Rhode Trip: Wolf’s Hollow

Destination: Wolf Hollow, Ipswich, MA
Distance from Providence: 87.3 miles

My father first told me about Wolf Hollow. He told me about it after talking about Ipswich clams. When my father tells me details like this it reminds me of all the places he’s been and how far it seems from who he is now. At his age, after his life, he’s — I wouldn’t say reclusive because sometimes if you call him he could suddenly be up in northern New England, watching car races — but for the most part he’s a man in his 70s who has become very dedicated being home. So I always love when he peels back the veil a little and tells me about a place that’s new to me.

Wolf Hollow is a non-profit sanctuary and I asked my friend Sarah to come with me. She was cautious at first; she’d been burned by a “sanctuary” elsewhere in Massachusetts that really ended up being a small lot of land with a few trailers and wild cats chained to tables in little rooms. But after a few Yelp and Trip Advisor trips she saw that Wolf Hollow was legit and we quickly felt guilty for even associated it with the other place. (Where it was unclear whether or not the animals who lived there had been rescued or kidnapped.)

We were surprised about the amount of people — neither of us knew what to expect. We drove up to a full parking lot and a line of people waiting to purchase tickets in the small gift shop. (Which, I believe, is the first floor of the operator/caretaker/owner’s home.) Apparently a recent article in Yankee Magazine had caused an influx of wolf watching enthusiasts. The shop had t-shirts, art, replicas of wolf fangs and packs of “lucky” wolf fur. I really can’t help myself from buying things like that, so after $10 spent on my wolf fur and $8.50 for an adult ticket, Sarah and I went outside to wait in line.

Wolf Hollow

Once you pass  by the multi-layered 8 foot fences, you enter a small wooden observation area with benches. Wolf Hollow is only open on Sundays; Zee, whose parents founded Wolf Hollow, then gives guests an hour long presentation set to dispel the cultural myths of wolves as the big bad and to give a really unparalleled insight into the way they live. By design, you can’t get close and, as an audience, stay seated on wooden benches while Zee is inside the wolves’ enclosure, interacting with them.

But it didn’t feel like we were being lectured or sitting passive as an audience. A large part of that was because Zee was a great storyteller. He explained alpha ranking to us, the different ways the wolves communicate. He explained how once, after he made the mistake of removing a wolf’s front paws from his shoulders (before the wolf had deemed nuzzling time to be over), the wolf went back on his hind leg, put his paws on Zee’s shoulders, and then took Zee’s head in his jaws for 45 seconds, applying pressure but never breaking skin.

Wolf Hollow

I kept thinking I would get claustrophobic. I have a hard time with any sort of timed event or tour or presentation where it will feel like “A Thing” if I have to suddenly get up. But the anxiety never came. The wolves were beautiful. I thought about my dad and wondered at what point in his life he had been there. Before prison? After prison? When had he made the time to come sit in the cold on the North Shore of Boston?

After awhile, the wolves, initially suspicious of the crowd, grew comfortable and stretched out on the iced over pond. Zee explained they were not only shy, but preternaturally sensitive. We learned how they honored their dead and that bones of animals (donors will bring roadkill and other carcasses to Wolf Hollow) will appear by the grave site of the former alpha. Another day, they awoke to the body of a bull frog left by the other wolves in tribute. Or we assume in tribute.

Wolf Hollow

I relentlessly humanize animals. At Wolf Hollow, the goal isn’t exactly humanization, but it is to find a way to connect you to the wolf; to find a way to “preserve the wolf in the wild through education and exposure.” Still there’s that desire to interface with their social dynamics as humans. Oh, the way they jockey for power reminds me of this person. Oh the way that wolf causes mischief and then runs into the bushes to watch the drama play out reminds me of that person.

I’d like to think it’s not the only way I connect with the environment, that I don’t have to relate everything back to myself. I guess that, for their cause, that’s what Wolf’s Hollow knows they have to do as wolf defenders. They know they need to make people care about them the same way you would for a human. And be illustrative and use examples we can relate to. (See: Sarah and I’s wide-eyed faces when he mentioned that all wolves in the sanctuary have to have made human contact before the time they first open eyes. So the wolves can imprint and create a bond with the humans. He was telling us a pretty profound thing there, about the connection between man and beast. And yet, all either of us could think about was Twilight.)


Oh. That’s a lady wolf, Neveah, rolling around in the grass after Zee sprayed it with Victoria’s Secret perfume. Silly girl. See! They’re just like us!


At one point when Zee referenced a fellow Wolf Hollow volunteer as “Kevin was at a wolf event in Yellowstone this–” I felt that pang of, “Where did I go wrong in my life?”  I usually feel it when I hear people talk about their lives with animals. Like imagine if that was just part of your day-to-day.

“Where’s Fallon this weekend?”

“Oh, she’s at a wolf event.”

I think my struggle right now as I begin this blog is how personal I want to get when I visit a place like this, versus the more factual or editorial type of writing I’ve had to do in my career. It’s been so long since I’ve just blogged for myself that I’m struggling with how casual my voice should be. I’ll figure it out. And I’m so glad I finally saw these wolves.



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