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Zoo Official Says Stray Wolf Had To Be Put Down

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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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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