A wolf has been killed due to repeated human error at one state’s zoo and people are outraged.
The incident began late last month at Menominee Park Zoo, a small public zoo in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, when a worker left a gate to an off-limits area of the zoo open. Several visitors took advantage of the open gate to slip into the staff-only area and get up close to the zoo’s wolf pack.
While one mother was busy snapping pictures of the captive animals, her four-year-old son approached the enclosure and stuck his fingers through the chain-link fence. A curious 12-year-old wolf named Rebel wandered up and nipped the child’s hand.
The child suffered four small puncture wounds, which were easily patched up after the incident. But when the Wisconsin Division of Public Health became involved, things got much worse for Rebel, who was the alpha of his four-wolf sibling pack.
According to the Oshkosh Police Department, the Division of Public Health (DPH) considered Rebel a rabies threat because the rabies vaccine hasn’t been proven effective in wolves.
Spencer Wilhelm, operations manager for the Wolf Conservation Center, told The Dodo that the vaccine hasn’t been studied because no one wants to kill the requisite number of wolves to research it, but that all evidence points to the vaccine working. Rebel was up-to-date on his rabies shots through 2018.
Despite the zoo’s protestations, the DPH let the parents decide whether to give their child preventative rabies shots. If they didn’t want to, Rebel would be killed so he could be tested.
The parents chose to kill him. Rebel tested negative.
ShutterstockNow, former fans of the zoo are up in arms about the treatment of Rebel, with many pointing out that the wolf was just acting naturally and should never have been in captivity in the first place.
“I don’t understand why this wild animal had to suffer for what idiotic humans did,” one person wrote on the zoo’s Facebook page. “Parents should have been punished for allowing their child into a NON-PUBLIC area.”
“Why would a zoo educate children that it’s OK to murder a wild animal who doesn’t even belong behind bars?” another person asked.
Wilhelm said that while rabies vaccines are unpleasant, they only last a few seconds. To avoid that temporary discomfort, he explained, “a life was ended that didn’t need to be ended.”
People have questioned whether Wisconsin’s public officials handled the situation appropriately, considering they immediately placed killing Rebel on the table. But unfortunately, Rebel’s death is just the latest in a string of tragic decisions backed by questionable wildlife policies.
ShutterstockIn April, Alaska sentenced a family of black bears to death for exhibiting defensive behavior — because a group of tourists surrounded them and chased them up a tree. The decision was fortunately reversed due to public outcry.
In May, a sleeping mountain lion was brutally killed in a minute-long shower of close-range gunshots in Nebraska simply for taking a nap next to a building.
And while rabies concerns are certainly valid, Wilhelm said, Rebel’s death was an unnecessary one.
“If the parents were concerned, they should have put their child through those shots,” he noted. “I don’t, in my opinion, think that the wolf should have been put down at all.”
To read about a similar case where a gorilla was killed after a child entered his cage, click here.