Keeper of Something Unique [Article in Sports Illustrated]


This article profiles Jack Lynch (54 years old), the keeper of the last of the lobo wolves, of which he currently owns 72. He has an additional 26 wolves of five other subspecies. Lynch describes the lobo subspecies as Canis lupus nubilus, whose historic range overlapped with Canis lupus irremotus, and maintains (as Ronald H. Novak confirmed as highly probable in 1974) that his wolves are of the nubilus strand and contain valuable genes no longer found in the wild.

The article describes how Dr. E. H. McCleery – Lynch’s predecessor – became interested in wolves, saved the original lobo wolves from extermination, and cared for them for 40 years before selling them to Lynch. It describes Lynch’s life before the wolves, how he learned about the wolves, his first visit to see them, and his grim first impression of the park. Lynch eventually bought the wolves, learned about them through trial and error, and became their veterinarian. He moved them away from Pennsylvania because the pens had become disease-infected, the winters were too hard on the wolves, and their reproductive rate was very low. In Washington, the reproductive rate rose and the pack almost doubled in size.

The wolves’ current sanctuary is described, as are Lynch’s financial difficulties; his only source of income used to be admission charges, but he has since closed the park to the public, established the nonprofit Dr. E. H. McCleery Lobo Wolf Foundation, and now operates an “Adopt-a-Wolf” program to fund the sanctuary. Still, he suffers many hardships. Expenses are greater than income, his impending divorce settlement is draining his finances, and he has recently been robbed of some of his files and photographic negatives. It is becoming more difficult to keep his wolves fed, especially since neighboring ranch land is being sold to developers making it harder to obtain meat. This year, Lynch culled some of his wolves for the first time, and does not plan to let the subspecies other than the lobo wolves breed because he needs to reduce the amount of wolves in his care.

One of his supporters is wolf zoologist Dr. Durward Allen, but in general, Lynch dislikes academics; he feels patronized by them for his lack of formal training, dislikes that they want to do tests on his wolves, and one particular professor made him feel that they want to steal and plagiarize his life’s work. He mostly worked alone, with the occasional student or young wolf-lover (none of whom lasted very long) until Mary Wheeler entered the picture. The article describes her early life and how she ended up living near Lynch’s wolf sanctuary in 1976 and began volunteering there. Though Lynch was not initially cordial towards her, in 1978 she nursed him back to health from a disease, and cared for the wolves as he recovered. They now work together.

Lynch hopes that someday the wolves can return to the wild, but he is opposed to any reintroduction effort in which he does not have absolute control over his wolves. In the meantime, he is not optimistic about the future of the current sanctuary and hopes to find a more secluded retreat where he and Mary can keep to themselves, care for the wolves, and preserve their gene pool without relying on public land or public funds.

The article contains photographs by Carl Iwasaki: Lynch and one of his wolves, Lynch loading a roadkill deer into his truck, four wolves in a pen eating, Lynch being kissed by a wolf, and Lynch and Mary with a goat. There is also an old photo of Dr. McCleery with one of his wolves.



November 5, 1979





Page Numbers



This article is accessible via the Sports Illustrated Vault.