|In July, Ronald Downey had part of his family taken away. His two
wolves, which he had raised since they were pups, were confiscated
after a little girl in his neighborhood in Indiana County was
reportedly bitten by one of them.
A couple of weeks after the incident -- which state
Game Commission officials did not believe was a bite but likely an
abrasion from a fence -- the wolves were removed from Downey. There
were several reasons, including that he was not properly permitted
to have them and that he did not have adequate facilities to house
||Bill Wade, Post-Gazette
Ron Downey, who goes by the name Lone
Wolf, visits one of his two wolves, Wakia, a male, at their
new home with Regina Henrich, background. At rear is
Downey's other wolf, Washita, a female,
Click photo for larger image.
Washita, a full-blooded female Arctic wolf, and Wakia, a male
half-Canadian timber wolf and half Arctic wolf, were taken to a
refuge in Central Pennsylvania where they were cared for until the
Game Commission told Downey he had one last chance: If he knew
someone with a permitted facility, his wolves would be released to
Downey, who is blood-bonded to the Nez Perce Indian tribe, called
a friend of his named Spirit Wolf, with the Lenape tribe, who called
another friend, and the connection was made.
On Aug. 28, Downey, who goes by the name Lone Wolf, picked up the
animals he says are part of his spiritual totem.
"Whenever I walked around the front of the van and started
talking to them -- oh, you should have seen them," Downey said.
"They went nuts whenever they heard me.
"It's beautiful to see them."
Wakia and Washita jumped on their hind legs in excitement, and
Wakia gave Downey kisses on the side of the face. The wolves were
loaded into a steel cage to make the 156-mile trip back to Indiana
County in his van, Downey said. On the way to their new home, he fed
them ice cubes.
"I have them super-secure now," Downey said.
His wolves now live at a home in Harrisville, Butler County.
Regina Henrich, who has all of her state permits, has three female
wolf hybrids that live in a 85-by-60-foot pen. It's made of
reinforced, 6-foot tall chain-link with six lines of barbed wire at
Downey took an extra 100 feet of fencing to Henrich so that his
wolves could be in a separate 1,200-square-foot area.
They have tall grass in their pen, along with a tree. A recent
storm blew the top of a tree into their area, giving them even more
nature to play on, Henrich said.
"They're leaping over that like a fancy new toy," she said.
"They're intrigued by it."
Though Downey's wolves and Henrich's hybrids -- which are grey
wolves mixed with German shepherds -- are separated by fencing, they
are getting to know each other through the links.
"One starts to howl, they all start carrying on," Henrich said. "Washita
has a real idea to be part of the girls."
Downey hopes to have his wolves in a new home before the five of
them form a pack, because then it will be more difficult for them to
be separated. He has found property in Armstrong County that he
hopes to buy in the spring. He plans to build them a large run and
get proper permitting from the Game Commission to avoid the trouble
he ran into in early summer.
He was cited for six violations, including not having a permit
for the wolves; not protecting the public from attack; and
unlawfully importing exotic wildlife. Downey was fined $2,800 for
For now, he makes the 40-mile trip from his home to Harrisville
to see the wolves at least once a week. On Tuesday, he took about
400 pounds of meat up to Henrich to feed to the wolves.
"When I leave, they talk to me," Downey said.
They howl what he calls a "lost howl" as if they're calling him
back to the pack.
"Their attitude hasn't changed at all," he said. "I'm happy with