& Free Trip to Margaritaville
I had the pleasure recently of being assigned by Postcards Magazine to write a story on the Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary in Montgomery, Texas. To be honest, I never even knew it existed. After I made the journey to the sanctuary, however, I found it is a place revered not only for its wolves, but it is also a haven for other animals and birds of prey in need of tender-loving care. All this is due to the humanitarian efforts of its founder, Reverend Jean Lefevre (known lovingly as “the Wolf Lady”). She is a devoted soul who oversees the care of rescued, “non-releasable wolves and wolfdogs.” (The difference between the wolf and wolfdog is the wolfdog is the hybrid result from the mating of a wolf and a dog. Even though they are closely related, wolfdogs can differ greatly in temperament and physical appearance, depending on the amount of ‘high wolf content’ in their blood.)
There is a lot of myth and folklore surrounding the wolf. Many believe they are a danger to us and a threat to our livestock. Of course, there is Hollywood’s melodramatic depiction of those who morph into wolfmen on full moons and can only be killed by silver bullets; but, this is no more than a misguided ploy used to sell theater tickets. Truth be known, the wolf is one of God’s magnificent creatures. They parallel us somewhat as humans in that they generally keep the same mate until one dies (and in the wild, the chances of keeping a mate are not in their favor). There is one glaring difference between us and the wolves though—the wolf doesn’t hunt humans the way hunters hunt wolves. Every rancher or farmer has the right to protect his livestock and investment from wolves, but a lot of negative incidents have been caused by the rapidly depleting environment of the wolf, and there is evidence suggesting the wolves prefer wild prey when given the choice between the two. Sanctuary manager Christy Stryk states, “There are no wolves in Texas; they have been eliminated by their greatest enemy—man.” There are some who would argue that wolves need to be eliminated altogether, but the wonderful mystery of the wolf (and the will of those who fight for its survival) will long outlive its human predators and their penchant for trophy hunting.
Reverend Jean LeFevre began her crusade to bring a true treasure to Montgomery, but she did not create this refuge on an overnight whim. Her list of credentials more than qualifies her for this mission to protect the wolf species. She is an ordained minister of The Church of Saint John and has a Ph.D. in pastoral counseling. She is a world traveler, having lived in Europe, India, and Tanzania before coming to Texas. In 1976, she was initiated into the Seneca Wolf Medicine Lodge and was made a Peace Elder at a meeting of the Elders at Wolf Song in 1990. So she has traveled the globe to help those in need, “both two-legged and four-legged.”
After moving to Texas, she happened to “meet three wolves who were being treated at a local vet clinic.” As the story unfolds, despite the vet’s best attempts at saving all three, one died. Jean decided to procure the licenses needed to establish a sanctuary for wolves. This is when her kindhearted efforts to give injured wolves a home began. Fortunately for the wolves, Jean took the humanitarian leap of faith and opened the sanctuary on October 4, 2002, which was a day of feast for Saint Francis of Assisi (and the sanctuary was named for that occasion.) At full capacity, there are fifteen wolves or wolfdogs at Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary (SFWS). Postcards photographer Kelly Lawson and I were there one cold and windy December day, and we got to meet one particular wolf, Tala, up close and personal. Tala is one of the wolfdogs. She was originally found “running near a bayou in Houston” and, through the grace of God and nature, eventually wound up in the loving arms of the kind folks at SFWS. Later, Reverend Jean invited us back to her home (which is on the sanctuary grounds) and graciously served us all a much needed cup of hot chocolate. Once inside Jean’s home, she introduced us to her other two wolfdogs named Shy-Shy and Mwitu. Their friendliness, yet protectiveness of Reverend Jean is no less than amazing.
Inside the booklet available at the sanctuary, entitled “Wolf Tales,” is a forward written by Jean Lefevre. Her sincerity shines in the following quote, “The wolves of Saint Francis are ‘different.’ An important aspect of our work is to help and educate the public. Our wolves work with children from abusive backgrounds, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities. All of the visitors passing through and the very special people who volunteer make this work possible with donations of time, energy, and resources.” (One such volunteer was there that day, and it is suiting that we mention Jasimine Holan.) Also, it is fair to mention that Reverend Jean leases her land for $1 per year for the sake of the wolves and does not take a salary. (Quick note—they do not breed wolves at SFWS, either.)
The previously mentioned booklet has some wolf facts which may be of interest to our readers: “Wolves are mammals—are carnivorous—are the ancestors of our domestic dogs—they can run up to 38 miles per hour—have an average life span of 4-7 years in the wild—can weigh over 120 pounds—live in family groups called ‘packs,’ which consist of a breeding pair and their offspring—can bite with up to 1500 pounds of pressure per square inch—howl to let their pack know where they are, to keep pack bonds strong, and to let other packs know their pack boundaries.” There are also some amazing quotes about wolves from other authors: “Wolves lose their teeth, but not their memory.” (English Proverb); “The wolf always has its own songs.” (Estonian Priver). There are other quotes from this booklet, plus brief histories of each wolf, but I suggest you personally make the trip to Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary to learn more. Be assured, you won’t be disappointed.
SFWS is a safe refuge for all ages and, true to her spirit, Jean Lefevre charges no admission since she believes all of us should be able to witness one of God’s great creations. SFWS is a registered 501(c)(3) charity, graciously accepts donations for the sake of these creatures that share the planet with us. There is also a “Memorial Garden” of wolves gone past, and a gift shop of various items displaying the wolves. You can also donate to the wolf cause via PayPal online, or by mail at their PO Box address below.
Thank you Reverend Jean Lefevre, manager Christy Stryk, and all of the volunteer staff for what you have made available to us all.
For more information, to book an appointment,
or to sponsor an animal:
Phone: 936-597-WOLF (9653)
Saint Francis Wolf Sanctuary
P.O Box 877
Montgomery, TX 77316