NAPLES, Fla. - A wildlife sanctuary for wolves in Naples faces extinction after code enforcement places restrictions on the visitors the Shy Wolf Sanctuary can receive.
Nancy Smith opened Shy Wolf Sanctuary about 20 years ago.
Smith houses about 40 wolves and feeds them 200 pounds of chicken and beef every other day. The animal advocate noticed wolves were being discarded across the state. Many of them arrive at the sanctuary abused or emaciated and are then nursed back to health.
"Wolves are one of the most misunderstood animals on the face of this Earth," said Smith.
Some of the wolves were rescued. Others come from people's homes, even though it's illegal to have a wolf as a pet unless the owner has a permit. But even then, people soon find out wolves aren't like dogs.
"Call a dog, they will come to you," said Smith. "Call a wolf, they will run from you."
"I live about a mile from here, and for years, I heard wolf pack howl at night," said Mike Sullivan, who volunteers at the sanctuary. "And, I was thinking, how could that be in Naples, Florida."
Smith created a backyard sanctuary where the wolves live. Visitors can learn about the animals and interact with the ones deemed safe to approach.
Two panthers, a bobcat, and a few guinea pigs also live at the sanctuary.
Code enforcement had no problem with the sanctuary, which is in a zoned residential neighborhood, until it received one complaint earlier this year. Since then, only visitors who make appointments can go to Shy Wolf.
Visiting the sanctuary is free, but donations and volunteers keep the place going. But fewer visitors means less money for food and veterinary care.
"What do you hope people got out of when they come see the wolves?" asked Local 10's Neki Mohan.
"I just think it's a place to be kind and to learn kindness and to show kindness to the animals that we assume are mean, and find out the truth -- they're not mean," said Smith.
Shy Wolf Sanctuary has land for a new location in North Belle Meade. They hope with donations they can create an education center to be used in conjunction with a university.
The sanctuary received a Best of Naples Award this year.
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