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FL: Florida Fish and Wildlife officers gun down rare wolf


Chipley – A rare British Columbian wolf named Chaco was shot and killed by Florida Fish and Wildlife officers after flooding knocked down his enclosure at Seacrest Wolf Preserve and he escaped into the countryside.

Chaco was part of an extremely rare subspecies of the Gray Wolf. The subspecies is so rare that many websites list it as extinct, even though a handful of the wolves exist in captivity. Chaco was a male capable of breeding, but had only fathered one litter of puppies and only one of those puppies survived.

The Seacrest Wolf Preserve is the largest wolf preserve in the Southeastern United States and is licensed by the State of Florida and the United State Department of Agriculture. The mission of the facility is to help foster a better understanding of wolves among the public and help facilitate research and training. The preserve instructed Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissionin 2008.

During an exceptionally strong thunderstorm on May 1st, a dam broke and flooding destroyed several enclosures. Chaco fled the debris and flooding. For the next four days volunteers and Fish and Wildlife officers searched for the missing wolf. Then the wolf was said to have turned up near a school, though reports vary as to which school the wolf was allegedly near. Regardless of which school the wolf might have been by, the school was closed and no children were present.


Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Stan Kirkland publicly stated that the decision to kill Chaco was made the night of the shooting when he said


“We responded with several people at sundown, and it was then they made the decision to euthanize the wolf.”

However, this journalist has obtained a collection of internal Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission documents in which Investigator Jerry Shores issues a sworn statement indicating that the decision to kill the wolf was made the first day officers arrived on scene, not 4 days later. In his narrative of May 2nd he said,

“Lt. Bartlett told me that the decision had been made to euthanize the wolf.”

The documents also indicate that Fish and Wildlife was informed that the wolf was part of the rare British Columbian subspecies in the first phone call reporting the missing animal. At no point during any of the sworn narratives by Fish and Wildlife officers in the document cache does any officer indicate Chaco behaved aggressively. To the contrary, the documents indicate that any time the wolf spotted an unknown human, he ran away.

Cynthia Watkins of the Seacrest Wolf Preserve is outraged by the actions of the officers. She said that she saw officers every day during the search and they never informed her that they intended to kill Chaco. She stated she was under the impression they would try to tranquilize the wolf and bring him home safely.

Seacrest Wolf Preserve has started an online petition demanding action from Governor Rick Scott over the mishandling of the incident.