“People buy an exotic animal as a pet, and they think it’s very cool
until they get them in their house,” said our tour guide, volunteer
Pat Eckel. “For example, the people who owned these foxes
didn’t realize the smell that comes with them. When their
house stinks, they don’t want them anymore.”
Education is a big part of the Shy Wolf volunteers’ job.
When people tour the facility they leave well versed in how
to interact with wildlife, why having them as pets is a bad
idea for the general population, and why it is so difficult to
simply return many of these animals to the wild … even if
they are indigenous to the area.
For instance, a raccoon named Rocket that is a permanent
resident at the sanctuary was just a baby when his
nest was found at a construction site. When a well-intentioned
rescuer picked the baby up, a bond was created and
the natural order of Rocket’s life was disrupted. He is now
a full-time resident of Shy Wolf and greets visitors with his
Fenn the fennic fox was found wandering in the wild, tangled
in a fence and obviously frantic and distressed from being
dumped. He had no way of hunting in the wild and had spent
most of his life in captivity. His coat was very oily from not being
in his natural habitat – which is sand – but Nancy worked with
him and created a habitat that is perfect for him. He is now a permanent
resident of Shy Wolf.
Cimarron the panther is a big mellow male that absolutely loves the
smell of his favorite perfume, a Japanese-scented body mist. He seems indifferent
to the wave of howls that comes about every 5 minutes, a wave
that starts out soft and slow with one wolf leading the chorus but soon overtakes
the senses when it reaches a crescendo.
Cimarron was originally purchased on the internet by a man who raised him from a
cub. They roughhoused together when he was small, but as the cat grew larger the play
became a bit livelier. The man’s reaction to Cimarron’s exuberance was to beat him with a lead pipe in
an attempt to dominate him. He has the biggest enclosure in the sanctuary, a bi-level domicile that suits him
Melbourne the New Guinea Singing Dog greets visitors with a gentle rub on his cage, looking for a little
petting. Visitors can actually put their hand up to Melbourne, as he is very gentle.
This descendant of the dingo is a very interesting creature, with one of his unique features being that if his
face can fit through a hole, his whole body can.
“His flexible legs can bend all the way back, and he can turn his head all the way around to see behind
him,” Pat explained. “And unlike wolves, whose tone fluctuates during a howl, singing dogs will find one true,
pure note and just stick with it. If there are several of them together, they will all go to the same pitch.”
Pat said Melbourne came from an exotic animal auction. He and another singing dog, Seger, were
purchased by the New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Federation. Members of the group called Shy
Wolf to see if the pair could live with them, and they were accepted. While Melbourne lives in the sanctuary
habitat, Seger lives at the home of one of the sanctuary directors.