medical problems, and how to determine what percentage of domestic dog might be mixed into a wolf suspected or known to be a hybrid.

The guide explained about the social behaviors of wolves, the mythology that has followed their kind throughout various cultures, and steps taken by sanctuary volunteers to ensure the wolves have all their needs met.

She also brought out the super-friendly “ambassador wolf” for a bit of show-and-tell time. She said in order to be allowed to touch the wolf, we must stay seated, quiet, put out our palm face-up and allow the wolf to approach us and sniff us before attempting to touch (not on the face or tail).

Most of the time it seems like young children live almost entirely in lala-land… but in truth? They. Are. Always. Listening. And. Watching.  (A frightening realization, sometimes!).

I sort of assumed MaiTai hadn’t picked up on much of what the guide had said. Then he grabbed these pointy sticks from the ground and explained how they were his “wolf teeth” to help him eat like a wolf (which the guide had just discussed in more detail than even I could easily follow).

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The tour lasted approximately one hour. Afterward we were invited to check out the gift shop, which had lots of adorable items for purchase (profits directly benefit the sanctuary’s wolves). You can find many of these goodies in their online shop, too.

We bought one of the necklaces below that contain a tuft of shed fur from one of the wolves (name written on the tag). Love to you, Lapua!

 

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