Rare Mexican wolf transported to North Dakota after sisters nearly killed her
By Chris Niskanen
To borrow a line from writer Thomas Wolfe, you really can’t go home again — especially if home is a wolf pack.
A rare Mexican wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake was transported to a new home today in North Dakota after her pack of two sisters rejected her and nearly killed her.
On Feb. 14, the four-year-old female wolf went on the lam after vandals broke into the research and education facility and released her and her two sisters. Her sisters were caught immediately, but the alpha female of the pack wasn’t caught until four days later, just 100 yards from Interstate 694 in New Brighton.
Wolf packs observe a strict hierarchy, and the alpha member holds the position by his or her strength and health. When the wayward wolf was returned to the Wildlife Science Center, dehydrated and tired, her lower ranked sisters detected her weakness and turned on her, said center executive director Peggy Callahan.
They severely bit her haunches and legs, leaving her bloodied and injured, before staff interceded and moved her to a new pen.
Her wounds have healed, but “you have to be at your best to be the alpha, and she wasn’t,” Callahan said. “We never returned her to that enclosure with her sisters.”
Endangered Mexican wolves are the rarest subspecies of gray wolves and smaller than their cousins living in Minnesota.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns most of the 300 captive Mexican wolves living in the U.S. The agency has developed a breeding and reintroduction program based on the captive wolves, which once flourished in the desert Southwest and in Mexico.
A small wild population of less than 50 lives in Arizona and New Mexico as part of a reintroduction program started in 1998.
When the pack trouble arose, the Fish and Wildlife Serviced decided to move the female to the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, N.D. Assistant zoo director Rod Fried arrived this morning with a trailer, and Wildlife Science Center workers captured the Mexican wolf, sedated her and administered her annual vaccines. She was then loaded into a steel and wooden crate and given fresh cattails for bedding.
“It’s bittersweet,” Callahan said. “It’s sweet because this is the best possible outcome for her. It’s bitter because none of this had to happen.”
She eventually will be paired with a male Mexican wolf at the North Dakota zoo. In many cases, male wolves will show deference to females, Callahan said, but it is difficult to predict how the two will get along.
“Hopefully, they’ll work something out,” Callahan said.
Authorities have made no arrests in the break in. Callahan said the center has beefed up security, keeps several German shepherds as guard dogs and has staff on the grounds 24 hours a day.
Fried brought an extra long trailer for the journey back to North Dakota. In addition to a Mexican wolf, he was picking up in Minnesota a trumpeter swan and two American cream draft horses for his zoo.