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Wolf Hollow: a Remarkable Wolf Sanctuary Open to the Public in Ipswich, Massachusetts 

Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article created 6/11/2017

Wolf Hollow, Ipswich, Massachusetts

Wolf Hollow Assistant Director Zee Soffron interacts with a wolf.


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Editor's note: please call Wolf Hollow for weekend hours at 978-356-0216 before traveling there to ensure tour availability.

If you are tired of following the pack when experiencing Massachusetts travel, then Wolf Hollow in Ipswich should have you howling with delight at this fascinating North Shore attraction.

Wolf Hollow offers visitors a chance to view North American seven gray wolves (and one wolf-dog hybrid) in their natural environment through a one-hour educational program. Staff and volunteers provide an educational and entertaining weekend show that raises the awareness of the wolf’s key role in promoting a healthy ecosystem, how packs co-exist, their dynamics, hierarchy and biology, and what can be done to keep the species from dying out. The presentation also reveals man’s historical interaction with wolves.

The most striking part of the tour, however, involves the visual: wolves interacting lovingly with staff and volunteers, as
evidenced by the animals licking faces, gently eating food from hands, and snuggling in the fields. There are no “stupid pet tricks” here, animals dressed in grandmother’s clothing or houses blown down by strong canine lungs -- just the sight of content wolves roaming the open, natural field, peacefully interacting with each other, and virtually acting like loyal dogs to their “other family”

“Wolves are not pets, though, to me,” said Zee Soffron, 41, assistant director of Wolf Hollow (also known as North American Wolf Foundation). “They are like family. That is the connection I feel.”

Wolf Hollow Assistant Director Zee Soffron connects with a wolf
Soffron feels like wolves are like family to him.

Most common from the Great Lakes to Washington state, the North American gray wolf remains a threatened species often misunderstood in folklore, religion, and mythology. Although potentially dangerous to people like many other large animals, there have been only two reported incidents of wolves killing people over the past 100 years, according to Soffron. They do not kill for sport, but rather for survival as a top predator.

Timber wolf romas the land at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich MA
North American timber wolf, up and close at Wolf Hollow.

Wolf and Zee Soffron at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich MA“Wolves are rather skittish and very sensitive,” said Soffron. “They are very intelligent and put family ahead of
themselves... When Weeble, one of our wolves was dying of diabetes, each wolf howled individually in front of him. They typically howl together.”

Joni Saffron (Zee’s mother) and her late husband Paul started the non-proft North American Wolf Foundation in 1988 and opened Wolf Hollow sanctuary in 1990 with the mission to educate on the importance and preservation of wolves in the wild through education and exposure, as well as to dispel negative stereotypes about the species.  Joni determinedly, and passionately, assumed myriad responsibilities as director of Wolf Hollow after Paul died in 2001, to help grow the 100 percent volunteer-operated 501(c)3 non-profit.

It’s also a short commute for the Soffrons: They live in a quaint, large home on the land. Zee’s wife, Heidi, works as veterinary technician and assistant treasurer at Wolf Hollow. They have a five-year old son Otto, who, as stated on the Wolf Hollow web site, is a “Wolf Wrangler (in training).”  The professional, knowledgeable and energized group employed at Wolf Hollow mirrors, in a work sense, the self-sustainability of the wolves -- that is, by allowing its business to survive through donations, adoptions and proceeds from admission and gift shop sales.

“We don’t take grants,” said Zee, who works an art teacher in the Andover Public Schools during the weekdays. “We don’t want to rely on the government. We get by on things like admission fees and gift sales. My mom keeps us going.”

Visitors -- watching from the bleachers near the sturdy tall, chain link fences containing the strikingly beautiful canines -- also get to howl with the wolves at the end of each presentation. Many guests can be seen leisurely discussing the presentation well after the end of the show and getting last glimpses of the wolves instead of making the typical beeline towards the parking lot.

Wolf Hollow in Ipswich MA
Watching and listening from the bleachers at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich.

 “It is very different than a zoo,” said Jill Black from Reading, who visited Wolf Hollow with her three elementary school age children. “”It is very different from a zoo. The wolves look happy. In zoos, you see animals pace back and forth and you can see the same foot tracks that shows that they are maybe under stress. Here, they roam and are content. I really thought it was great. We have been hearing about Wolf Hollow for years and finally got to go today. I am glad we did.”

Apparently, so did approximately 300 other visitors on this Saturday on Memorial Day Weekend with 800 expected for a “Family Day” on Sunday. That’s a far “wolf cry” than the days when Wolf Hollow just started.

“Back in 1994, we would be waiting for a car to roll into the parking lot,” said Zee. “The growth is scary. But we don’t want to be big, just the best. It is all about the education of wolves here.”

Wolf Hollow is located at 114 Essex Rd. in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Tel. 978-356-0216. Log onto   "http://www.wolfhollowipswich.org" http://www.wolfhollowipswich.org for seasonal hours and more information on Wolf Hollow and wolves. Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/WolfHollow

Wolf Hollow sign in Ipswich MA

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