Wolves on the Loose After Escaping From Wildlife Center, One Hit by Car

Locals are on the lookout for wolves after four of the predators escaped from a wildlife center in Stacy, Minnesota.

The pack broke out of the Wildlife Science Center last Thursday, after a newborn pup was removed from the enclosure in order to be fed.

The father of the pup, which was in the escaped group, was put down after being hit by a car.

The Wildlife Science Center's animal care coordinator Megan Beckel said she believed the wolves that escaped were simply looking for the newborn.

"We're devastated, the wolves are scared, they're not dangerous to anybody they just want to go home," she told KMSP.

"Unfortunately one male [wolf] was hit by a car, he did not die, we had to put him to sleep, he broke his back."

Wolves are apex predators and are capable of inflicting fatal injuries, though they typically try to avoid people.

Minnesota is home to an estimated population of around 2,700 wolves, which can grow up to 13 years old, but tend to live for between six and eight years.

Starvation, injuries inflicted by prey animals and other wolves, disease, and conflict with people are amongst the most common causes of death in the wild, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The escaped wolves are particularly vulnerable, having never had to hunt for their own food before.

The Minnesota DNR, which recorded 2,707 wolf mortalities between 2012 and 2019, says that humans "have the biggest influence" of all on wolf populations.

Of the 16 most recent reports listed on the Minnesota DNR website, eight deaths were caused by a collision with a vehicle, and five by illegal shooting.

In January, researchers in Minnesota found two wolves that had been illegally killed.

During the same month, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed gray wolves from the federal endangered and threatened species list, potentially opening the door to a wolf hunting season in Minnesota, though it is currently still illegal to kill wolves in the state, unless its done in self-defense.

A survey carried out by the Minnesota DNR and the University of Minnesota found that, in general, locals would like to see wolf numbers remain the same as they are now.

However, at least 80 percent of livestock producers and deer hunters would like to see the establishment of a wolf hunting and wolf trapping season.

"That is the downside to the public knowing, is [that] everybody wants to shoot, shovel and shut up with wolves," said Beckel.

"None of us are sleeping, anytime our phone rings we're jumping, did somebody shoot them, did somebody hit them, what's going on."

A gray wolf sitting by a tree
A stock image shows a gray wolf, unrelated to the group that escaped from the Wildlife Science Center. Four wolves escaped from the facility last Thursday, but one has died after being hit by a car. Tammi Mild/iStock