Saturday, May 13, 2006

Brookfield Zoo sends wolves packing


A troubled trio of Brookfield Zoo wolves -- one was attacked by fellow canines in a public brawl and another lost its leg in a separate incident -- have been sent packing. The three Mexican gray wolf brothers were transferred to Arizona this week after Brookfield Zoo experts decided the wolves couldn't be blended with the zoo's larger established pack.

"We asked that they be placed somewhere else. The two packs weren't making the progress we hoped they would," said zoo spokeswoman Sondra Katzen.

The three had a brief but tumultuous stay at Brookfield. In November, only weeks after arriving from Ohio's Columbus Zoo, one of the brothers was on the losing end of a mauling.

Horrified zoo visitors described how some of the wolves were eating meat off a bone when one wolf, likely the established alpha male, ran down a hill and began biting one of the newcomers. The animal was left dazed and bloodied in what Katzen said was likely an effort to put the newcomer "in his place."

Zookeepers separated the younger three from the established pack of five wolves and put the newcomers into a smaller holding area.

Wolves sent to rehab center

In March, one of those wolves was found missing part of its leg. Officials believe it may have gotten the limb stuck in an underground fence while digging. The missing leg was never found and officials speculated it may have been eaten. The wolf regained mobility on three legs.

Brookfield Zoo officials never tried to bring the two packs together again and decided soon after the November attack to place them elsewhere, said Katzen. On Tuesday, they were shipped to the Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., a 10-acre facility that specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife.

Vacancy at 'Hilton for wolves'

The unsuccessful effort to bring the two groups together has not discouraged the zoo from trying to bring in another pack at a later date, said Katzen.

The incidents took place at Brookfield Zoo's 2-acre Regenstein Wolf Woods, which opened in June of 2004 at a cost of $2.5 million. Katzen said the zoo has full confidence in the facility, which has been called a "Hilton for wolves."

  • Sun-Times

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