A Haven for Wolves at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA

A close-up of two wolf eyes from the Wolf Sanctuary of PA

Founded four decades ago, the Wolf Sanctuary of PA serves as a refuge for more than 50 wolves and wolf-dog hybrids, rescuing them from dire conditions and offering them a life that is as natural and fulfilling as captivity can allow.

Wolves have a complicated relationship with humans. Our stories, from fairy tales to newspaper articles, villainize wolves. Landowners, particularly those who rear livestock, consider wolves threats.

The Wolves at the Sanctuary

The sanctuary in Pennsylvania is housed on the former Darlington estate. In fact, the Darlington family and their partners continue their labor of love for wolves. Currently caring for more than 50 wolves/wolf-dogs, the sanctuary offers these animals large enclosures replete with water sources and shelters. In these manmade enclosures, the wolves have ample space to roam, play and form packs—nearly mimicking their natural lifestyle. Importantly, the sanctuary is also working on expanding these living spaces.

Not only does the sanctuary boast renovated facilities and veterinary care, but the wolves also live notably longer lives here compared to their wild counterparts. This is a boon, considering that wolves are all but extinct on the U.S. East Coast due to centuries of relentless hunting and a bad reputation fueled by myths and fairy tales.

The food for these wolves mainly comes from generous local donations, including meat from restaurants and excess deer from hunters. The sanctuary also serves an educational purpose, offering weekend tours to around 200 visitors per day. These tours serve not just as a fundraising endeavor but also to improve public opinion of wolves, showcasing their social and family-oriented nature.

While the sanctuary aims to interfere as little as possible in the wolves’ lives, they do intervene when an animal is in danger due to pack dynamics, always striving for the best possible environment for these majestic creatures. With no place for a rejected wolf to retreat to in the confines of an enclosure, the sanctuary staff will step in to ensure the wolf’s safety and well-being.

Howl with the Wolves

Enjoy an evening of education and fun at the monthly Howl with the Wolves event, on the Saturday nearest the full moon. The event offers educational tours featuring detailed information about the wolves and their conservation. It also includes a roaring bonfire, weather permitting, and usually live music. The Sanctuary recommends bringing a blanket, a flashlight, a chair, and non-alcoholic warm beverages. Be sure to make your reservations in advance — these sell out quickly! The gates close at 7:15 p.m., with tours starting at 7:30 p.m. The event is both enjoyable and educational, with a focus on the well-being and understanding of wolves.

One of the coolest aspects of the Howl with the Wolves evenings are the … wolves howling. It sent tingles up my spine and raised the hair on my arms, it was so primal.

Staying at Speedwell Forge Bed & Breakfast

Nestled on 120 acres of privately-owned land filled with lush flora, diverse wildlife, and expansive woodlands, Speedwell Forge Bed and Breakfast offers a unique stay in Lancaster County, PA. Situated upstream from Speedwell Forge Lake, the property is a hotspot for wetland creatures and even rare bird species.

The location combines the best of both worlds: the serenity of the woods and the convenience of being minutes away from the charming small town of Lititz, PA, making it an ideal destination for romantic getaways. Because we were guests, there, we were allowed to walk around the perimeter of the wolf enclosures, which we did each evening and morning.

We stayed in the Paymaster’s Cottage, with its floor to ceiling brick gas fireplace, oversize whirlpool bath and king-size bed, includes a beautiful view of the creek and the property. The innkeeper brougt breakfast to our front door in the morning, which we enjoyed in a cozy little kitchen area. There was outside seating, but we were there in December, and the chilly mornings kept us inside!

The other two “rooms” are also private cottages. We enjoyed our stay so much, that we just booked another stay for the Summer Kitchen!

Website: Speedwell Forge Bed & Breakfast

In a world that misunderstands and maligns wolves, the Wolf Sanctuary of PA stands as a testament to what can be achieved through compassion, education, and dedicated care. It is a sanctuary in the truest sense, offering a safe haven for these beautiful animals while also serving as a compelling advocate for their welfare.

Know Before You Go

During the summer, public tours only on 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; winter months tours are 12 noon Saturday and Sunday: plan to arrive around 30 minutes before the tour time and no later than 10 minutes after tour time. Entrance gate opens about 30 minutes before the tour and closes 10 minutes after start of tour. Visitors are not admitted on the grounds after the entrance gate closes. 

Spray with bug spray before you leave your car if you’re visiting in the summer. I came away with more than half a dozen bug bites, including a fly bite that was extremely painful, during a previous summer visit. Make a complete day of it: eat lunch and browse the shops at nearby very quaint Lititz.

And don’t miss the neighboring Speedwell Forge County Park where you’ll find a diversity of natural habitats for both plants and wildlife and the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, where you can watch large bird migrations.

Getting there: 465 Speedwell Forge Rd, Lititz, PA
Hours: Check the website for Howl with the Wolves events or to reserve lodging
Website: Wolf Sanctuary of PA