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Wolf Dog Goes Viral as Shy Wolf Sanctuary Seeks to Expand

Julie Glenn
A wolf at Shy Wolf Sanctuary

A grey wolf named Yuki at Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples has gone viral in a photo in which his imposing size has drawn comparisons to long-extinct dire wolves. 

Deanna Deppen is the executive director at the sanctuary, and she knows every one of the animals who call the two-and-a-half acre space home.

As she walks along the meandering paths through the dozens of enclusures, she calls out to the animals affectionately while sharing their stories with visitors. 

“Kaia, pretty girl! You going to show us your blue eyes?” she says.

She turns to another cage to tell the story of a post-storm stray.

"This is Bogie," she says. "He came to us after Hurricane Irma. He was running loose over in Miami."

And, then, she gets them all to sing by leading them into a howl. She howls herself, and the wolves join in.

Listen to Deanna Deppen lead a howl at Shy Wolf Sanctuary

The wolf dogs here are all rescues. Owners turn them over when they realize wolves don’t act like domesticated animals, even if they’re not 100 percent wolf. Shelters won’t adopt them out, so they are usually euthanized or brought to Shy Wolf.

One wolf dog recently attracted international attention when a photo making him look huge went viral. Yuki was likened by internet fans to a dire wolf – an extinct animal that still exists in fantasy genres including the wildly popular “Game of Thrones” series.

        View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Brittany Allen (@brit_allen_) on Jan 13, 2019 at 11:52am PST

Yuki’s resemblance to the dire wolf, a symbol of the protagonist Stark clan, has attracted hundreds of would-be visitors to ask about seeing him in person. But, since Shy Wolf is in a residential area, people have to reserve a private visit, and they’re booked almost a year out.   

“We can’t be open to the public," Deppen says. "That’s one of the reasons we have to move.”

Shy Wolf Sanctuary put in an under-dog bid of $1 million on a 47- acre piece of land in Golden Gate, which Collier County acquired in the ‘80s. It’s an under-dog bid because the two other bidders, a developer and an investment group, offered significantly more money. Neither of the others have concrete plans for the space, but both lean toward commercial development. 

But, Deppen says Shy Wolf has plans that it would be built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. That would provide shelter not only for the sanctuary animals, but also for pets of emergency workers during a storm and animals that can’t go to shelters with their owners.

“If you have a bird or a reptile, you can’t even take it to the shelter with you," Deppen says. "So, those are animals and problems within the disaster management aspect of 'here we are in hurricane alley,' basically.  We need to resolve some of those things, and Shy Wolf could be a resource.”

Credit Julie Glenn / WGCU
The New Guinea singing dog, Melbourne, thought it would be fun to swipe the fuzzy wind screen from the recording device.

Collier County commissioners will decide on May 28 whose bid for the property wins. If Shy Wolf Sanctuary gets the land, the next phase will be fundraising for construction. Deppen says the number of people interested in Yuki the viral wolf dog can’t hurt.

“We went from 25,000 followers to 75,000 followers on our Facebook page," Deppen says. "Like, if every one of them donateda dollar a month, we could really support what we do here plus build the new facility."

At a recent town hall in Golden Gate, more than half of the residents who attended said they’d prefer Shy Wolf Sanctuary get the land.