Mary Woestehoff was strolling through the Minnesota Zoo's Northern Trail exhibit with her 18-month-old daughter this morning when two boys ran past in the opposite direction.
She didn't think much of it until she rounded the corner and spotted -- about 100 feet ahead of her -- a wolf. The animal was pacing the visitor path and looking panicked. Woestehoff scooped up her daughter and took off for the nearest emergency phone.
"It was one of those, 'Is this really happening' moments?'" she says.[jump]
Once the person on the other end of the emergency line realized she wasn't kidding, the zoo's containment team was dispatched to the trail. Woestehoff says they walked briskly past her carrying nets and a rifle, and advised her to get off the path and into the buildings on the other end as quickly as possible.
"It was really scary," she says. "I was shaking."
While zoo personnel got visitors off the path, the containment team closed in on what turned out to be an 8-year-old Mexican wolf. They had to make a split second decision. Once the animal was in their sights, they shot and killed him. The whole incident went down in about 20 minutes.
"Wolves can get away from you very, very quickly," explains zoo spokeswoman Kelly Lessard. "We did not want it to come in contact with any visitor."
A preliminary examination of the wolf enclosure seems to indicate he squeezed out of a tear in the fence and dropped down onto the visitor path. Lessard speculates the heavy winter snowfall could have caused and then hidden the damage until now.
"We are very thankful no one was injured or harmed," she says.