Nancy Smith, founder of Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples, began her rescue efforts in 1993, caring for an injured black Asian leopard cub at her home in Golden Gate Estates. The next year, when a zoo closed, she took in four wolves. By 2001, her back- yard rescue became a nonprofit.
Today, Shy Wolf is at capacity on 2 1/2 acres, providing a home for—and public education about—nearly 70 domestically bred exotic animals. They range from prairie dogs, raccoons and tortoises to coyotes, wolves and wolf dogs. Interactive public visits are limited to 12 per day plus an occasional larger group. The sanctuary, which has three paid staff and about 100 volunteers serving in a variety of roles, relies on the $15 tour fee plus donations and grants. Reservations are booked a year out, with an extensive waitlist.
Soon, though, Shy Wolf will be able to accommodate about three times as many animals and many more visitors. The sanctuary is in a development deal with Crown Management Services to buy 17 of 47 acres near the corner of Wilson and Golden Gate boulevards. The deal is expected to close after rezoning is complete in about a year, and a capital campaign is launching in January to fund construction of a state-of-the-art facility.
At completion, the property will feature ample parking, an expanded education center, administration offices, veterinary center, food prep, and intern housing for college students studying to be veterinarians or animal psychologists. It will also have hurricane-safe indoor enclosures to protect not only the sanctuary’s resident animals but also the personal pets of local first responders who work during the storm.
Why did you create Shy Wolf Sanctuary?
I feel their pain and suffering, and just want to make it better. There’s no place for them at the zoo. They’re not able to be adopted. We’re the place for exotic animals bred in captivity.
Many of the sanctuary’s animals were given up by owners. What advice do you give to people considering adopting an exotic pet?
They need to do lots of research and volunteer at a sanctuary close to them so they can understand more about the animal they want. Think ahead of time, so you can keep your promise to that animal every day of their life. People are just dumping their animals. It’s not right. A lady saw foxes on Craigslist and drove to Tennessee and brought them back. After three or four weeks, she didn’t know what to do—they have a smell you don’t want in your house. People need to know these things prior to getting them.
How important are donations to sanctuary operations?
Our current budget is just under $400,000 for animal care, licensing, maintenance and care of animal habitats, and three staff salaries. We’ve got several small grants, and that helps, but we do the visits and just hope and pray they give a donation. We saved and saved since 2000 for the down payment for the property. We’ll find the money for the rest. It’s really important that people understand it’s not a money-making deal. It’s for the animals.
How can the public help with the capital campaign?
They can call Shy Wolf Sanctuary Executive Director Deanna Deppen at (239) 455-1698 or visit www.shywolfsanctuary. org for more information.