MONTGOMERY, Texas — Down long windy road on the west side of Montgomery County, just a few miles from the Sam Houston national forest you’ll find facility where you won’t mind getting thrown to the wolves.
In 2002, the Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary got started after a mischievous wolf named Mystery was spotted roaming the woods nearby. After being shot and captured, Mystery rehabbed and lived out her days at the sanctuary started by a local woman who really loves all of God’s Creature, Jean LeFevre. Now 13 wolves and wolfdogs called Saint Francis home.
Brittany McDonald said she dreamt of working with wolves since she was eight years old and is now one of the caretakers at the Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary.
“So wolf is obviously the pure form and the dog is mixed in with dogs,” Brittany said. “Wolves occur naturally in the wild whereas wolf dogs rarely do. The wolf dog thing is kind of a new fad that people created when they started mixing wolves with their domesticated dogs to make a really cool looking pet that they hope to be as friendly as man’s best friend. Typically, it doesn’t work out that way and that’s exactly why we’re here.”
Popular culture has made pups of this kinds a bit of a problem.
“We do definitely have a lot more of them around and not to blame the Game of Thrones but they probably are responsible for the fad,” Brittany said.
Turns out once these guys get long in the tooth, they can be handful.
“They assume that because it’s mixed with dog that it’s going to have the dog temperament and the wolf looks and that doesn’t really apply,” Brittany said. “The wolf characteristics are very dominant. That fear of humans, the destructiveness. The desire to escape and do wolfy things.”
Miko shares his pen with two other female wolves, sort of a wolf pack that the sanctuary creates for each of their wild friends. Mico is particularly friendly with people because he was born and raised in a zoo where he was used as a sort of photo prop to take photos with videos, according to Brittany.
“We sometimes call ourselves the OkCupid or the wolf word because we do have to make sure they can match up because having a companion is really important to them just like it is for people,” Brittany said. They really rely on that social bond.”
These wolves depend on the sanctuary not only for social interaction but vaccines and most importantly meal time.
“These guys eat an all raw meat diet so depending on the size of the animal, the activity level, they might eat more or less than others but we have two animals currently that eat four pounds of food a day and that is way up there but they burn it off,” Brittany said.
If you’re lucky or if you plan on overnight stay to camp with the wolves, you’ll be able to hear the serenade that makes a stop at the sanctuary all worth it.
“Some of our wolves actually howl a little less wolfy than you’d expect,” Brittany said. “So Lapore back here we joke that she sounds like a hyena or a coyote rather than a wolf. She hasn’t quite figured it out yet. It’s impressive. Every single time it’s just this beautiful sound. The neighbors around here love it. They sit out on their porch and drink coffee and they listen for that howl. It’s magical.”
Wolves are no longer found in the Lone Star State but for an up-close encounter with these magical animals with sizable smiles, a stop at the Saint Francis Sanctuary in Montgomery Texas is well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“The best part is when you have an animal that is really distrusting of people and eventually you get to watch it grow into an animal that has learned to forgive and to rely on you and you build a relationship with it. It doesn’t always happen but when it does there’s nothing better than that,” Brittany said. “That’s what we do this for.”