Howling with Wolves at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA
There’s something special about listening to the howl of a wolf. It’s even more amazing if the wolves are howling all around you, and a member of your group got the howling started. Of course, if you were in the woods at night, this might be a terrifying experience. However, if you’re visiting the Wolf Sanctuary of PA near Lititz in Lancaster County, PA, it’s simply awesome!
The history of the Wolf Sanctuary of PA began over 30 years ago when it became illegal to keep wolves in your home. At the time, founder Bill Darlington owned a handful of wolves that he didn’t want to part with. So, he decided to build proper enclosures for them outside of his home.
While Darlington complied with the law, many did not. And, as the Pennsylvania Game Commission found wolves and wolf-hybrids in homes, they had to take the animals and put them down.
Eventually, the Game Commission contacted Darlington and asked him if he would be willing to take in a confiscated wolf. It was from this life-saving act that the Wolf Sanctuary of PA was officially born.
Today, the majority of the four dozen wolves in the sanctuary first came after being confiscated from illegal owners, though a small number were born through the sanctuary’s no-longer-active breeding program.
Pulling up to the large gate that guards the entrance to the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I’ve been to many zoos in the past, but few sanctuaries, so I didn’t know if I would be able to get close to the animals or if they would even be active.
After checking in for the tour, our group was led outside by our guide. Even though he, along with most everyone else that works there, was a volunteer, his knowledge about wolves and his passion for the animals at the sanctuary was very obvious.
At the first cage we visited, I was excited to see the wolves weren’t hiding in the back of their cages, but were eager to come to the fence to greet us. Of course, this was probably due less to the presence of the tour and more with the big bucket of treats that our guide kept feeding the wolves.
During the 90-minute tour of the Wolf Sanctuary of PA, we stopped at half a dozen different cages, each holding a different wolf pack. At each cage, the guide not only told us about each of the wolves and their place in the pack, but also gave us a lot of information about wolves in general, how each animal came to be there, and how the sanctuary cares for the animals.
Because of this in-depth information, the tour was much more informative than visiting a zoo and reading the informational sign about the animal. During the tour, I learned a lot of fascinating information about wolves and came away with a much better understanding of the animal and how important they are to the ecosystem that they inhabit.
The wolf packs ranged in size from two wolves to more than 10. Each pack had its own personality, but I especially enjoyed the larger packs because you could really see how the wolves interacted with each other. It was amazing to me how much their behavior reminded me of my family dog at home; though I suppose they are all canines, so I shouldn’t have been that surprised.
It is worth keeping in mind that the 60-90 minute tour is relatively slow-paced. Because of that, some children (or adults), might find it a bit long if they aren’t interested in wolves. However, I personally found the tour to be quite fascinating, and think that most, if not all, of the people on my tour agreed.
Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to the Wolf Sanctuary of PA. It was not only fascinating to see the wolves up close, but I was also fascinated by the amazing amount of information that I learned about wolves.
I can’t wait for another chance to visit the wolves at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA!
Touring the Wolf Sanctuary of PA
The Wolf Sanctuary of PA is located in northern Lancaster County, near the popular town of Lititz and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Tours of the Wolf Sanctuary of PA are offered year-round, four days a week. Tours on Saturdays and Sunday are available at 10am, June through September, and at 12pm, October through May. No reservation is necessary for weekend tours. Tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays are by reservation only and are at 10am year-round.
Keep in mind that tours can be crowded, especially during the summer and on weekends, so mid-week tours during the school year are a great choice. Private tours can also be schedule for those who are especially interested in a more intimate experience.
One thing that I really appreciated was how much of the tour money goes back into the wolves. The sanctuary runs almost entirely on volunteers and uses the money from tours, as well as donations, to keep the doors open.
If you have the opportunity, visit during the winter months. Many of the enclosures feature thick foliage where the wolves can hide. However, during the winter, the enclosures are much more open, allowing you to see the wolves almost anywhere. Of course, the treats the guides carry ensure that the wolves will come to the fences during your visit no matter when you are there.
Another unique touring opportunity is the Full Moon Tours at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA. Held every month on the night of the full moon, these tours give you the opportunity to wander through the grounds at your own pace without having to keep up with a group. There is also a big bonfire on site to keep you warm on cold nights.
For more information about touring the Wolf Sanctuary of PA or the wolves that live there, check out their website.
Note: I was provided with a complimentary tour to facilitate this article. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Wolf Sanctuary of PA
Hours: Tours Saturdays and Sundays
Cost: Varies by tour. See website.
Address: 465 Speedwell Forge Road
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Jim Cheney is the creator of UncoveringPA.com. Based in the state capital of Harrisburg, Jim frequently travels around Pennsylvania and has visited, written about, and photographed all 67 counties in the state. He has also traveled to more than 30 different countries around the world.