shy wolf sanctuary
picture of Yuki, a wolfdog that is 87% wolf, went viral a few weeks ago. The attention he got brought Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Florida into the spotlight. (Image via Shy Wolf Sanctuary)
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shy wolf sanctuary

The viral wolfdog is the new star at this Florida-based animal rehabilitation center.

In March, a picture of a giant wolfdog with his human went viral. At first, many people thought the picture was fake because of the animal’s size, but it turned out that he is, in fact, real, and his name is Yuki. The picture was taken with Brittany Allen, a volunteer at Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples, Florida, the home of Yuki and many other animals like him.

Yuki is a 12-year-old, 120-pound wolfdog, which means he is 87.5% gray wolf, 8.6% husky and 3.9% German shepherd. At eight-months-old, he was brought to Shy Wolf Sanctuary because he had gotten too big for his owner, who was ill, to handle. After going viral, many people wanted to adopt Yuki but, unfortunately, he is terminally ill and will spend the rest of his life at Shy Wolf with his packmate Bella.


Yuki’s story is a common one at Shy Wolf Sanctuary. Founded in 1989 by Nancy and Kent Smith, the sanctuary’s mission is “to reconnect people and animals though education.” The two and a half acres of land exist as a sanctuary and rehabilitation center for animals who cannot be released into the wild, as well as those who are bred in captivity and then abandoned by their owners.

The Residents

Shy Wolf provides a comprehensive list of all of their residents so the public can virtually meet the animals. There are a wide variety of species, from wolfdogs to coyotes to raccoons and skunks.

Some featured animals are Bob Leo, the bobcat, Cimarron the cougar, Fenn the fennec fox and Seger, the New Guinea singing dog. Each animal profile includes a video of the animal, his/her story and sometimes some background information on the species.

As a kitten, Bob Leo was purchased as a pet and lived with his family for eight years. However, he was often confined to a large crate when they weren’t home. In 2011, they brought Leo to Shy Wolf hoping he would be able to lead a better life. At first, Leo had trouble adjusting and was depressed. After many vet visits and trying everything they could, they went to a specialist and discovered he had a Thiamin deficiency, which can present as symptoms of anorexia. The volunteers at Shy Wolf started giving him vitamin B shots and feeding him live mice and he has gotten better. He has since warmed up, living a happy life with his pals Boomer and Timmy.

Cimarron is known as many things — a Florida panther, a puma, a cougar, catamount, painter, screamer, mountain lion — all names for the same big cat. Cimarron was born in captivity and was abused; he was played with roughly and hit over the head with a metal pole as he grew too big. Luckily, the USDA shut down that facility and Cimarron found his way to Shy Wolf. Because of his past, he is not allowed contact with humans or other animals but lives in the largest habitat and is given lots of toys to stimulate him.

Fenn was found roaming around Jupiter, Florida wearing a leash and harness. He was rescued and brought to a rehabilitation center. After rehab, he joined the Shy Wolf family. He is small and shy but is slowly warming up.

New Guinea singing dogs are considered to be one of the rarest canines in the world. Seger came from a “conservation litter.” To own a singer, you have to have a Class III registration because they are classified as dingoes. The rest of Seger’s litter was dispersed but he still needed a home. Shy Wolf decided to take him in and is excited to say that he likes other dogs, people and just about everything else.

The Past

The Smiths purchased the land in 1989 and in 1993 rescued their first animal, a three-legged leopard named Moondance. In January of 2001, they finally became an official nonprofit and over the years, have grown from having five big cats and 11 wolfdogs, to having over 30 wolfdogs and approximately 30 other residents of varying species. Shy Wolf Sanctuary now has over 80 active volunteers as well.

The Present

In addition to being a sanctuary for wolfdogs and other species, Shy Wolf also interacts with the community to educate people and connect them with the animals.

One of their more interesting programs is called Healing Hearts. This program shares the animals’ “rags to riches” stories with children and others who have experienced similar situations of abuse, neglect and abandonment. The program is meant to teach the children kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, courage and unconditional love using the animals.

The sanctuary also collaborates with elementary schools, who can schedule visits with some of the wolfdogs. The goal of these visits are to teach the students about the importance of wolves in nature and to respect exotic and captive bred animals.

In addition to educating the public, they also post videos on the ownership of wolfdogs for those interested in adopting any of the “pet quality” ones. Although many wolfdogs are unadoptable, there are some who are approved to be pets. Shy Wolf helps these animals get adopted to the right owners, who have to go through a rigorous application and approval process, which includes a home visit.

For their other species, they have the “12 Seasons of Species,” which is a holiday video series teaching about their other residents.

The Future

Due to their high number of residents mixed with the small amount of acreage, Shy Wolf Sanctuary is currently working on moving to a location with more space so they can continue to grow. They are in the process of planning a new facility in Collier County Golden Gate Estates.

How Can You Help?

The animals at Shy Wolf eat about 52,000 pounds of food a year. That, and sanctuary maintenance, costs a lot. Luckily, there are several ways you can support them.

One option is to sponsor a specific animal. Sponsoring animals provides the funds required to feed that animal and is a great help to the sanctuary.

Another option is to become a member of the Wolf Life Pack. To be an annual member, you donate $25 monthly and, in return, you receive a Wolf Life T-shirt.

Shy Wolf also has an Amazon wish list on their website, where you can purchase specific supplies that they need. You can also donate to their organization any time you make an Amazon purchase by using AmazonSmile.

For more information about Yuki, the other animals, the sanctuary and what you can do to help, check out Shy Wolf’s website.

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