Zoo Official Says Stray Wolf Had To Be Put Down

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — The wolf that escaped from the Minnesota Zoo yesterday had a lot of people talking on Thursday.

The male Mexican Wolf got through a gap in a fence and then jumped over a wall. He was first spotted wondering down a walking path in the Northern Trail on Wednesday. Because of a danger to visitors at the Minnesota Zoo, the wolf was shot and killed.

It’s a tough decision that zoo officials said Thursday had to be made. Even tougher considering the Mexican gray wolf is a rare animal, considered an endangered species in the United States.

“Using firearms on any of our animals is always the last resort. Nobody wants to kill their animals and especially us,” said Tony Fisher, an animal collections manager at the Minnesota Zoo.

The zoo was preparing to tranquilize the 8-year-old male wolf, but it began heading to a busy area that included school children. The decision was then made to shoot rather than tranquilize.

“We had to get that wolf secured fast. Most people don’t realize it, but tranquilizers are not a very effective tool in controlling animals very fast, very quickly, or very efficiently,” said Fisher.

Fisher said tranquilizer darts aren’t as accurate as firearms and the drug can take 10 minutes to kick in, plenty of time for a confused and scared animal to become aggressive.

It’s the same reason a black bear was recently shot while running through a neighborhood in North St. Paul. A horse that got loose from a Forest Lake farm and was crossing I-35E on Wednesday was lucky, as both the animal and drivers stayed under control.

But a wolf is far different from a horse.

“I can completely understand where they are coming from. The situation they were put in,” said Captain Greg Salo of the Minnesota DNR.

A couple years ago the DNR had to shoot a deer before it ran into traffic on Interstate 94. It’s never easy, but Captain Salo said public safety will always come first.

“Whenever a deer like that is on a freeway where traffic is heavy, we have no choice but to put it down. And that will happen every time,” said Salo.

Salo said that because tranquilizers are not that accurate, if they were to miss their target suddenly a dart with a loaded drug is unaccounted for in a neighborhood.

The zoo goes through animal escape scenarios several times over the course of a year. Minnesota Zoo officials said it took them about eight minutes to isolate and shoot the wolf.

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  • Mel

    I am relieved to know that officials at the Minnesota Zoo value human life over the animals they care for. I trust that the experts on animal behavior are capable of making the appropriate decision in the event of another escape at the zoo. Well done, Minnesota Zoo.

    • Huxley

      It sure was a different story when the Mexican wolf was intentionally released a year or two ago on the north east end. Ran around neighborhoods for days before they were able to tranquilize it. You are trying to spin this to make the zoo look semi-competent. “Well done, zoo?” For failing to secure the animals enclosure leading to the shooting of an endangered species? YEah, well done zoo.

  • Brian

    Yep I totally agree. The zoo is taking a lot of flack for the decision that was made. For all of those nay-sayers out there, there is a difference between a domesticated animal and a wild animal that happens to live in a cage. The odds of something horrible happening by allowing the wolf to roam unchecked are too high. Nice work by zoo staff.

    • Huxley

      More zoo employee spin. Nobody is buying the scat you are selling.

    • Les Johnson

      “The odds of something horrible happening by allowing the wolf to roam unchecked are too high.”

      As demonstrated by what evidence, please? I would like examples where a tragedy has occurred due to a wolf being loose in a zoo.


  • WHAT?????

    Does that explanation make all the people that were up in arms yesterday happy? Amazing that I and about 3 other people were repeating this info over and over just to get attacked by you nut jobs. I hope you understand it now and maybe you will think before you blow up next time. I know I know, wishful thinking.

    • Patrick

      I agree most people are under the mistaken belief that a tranq dart would have accurately and quickly fixed this problem. Sadly not the case. However, humans decided to cage this fellow animal and sell tickets to see it. I think if you go to the zoo a ticket should come with the understanding that animals will not be killed to protect your but if something goes down. You wanna pay to see animals in cages you take a chance for such arrogant behavior. It’s only fair. Not only that, it’s pretty unlikely a lone confused wolf would have gone anywhere near humans. It’s more likely it would be going the other way. Still a bad call and just the easiest way out in my opinion.

      • Just some guy

        Zoo’s don’t just exist to sell tickets. Most Zoo’s, including the MN Zoo have breeding programs designed to reintroduce endangered species back into the wild. The animals on display may not have the same life they would have in the wild, but they are alive, well fed, live longer, and educate people about their species plight.

        • Patrick

          Yeah that is the official mission of a zoo, but its really just another group of people protecting their lively hood. I see a lot more zoo resources go into getting people in the gates than real efforts to breed and protect habitat. The best thing for other animals would be the kind of population management of humans that we are so fond of doing to other species. It’s a cruel joke to go to the zoo and point out the cute animals in cages to our broods of kids destined to grow up to become consumers and destroyers of the natural world just by being alive. I’m just gonna go all out and say, to me, that wolf running free was a symbol of how the world should be. It lasted eight minuets before a hole was blown through it and it died in pain so no precious human was in danger of losing it’s ability to go on living it’s spoiled life. Yeah, I’m kinda what you might call a bit radical but anyone with a heart and brain fully engaged should feel the same. :-)

  • Patrick

    So humans destroy this animals habitat and it becomes endangered. We put some of the last ones in a poorly maintained enclosure and charge admission. The animal finds the hole in a fence we failed to fix and decides to check it out. Now it’s out and confused. We decide that the wolf is now a problem to people. Eight minutes later the wolf is dead. I think it’s obvious who poses the real threat to who here. I said yesterday that I was through with zoos. I encourage others to step forward and not take part in the destruction of the natural world that sustains us and not patronize places that put animals on display for our amusement.

    • Citizen of Minnesota

      Well said, Patrick.

    • Patrick

      I realize many people with good hearts and good intentions work at the zoo. I think, however, that something has gotten lost in an effort to keep people buying tickets. Theaters, concerts, giant overblown exhibits, dolphin shows in tiny pools all seem wrong. It should be a pure science, breeding and research place and if folks want to go see what’s going on there then make it a simple tour with a modest charge. What we have in Apple Valley just looks like a mega entertainment-plex.

  • L

    Look at this situation as if they DID try to tranquilize it and MISS and then they have a really scared wolf on the loose? What would the reaction be then? People asking why it wasn’t shot in the first place? What if it hurt someone? Caused an accident? I think they did the right thing in shooting it.

    • Huxley

      What if, possibly, might have, etc…. What if the wolf had somehow went and unlocked the Tiger cage! We could have had a tiger heading straight for an elementary school, possibly eating several students. So you see it had to be killed to save the children.

  • Jake

    It’s an animal, not a human being. I know some may not understand that there is a difference, but there is nonetheless. Would you like your child to be attacked by this stray wolf instead of being taken care of before it would have happened? This is what could have happened. Now if you’re okay with your child being sacrificed for the sake of this wolf being prevented from possibly attacking someone then you really need some psychological evaluation.

    • Huxley

      Actually the last time I checked both wolves and humans were classified as animals. Taxonomy 101 my friend. Lots of fear-driven “what if” and could have happened.

    • Les Johnson

      “Would you like your child to be attacked by this stray wolf instead of being taken care of before it would have happened?”

      Very emotional, but completely inane argument. When has a stray wolf in a zoo attacked a child?

      • WHAT?????

        Thanks to the zoo staff it has not happened yet.

        • Tom

          The animal passed people om a footbridge, it passed by a playground full of children. Don’t give me this male bovine fecal matter about protecting the public. They say the tranquelizer would have taken to long to act? Did they even try? They chased this ENDANGERED SPECIES for 45 minutes before cornering it, why couldn’t they have at least tried a non lethal means? Because they obviously didn’t have the correct tranq. They use tranqs to subdue lions to be examined in the wild, those tranqs seem to work pretty dang fast. The Zoo is blame for the wolf getting out in the first place. They are just trying to spin the situation to take the heat off. You have fallen for their lies…

    • Iconoclast


      Humans ARE animals as well. You may want to believe that you aren’t but that does not change the facts. A serious look in the mirror and evaluation of your limits and behavior should confirm that for you. If you still don’t believe humans are animals then you need the psych-eval. Also, a look at the numbers of Mexican wolves in the wild Vs the numbers of human animals in the world makes me think the wolf should have not been shot. Heck, if he’d have gotten a few of the slower dumber humans before being recaptured I think it would have been a win win for all.

  • Bear

    The wolf clearly should have known better. Its his fault.

  • Sgt

    2 thumbs up to the zoo staff for doing the right thing.

    • Huxle

      Which part, the negligence of allowing an animal to escape or shooting it? At best it would be 1 thumb up at the zoo. And I won’t say where “up” might be.

    • Tom

      Sgt of what? Slaughter? The zoo staff did nothing but cover their lame behinds.

  • my2cents

    The wolf never made one movement to be considered dangerous or with intent to become dangerous .. Perhaps he was like…. WOW look at this outside of the fence. Feel free to say whatever you want to me on this one. But really…. Had YOU been kept in captivity …. and got out… would you want to be shot or just to be able to experience what it feels to be outside of the (in this case) the fence (talk about thinking outside of the fence: go wolf ) At no point did anything happen to warrant this wolf to be shot. Consider this… he’s used to people …while he was inside the fence did he ever show aggressive behavior. Me thinks not.. he just wanted to see the world… and frankly who wouldn’t … to be a zoo keeper and decide within 8 minutes to end this animals life is horrendous! What has happened to protect what we have dedicated ones life to? Wolfs are insane smart. I for one grew up with a wolf… He was my next door neighbors pet and let me tell you I have never known a smarter “person” He was more my “dog” than anyones and he took care of me. The intellectualness was amazing, the smartness was astounding, and the love that he had was like no other. Please do not discredit this wolf… I don’t think he wanted to hurt anyone… Heck I bet it would have made his world to just feel human touch… He was out for a stroll (abet a illegal one BUT smart enough to get out ) but at no point did he deserve to be shot. On that note.. to say a animal that has been shot with a tranquilizer gun gives them “plenty of time for a confused and scared animal to become aggressive” no doubt …. would’t ANYONE be.. My heart goes out to this animal … and to compare a wolf to a horse… please… “Horse power” vs wolf….. I’m just sayin’

    • 3 cents

      You and the wolf should be deported, the zoo did its job and a fine one at that. I’m proud to have a season pass to the zoo, and will continue to visit on a regular basis.

      • Jen

        SADLY I just got my YEARLY pass, not my SEASON pass, to the zoo. This is horrible what they did. They decide in 8 minutes to kill an endangered wolf because it got out of a poorly made enclosure? I hope someone was fired over this. This is just ridiculous. And the other part in the story about the bear in St. Paul? Seems to me that the humans moved into the bears land. “THEY WERE HERE FIRST”.

      • Huxley

        Personal attacks don’t help your argument. I say my2cents should NOT be deported. And to where shall we deport the dead wolf?

  • GETOVER IT ALLREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • Huxley

      I hope you had someone drive you home last night. DUI’s are a real pain.

  • BB

    This is why Zoos need to be history, animals should not be kept in this way, let them live in their natural habitats. I find it soooooo interesting that mankind just feels that they are the only important species on this earth, it will be the undoing of the human race in the end.

  • Mike

    Sadly, this is exactly why I don’t attend zoo’s to look at animals on display for human enjoyment. If you can not safe guard your animals, maybe your in the wrong damn business.

  • Mark from mntaxwaste.com

    That fence line should have been checked. The Zoo said “The weight of the heavy snow made it buckle” The Zoo dropped the ball!!

  • shannon

    Although it is very sad, I understand why the zoo officials killed the wolf; it was a ‘damned if you, damned if you don’t’ type of situation. However, they are to blame for not making sure the enclosure was secure for everyone’s safety, including the wolf. They should have made sure that fence was secure. Enclosures should be regularly inspected for potential breaches.

  • sporty007

    Just one more reason I won’t go to a zoo – I believe what they did was totally wrong and unacceptable and there behavior was not that of a person who really cares about the wildlife in captivity. They dropped the ball big time on this one and will pay for it for many years to come.

  • Just Sayin'

    All of you can sit and speculate on what you think is “more right, more just, or more humane” however, I guarantee none of you have been in that situation. So until you have, I suggest you look at it from a different lens.

    To Shannon, “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t” is the perfect way to describe this situation.

    Are Zoos really this horrible? Or are you people just jumping on some sort of bandwagon I missed? Do we really need to hate everything in life? You all talk about how horrible us “humans” are…..How can we gawk at animals in horribly made enclosures? Those that do must HATE animals!! Blah, blah, blah. I guess we all need things to fight for, and to believe in. But Zoos still exist, so you must not be fighting your cause that well……….

    • Tom

      If the zoos didn’t receive taxpayers money, many of them would already be out of business. Did you see the video of the wolf at the zoo? He didn’t want any part of being close to humans, he was trying to get away from the kids and people. The Zoo staff over-reacted and that is that. If this is the way they will handle the escape of dangerous animals then they should move them to someplace else. That means the elephants, tigers, lions, primates, etc. will all go away. In their place the zoo could import some gerbils, oh wait, they might get out and bite some kid. Can’t be too safe! What a bunch of losers!

  • Arvy

    This is not justified.. Como Park Zoo did not shoot Casey (silverback gorilla)
    when he got loose. He was tranquilized. BTW, I use to own and train racehorses.
    I had a wolve hybrid. He would help us with the horses and two cows when needed.

    He was a good boy. Very intelligent and thought before acting. More than I can
    say for some people. Wolves are shy but family oriented. Wolves do not attack
    unless cornered or threatened. Wolves will defend their own territory and/or
    their family(wolf pack). This wolve was scared and disoriented. He had new
    changes, diferent environment, and different wolve pack. Sometimes, an older
    wolve can have a difficult time to changing and accepting. Maybe, he was trying
    to go home. Where he came from was home. Home to him. What happened to
    communicating with animals? All the education does not bring a gift of
    communicating with animals. I have that gift and I know there are others out
    there like me. Shame on you! You could have chosen to worked with the wolve. Of
    course, the safety of the public is important but so is the safety of the wolve
    as well, These precious creatures and all with in the universe are a gift. May
    Justice Be Served! Wolve, may you rest in peace! Sorry you were at the mercy of
    educated humans! Who seems to not know or forgotten how to communicate and show
    love and respect. Let the voices of those that are silent and cannot speak.
    Wolve, I speak for you. May Justice Be Served! Arvy

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