Guests at the zoo reported being rushed into buildings for safety while staff quickly secured the animal. The zoo said no guests or employees were harmed.
Dr. Chris Kuhar, Executive Director of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, told FOX 8 on Monday that the wolves were moved into an off-exhibit area while work is being done on the main exhibit.
Investigators now say the female wolf breached the off-exhibit area by scaling the containment walls and creating a gap in the top of the enclosure.
“We were able to locate the wolf. It ran through the public space for about five minutes before we were able to get it to a nonpublic area. The wolf was then tranquilized with a dart,” Kuhar said.
Zoo officials say they’re working on modifications to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
The wolf received a full health inspection before being returned to the group.
The zoo is home to several Mexican gray wolves, which can weigh up to 90 pounds. These are the smallest of the gray wolves and typically travel in packs. Their diet in the wild primarily consists of elk, deer, rabbit and other small mammals. At the zoo, they are fed Mazuri Exotic Canine diet, rabbits, horse meat and chicken.
“It was surprising to see it get away from a zoo, but it’s not surprising that they climb,” said John Deboard from the non-profit Southern Ohio Wolf Sanctuary, Inc.
The sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates animals from across the country.
Deboard says wolves are terrific climbers and diggers, easily capable of scaling fences and walls and able to tunnel out of enclosures.
They can even “chew through” standard fencing.
“We recommend cow panels or something heavy duty to keep them contained,” said Deboard.
However, he says visitors at the zoo were most likely not ever in any danger.
“Wolves by nature are more skittish of you than you are of them,” he said.
Zoo officials said this as well.
“They’re not actually on our dangerous animal list because we expect them to move away from people,” said Kuhar. “They don’t really like people very much. They tend to move away from them.”
At the sanctuary, they provide constant attention to help socialize the animals and occupy their very active minds.
Most of the animals Deboard cares for are wolf-dog hybrids, but some are up to 95% wolf and still very affectionate.
“They are highly intelligent. They need a lot of attention,” said Deboard. “You want to really work with the animal to curb that wolf drive.”
It’s that animal instinct that might have inspired the wolf to escape its enclosure at the zoo, he says.
“There’s a variety of things that can cause one to want to take off or to try to get out,” Deboard said. “Boredom is one or prey. A cat could go by or a rabbit and they’re chasing it, so they start to climb up and climb out or start digging to dig out.”