5 min read

Zoo Shoots Mother Wolf Who Escaped Her Enclosure

Ember left behind five young pups.

Just a few weeks after giving birth to five pups, a 3-year-old wolf was shot dead by zoo officials after escaping her enclosure.

"It's been a devastating time for all of us at the park," a spokesperson for Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens in the UK, told The Dodo. 

Ember, the mother wolf, escaped her enclosure Friday morning.

She was found just outside the perimeter of the park, near a road. "Trained keepers attempted to tranquilize her but, unfortunately, she was out of range," the zoo said in a statement. "Therefore, the difficult decision was made to euthanize the animal."

Later, an investigation revealed there was a malfunction with the electric fencing around the wolf enclosure. 

"At no point during this incident were any of our visitors in any danger. The safety and well-being of all our visitors is our first priority," the zoo said in a follow-up statement. "We are confident that this incident was an isolated case and that the replacement equipment, combined with an even more intensive electric fence-testing regime, will ensure that our wolf enclosure will provide a safe and secure home for our wolves."

Ember's 10-week-old pups, who are the first pups to be born at the zoo in its 47-year history, are left without their mother, but their father, Ash, appears to be taking on full responsibility for the pups. 

"Ash, our male wolf, is displaying encouraging ‘natural’ behavior as a single parent to his 10-week-old cubs, who are close to being fully weaned," the zoo said. "We must also bear in mind that Ash is young and this is his first litter. However, we remain confident that the cubs will continue to grow from strength to strength, that Ember’s genetic heritage will endure, and that her life, though short, will have been worthwhile."

The Eurasian wolf, who once lived all over Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and America, is now regionally extinct in the UK. The animal was extirpated from some areas because of poisoning and deliberate persecution due to predation on livestock, according to the IUCN.

Some criticize the zoo for deciding to kill Ember. "Appears to be another example of a British zoo which doesn't value the lives of those in their care," Daniel Allen, a policy advisor for the UK Wild Otter Trust, wrote on Twitter.

But the zoo pointed out that it is accountable to the Zoo Licensing Act. "Wolves are classified as a category 1 dangerous animal," the spokesperson said. "Under the Zoo Licensing Act, if a category 1 animal escapes, you have no option but to euthanize. A decision which, as you can imagine, was devastating." 

To help protect wolves in the wild, you can support Predator Defense