APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — A Mexican wolf was shot and killed after it got out of its enclosure at the Minnesota Zoo Wednesday morning.
Minnesota Zoo spokesperson Kelly Lessard said the wolf escaped and got out on to the Northern Trail, venturing over to the bison area. The area was evacuated, the wolf was located and then shot and killed.
No one was hurt in the incident.
Mary Woestehoff, who was visiting the zoo with her 18-month-old daughter Lucy, said she spotted the wolf on the walking path.
“Rounded the corner by the prairie dog village and there was a wolf out running on the path,” she said.
The Mexican wolf is one of three kept in the popular zoo exhibit. Smaller than Minnesota’s gray wolf, the Mexican wolf is about the size of a German shepherd.
Woestehoff said nobody panicked but there was certainly concern.
“Lucy was running ahead so I picked her up and we went to the closest emergency box and called,” she said. “We weren’t quite sure if they believed us at first. The way the responded, they said, ‘Wait, what a wolf?’ Yeah, there’s really a wolf.”
Minutes later she saw zookeepers come running with nets and a rifle. Knowing the wolf had lots of room to run and hide, zoo officials chose the safest option to shoot the wolf and kill it.
“It was a decision call we had to make because he was within the zoo site where we had visitors and we didn’t want him escaping the zoo site after that,” said Tony Fisher, Minnesota Zoo collection manager.
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The zoo property is about 450 acres and even though there is a high perimeter fence surrounding the entire place, there were at least 2,000 visitors on the grounds while that wolf was loose.
“He found a gap in the fence and kinda forced it open, made it wider and got out into a secondary enclosure area,” Fisher said.
Fisher has been caring for animals for 25 years, so the decision to kill one is not made lightly. But he said public safety is always the first priority.
The Minnesota Zoo cares for more than 500 species of animals and some are dangerous, like the wolf. The zoo conducts drills at least twice a year, just in case something like this happens.