Little Red Riding Hood Lied

Wolf Hollow Dispels Myths About Much-Maligned Gray Wolves

Visitor to Wolf Hollow kneels by a wolf

Kim Knox Beckius

Do you believe what you read on bumper stickers?

A visit to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, Massachusetts, might convince you they're more credible than fairy tales. Alongside wolf art, Native American crafts and "Howls and Growls" CDs, the Wolf Hollow gift shop stocks a supply of bumper stickers that boldy state: Little Red Riding Hood Lied.

You see, no wolf--even one dressed in Grandmama's clothing--would ever utter, "The better for to eat you with, my dear," in response to a snide remark about her big teeth. A Fact Sheet published by Washington, DC-based Defenders of Wildlife that I picked up at Wolf Hollow tells the truth: "You stand a better chance of getting hit by a meteorite than killed by a wolf." In fact, there are no documented cases in which healthy, wild wolves have killed or seriously injured humans in North America, whereas more than 20 people are killed annually by their domesticated brethren: dogs.

Wolf Hollow, one of New England's most unusual attractions, is operated by the North American Wolf Foundation, Inc., an educational, not-for-profit group founded in 1990 by the late Paul C. Soffron and managed today by his wife, Joni Soffron, and their son, Z. The Foundation is dedicated to helping wolves beat their bad rap. It's an important mission, as the Gray Wolf, which once populated every state in the Continental U.S., is now considered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to be endangered or threatened in most regions of America.

Visit Wolf Hollow

Visitors are welcome at Wolf Hollow on weekends year-round (Sundays only December through March), and when we visited on a hot August day in 2002, there was a line of cars waiting to get inside the gate before 1 p.m., when ticket sales begin. I was pregnant with my daughter then, so it's an interesting coincidence that her favorite animal is... a wolf! We returned to Wolf Hollow for her birthday in October 2012 and were sure to arrive early this time.

There is one scheduled presentation each weekend day at 1:30 p.m. Be aware that rain and hot, muggy conditions can cause presentations to be canceled. It's a good idea to call 978-356-0216 to confirm that a presentation will be held on the day you plan to visit. Weekday presentations may also be arranged for school and other groups.

Wolf Hollow provides a unique opportunity to see wolves in a somewhat natural setting. The one-hour presentation is educational and entertaining for wolf enthusiasts of all ages, though children under age five are discouraged from attending. The emphasis is on understanding that wolves aren't so different from us. A wolf pack is actually a family, and howling is a form of communication and territorial bonding. We humans only howl at our family members because we love 'em, right? Visitors are invited to howl along with the pack, which consists of about 10 animals at any given time.

Each new wolf pup spends 10 days to five weeks living in a house with people and learning to trust humans. Of course, they don't trust just any human, so a protective chain link fence separates the pack from the public.

There are many other wolf myths that are the product of overactive imaginations and literary contrivance, too. For example, wolves don't howl at the moon. Gray wolves aren't all gray--they can be white, tan or black. And though the North American Gray Wolf population has been decimated by those who justified killing them as a means of protecting livestock, wild wolves actually prefer to prey on large, grazing animals such as elk and deer.

The most unusual thing we learned from the Wolf Hollow presentation: Wolves adore cheese. Because the pack is a hierarchical group, cheese treats are handed out to the wolves in descending order of rank. On our return visit in 2012, we also learned local police know Wolf Hollow is the place to bring roadkill to a pack of appreciative diners.

As of 2015, admission to Wolf Hollow is $8.50 for adults, $6 for seniors and for children ages 3 to 17. Wolf Hollow is located three miles east of Ipswich at 114 Essex Road (Route 133).

Avid photographer? For a $100 fee, you can venture inside the buffer for an unobstructed photo session. Advance reservations are required.

For more information, to book a school field trip or group tour, or to inquire about symbolically "adopting" a wolf and supporting the foundation's efforts, call 978-356-0216.

Need a place to stay? Compare Ipswich lodging and hotel rates with Hipmunk.

While you're in Ipswich... Be sure to visit the birthplace of fried clams.

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