Dr. McCleery Lobo Wolves Digital Archive

Memory by John Holland


A memory submitted by John Holland who served on the board of directors at Jack Lynch's buffalo wolf preserve (located in Gardiner, WA) and volunteered at the wolf sanctuary between 1977 and 1981. He also purchased three Alaskan wolves (Canis lupus pambasileus) from Jack Lynch which he raised in an enclosure at his home, photos of which are included.

The photos depict:
Sweetheart in the snow
Alpha in the woods on a tree stump
Buttercup behind a tree in the snow
John's nephew Grady with Crunch
The wolf enclosure built by John and Grady
Alpha drinking
Sweetheart with her pups


John Holland


Kirsten Canfield


June 25, 2014



Jack Lynch’s wolf sanctuary was up on a knoll above Discovery Bay. It was a very beautiful site. The sanctuary itself was a wooded area. The outer fence was in a big circle. The individual pens were inside this fence, so any escape from a pen would still be contained. The road ran between the sanctuary and the bay and about the only thing I remember being there was a small general store.

I was a young engineer at the time I volunteered, just recently out of Vietnam. After returning from Vietnam I could not get a job, so I started a small company that the venture capitalists sold to a larger firm.  Then I went with ITT. I think I was with ITT most of that period.

Originally I was just a donor. I donated money to both the E. H. McCleery Wolf Foundation and the NWF (National Wildlife Foundation) who were fighting in the courts to protect the wolves. Over the years I got to know Jack Lynch and asked if I could volunteer to work there on my vacations.

Around 1977 or 1978 Jack put me on the board. I was never sure why he put me on the board as the rest of the board was greatly more experienced. I think at one time he thought I might eventually step into his shoes, but that was never to happen.

Board meetings were held by teleconference. They were pretty much like any other board, dealing with issues about governance, finances, etc. I don't remember any major crisis or anything like that. There was some fuss with the federal government listing the wolves as endangered and suggestion they might try to seize the animals (which had been rescued from the destruction of the federal government in the first place!). Jack was not about to let that happen. We were also considering dispersing the wolves so that the gene pool could not be wiped out by a single event.

I remember a fellow board member, Edward Bierly, was a well known artist. He made an oil painting of a wolf for the foundation, and they gave numbered prints to people who donated $25 or more. I was there on the board when that print was made. I can't figure what happened to the copy they gave me. I had in mind framing it but never got around to it.

Of the board members, I remember only the artist and never met him or the others. Jack had at least one wealthy benefactor and she visited once while I was there.

I spent my vacations working at the sanctuary both before and after Jack asked me to join the board. Most of the time it was only Jack, Mary Wheeler, and I during my visits. They had a small house with a spare bedroom, and I would stay there. I only remember a few other volunteers; they usually stayed in a motel.

Feeding that many wolves was truly a brutal, gruesome job at times.

I have been into equine welfare very deeply over the past decade. I am staunchly against commercial horse slaughter. But one of my jobs as a volunteer was to respond to calls from people about the donation of road-killed, injured, or terminally ill livestock. I remember distinctly one day when I went on a call to a farm to put down a horse. He was a miserable looking creature. Jack stood back about 10 feet talking to him softly so he would not be alarmed and then dropped him with a perfect shot to the forehead from his carbine. The horse dropped without flinching. I have witnessed many horses being killed by the captive bolt method as well as gunshot, and such a clean death is way too rare.

After that Jack and I began to quarter the poor fellow to put it onto the truck. Jack always studied everything and was always in teaching mode. So he did a quick necropsy. As he opened the stomach he said "this is what bots look like!" The entire lining of the stomach was covered with what looked like beans. With the owner just out of earshot Jack said "the bastard probably never wormed the poor thing." As it turned out it also had lung tumors.

The horse was still safe to feed to the wolves; that was one of the reasons Jack checked the internal organs. He would not feed tissue like intestines and brain/CNS. Jack was a walking encyclopedia in a time before Google!

Every morning there would be one or two or three calls from the local sheriffs and state police about road kills which happen mostly at night. It was my job to go out and load them up. Lots of deer, some cows and once in a while a pony or horse would be on the list. Once I loaded up two deer and a cow before breakfast!

Jack would also get whole truck loads of chicken necks from a local chicken slaughter plant. That was before they figured out how to reprocess them into things like "chicken tenders." I would climb up onto this greasy mountain with a pitchfork and shovel the necks over fences as we drove around. The wolves would jostle for position like outfielders after a fly ball. I can still remember that strange sensation trying to maintain my footing.

I also remember less graphic things. In addition to the wolves, Jack had a tiger and an African lion during that period. I seem to remember that animal control people gave the lion to him when they busted a roadside zoo, but that is just my memory. Once, a tree fell on the tiger's enclosure. It got loose in the sanctuary, but was still inside the main fence. Jack went off with a dog leash and found the huge cat. It was very distraught at all the wolves snarling at it from the enclosures on either side of the access road. Jack simply slipped a loop around its neck and led it back to its enclosure. It seemed relieved to trot into its home.

I would go into all the enclosures but one. That one belonged to a wolf named Snowden and his mate. One day Jack had moved some of the wolves around and I misunderstood him when he gave me instructions to take two buckets full of medicated meat to one of the small holding pens. To get to the pen I thought they were in, you had to cross through a larger pen. Unfortunately, that was the very pen where he had moved Snowden.  I was half way across the pen when Snowden and his bride came around the corner. She tried to get my attention while he was going to go for my foot from behind. Snowden liked to drag people around to impress his pack. I still remember one photographer who was subject to this indignity for half an hour before we discovered he had gone into the pen (against instructions).

Anyhow, I just knew Jack would have a lot of fun with me if I got dragged around and lost the buckets. So when Snowden made his move, I kicked him in the nose. He always hated me after that, but never bothered me again.

A wolf named Idiot Elliott was one who Jack had socialized so that he could be used with visitors and would not be afraid of people. He loved to ride on my back, so I had only to bend down and he would climb on. As I recall, they did not allow contact with the wolves (including Idiot Elliot) for liability reasons, but they did allow socialized pups to be petted once in a while.

Finally, I remember an elderly lady whom I was to give a personal tour. She wanted to see the old lion up close and I told her not to go close to his pen. She said that was ridiculous because she wasn't going to get that close. I didn't have time to tell her that the danger was his propensity for marking visitors before she had already learned it the hard way. That old boy was amazingly accurate!

I bought three Canis lupus pambasileus (not nubilus) wolves from Jack Lynch. I believe I actually made a donation at the time, but I never had a bill of sale. He gave me a page listing their general origin (Alaskan). As far as I knew, our three were the only wolves that left the sanctuary. There may well have been others, but it certainly was not something common.

I built a sizable enclosure here and brought the three wolves to Virginia to see how they would do. My nephew Grady and I built the enclosure here. It still stands. We built a holding pen first and then built the main pen adjoining it on the back. The pups grew quite a bit while still in the holding pen. We even added a concrete swimming pool. The original wolves were Alpha, Sweetheart, and Crunch. Their pups are shown in one of the photos, and Buttercup was one of the second generation. The wolves we brought here were pupped in early 1979, but after that they did not breed and gradually all passed away.

I named Alpha, Sweetheart, and Crunch according to their personalities. Alpha was distinctly the boss, but he was never a bully. He was so tall that standing on his back feet he could look me in the eye. Every night I would do a tour of the pen looking for fallen trees or digging. Afterward I would sit on a big fallen log and Alpha would come from behind and put his front feet up on the log beside me.

Sweetheart was a born mother. She exuded gentleness. 

Crunch (the somewhat grayer wolf) was the trouble maker. Unlike the other two, Jack said he was a Razorback or part Razorback (I really don't know anything about "Razorbacks" except that Jack appeared to use it as a common name for Columbianus). Crunch was somewhat stockier than the other two, with shorter legs. His coat was also grayer and more specked. He was named for the game of "crunch" which he invented. Basically he would follow me around the pen during my inspections waiting for me to let down my guard. Then he would race up and nip me on the butt. It was more like a pinch than a bite. By the time I could react he would be ten feet away grinning. He also liked to steal my hats. Once I was sitting waiting for Alpha (Crunch would never try a prank around the boss). Anyhow, he had maneuvered uphill from me. All I saw was a streak and I was plunging headlong down the hill trying to save my scalp. He had tried to steal my hat but had gotten a big wad of hair. For months I had a bald spot, but I ended up with the hat which I have to this day.

I lost contact with Jack about the time they moved off the peninsula. It was about 1980 or 1981 when I was suddenly dropped from the board. It was very short and simple and there was no discussion. I never knew why I was removed (by then my time and money was all going to the wolves here, so I figured that was probably the reason) but I was just glad I had been given the chance to serve on it.