Thursday, May 18, 2006

Zoo Officials Want Witnesses to Wolf Escape

Richard Piatt Reporting

Officials at Utah's Hogle Zoo are anxious to find anyone who saw a grey wolf escape from its cage Sunday. At the same time, they're taking steps to keep it from happening again.

Back at the zoo, they're calling Maddie, the grey wolf's, escape amazing. It could have been a loud noise or something else that scared her, but at this point, they don't have any idea.

Maddie climbed and eight foot fence during her escape Sunday, leading zoo officials on a chase through public areas of the zoo. Today, zoo staff are putting a steeper angle to the non-barbed 'slickwire' on the top of the fence. Plus, they're adding another three feet of chain link fence at the top. Around there, keeping the animals in place is crucial.

Stacey Phillips, Zoo Public Relations: "We're very conscious of that. We want to keep the animals safe, as well as the public."

Eight-year old Maddie is now isolated in a nearby building, still skittish after her ordeal Sunday.

The zoo evacuated 4,500 people when they learned Maddie was on the loose. They tranquilized her and caught her an hour and a half later. But one bothersome question remains: What sparked Maddie to jump so high she was able to scale a fence eight feet high?

Jane Larson, Animal Care Supervisor: "We're baffled about why she would go out of her safe enclosure on a day when it was so crowded. I don't think we'll ever know."

The Hogle Zoo staff is constantly thinking about keeping animals in and people out. In Mookie's case, there is a 16 foot wall between her and the public. At the zoo's new Asian Highlands exhibit, set to open in about a month, they're installing steel mesh wire all around, as well as fences. Thick glass will also insure the nimble tigers and leopards in the exhibit stay put.

Stacey Phillips, Hogle Zoo Public Relations: "Because leopards and tigers are climbers and jumpers, and we have to put a top on that."

The folks at Hogle Zoo know people saw Maddie escape, but they haven't been able to find an actual eyewitness. If you saw Maddie escape Sunday, call 584-1729 to help them out.

  • KSL-TV