Giant wolfdog Yuki became an internet sensation when his picture was shared on social media. Yuki won over fans from around the world and also helped raise awareness of the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Florida where Yuki lives permanently.  We caught up with Deanna Deppen the Executive Director to find out more about Yuki, the sanctuary, how to volunteer and the amazing animals that live there…

How many, and what types of animals currently live at the Shy Wolf Sanctuary?
We house between 60-70 animals. Currently we have wolves, wolfdog, coyotes, new guinea singing dogs, dingo, fennec fox, silver tipped red foxes, gopher tortoises, raccoons, domestic cats, bobcat and a cougar.

The sanctuary is around 2.5 acres which sits behind the founders back yard! How many volunteers run the place and how long does it take to care for these animals each day?
We have about 100 active volunteers but about half of these are regular. Many are seasonal or college students getting hours for school. We average about 12 volunteers per day which starts at 7am and usually they are finished by 1-2pm.

The wolves that are rescued at your sanctuary, where do they come from? (Are some domesticated and some wild?)
None of the wolves are wild – all are captive bred. They come from private surrender, governmental seizure, or other facilities.

It must be highly rewarding to know you are saving so many wonderful animal lives such as Yuki the wolfdog! But I guess there’s also a risk when caring for animals that can kill! Have you had any frightening moments, and if so, what made you decide to continue volunteering?
There have been a few times over the years we found ourselves in some difficult situations. Generally, it was human error and all were learning experiences. Our safety procedures and rules are constantly evolving as each animal teaches us something new. They’re all unique. Quitting was never an option for the founders or for me, as someone needs to be there for the animals.

How does someone who wants to volunteer get involved, and do you offer temporary volunteer positions for people who are travelling?
People can go to our website at and the four steps are outlined there. We have an online application, online waiver, orientation then volunteer. Yes, we have had short term volunteers even one who traveled from Germany to stay locally. We are not currently able to provide a room, board or transportation so they’d be on their own for all of those things but we welcome the help.

Giant Wolfdog

As I understand it, the sanctuary is a permanent home, but do you try to put animals back into the wild or run breeding programmes (what’s your mission)?
Our mission is to reconnect people and animals through education. Yes, we are a permanent home. We do not rehabilitate and release. The animals we have were captive-bred or un-releasable wild animals from rehabbers. We do not participate in breeding programs. Even very rare species like New Guinea Singing Dogs are in need of rescue. We’ve taken in six in the last year.

Can the public visit the sanctuary and what is this experience like?
Due to zoning we are not “open to the public” at present but people can participate in a pre-scheduled private visit that lasts about two hours and is interactive with some of our more social animals.

How does a wolf behave differently to a wolfdog, compared to a domestic dog such as a German Shepherd?
Dogs evolved from wolves so all behaviors can be seen in any of them. Wolves tend to be shyer and take longer to form a bond of trust than dogs. A wolfdog can fall anywhere on the continuum. Any of them can exhibit any of the behaviours depending on where they are born and their personality. We’ve seen totally feral dogs labelled as wolves as well as wolves that will walk on a leash and greet strangers. The norm, however, would be wolves are shy whereas dogs generally want to greet people more readily.

I’m sure each animal has a unique story but wolfdog Yuki went viral not too long ago when you posted the picture of him. What’s his story?
Yuki loves to be the centre of attention. He has shown us that he doesn’t like to hear “NO”, doesn’t like to be restrained or controlled in any way, and does have a number of triggers. Yuki is a ladies’ man and a select group of female volunteers have been allowed in what we call his “harem”. It is an honour and at any given time he can decide someone is kicked out of the harem, and sadly for the volunteer, it usually means they are out for good. He has, however, met his match in little Bella… as she can and does take food right out of his mouth!

Wolfdog Yuki

He’s a big boy! How much does he eat?
Usually 3 chicken quarters, a handful of beef and a pork rib or two four days per week.

What’s the future plans for Shy Wolf Sanctuary?
Shy Wolf is in the process of acquiring 20 acres that can be open to the public to fulfill the Education and Experience Center part of our name, rescue more animals, and offer better and larger enclosures. We will be building animal buildings that are rated CAT5 for hurricane and fire protection, having dealt with both in 2017.

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