By Lisa Dayley Smith
Rexburg Standard Journal
REXBURG — A wolf that escaped from the Yellowstone Bear World Saturday morning was quickly shot and killed by its owner. No injuries were reported while the animal was at large.
Idaho Fish and Game Regional Conservation Officer and Enforcement Supervisor Doug Peterson, of Idaho Falls, reported that owner Courtney Ferguson quickly noticed the animal had escaped the Bear World enclosure and immediately took action.
“The wolf was out for about an hour. Courtney saw the tracks in the snow, tracked the wolf down and shot it,” he said. “He took care of it all by himself and relatively quickly and easily.”
Social media lit up on Saturday with residents concerned about the animal’s escape. One photographer managed to get a picture of the wolf shortly before Ferguson shot the animal.
Peterson said that in the 28 years that he’s worked in the Upper Valley region, he’s never heard of an animal escaping from Bear World, which is about eight miles southwest of Rexburg. Yet he has heard of other animals bolting from other wildlife facilities.
“We’ve had elk escape from domestic elk farms,” he said.
Ferguson doesn’t face any kind of charges for the wolf escaping, and this particular wolf isn’t listed as an endangered species, Peterson said.
“There is a distinction between private property and wild animals. That was private property for Mr. Ferguson. This wolf wasn’t the same as the wolves we hunt during the hunting season. The wolves we hunt belong to the citizens of Idaho. This particular wolf of Courtney’s belonged to him,” he said.
Ferguson couldn’t be reached for comment, and it wasn’t known the value of the wolf that he killed.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for Mr. Ferguson and his operation,” Peterson said.
Located five miles south of Rexburg on Highway 20, Bear World is home to everything from deer to bears to wolves. According to its webpage, Bear World considers itself to be a “leader in the drive-through wild animal preserve industry.” It also states its mission is “To motivate and increase public awareness in the management of natural resources for conservation, education, scientific and recreational purposes.”
The facility reports that none of the animals within the enclosure were taken from the wild. Instead all have been born and raised inside Bear World.
“Yellowstone Bear World allows wildlife to roam freely within huge acreages as opposed to living their lives in small inadequate cages. By roaming freely in the preserve, visitors of all ages and nationalities can gain a fuller knowledge and understanding of these particular species that commonly surround us but (are) rarely seen or understood,” writes the organization.
Bear World is currently closed for the season. For more information visit yellowstonebearworld.com.