Wolf at Brookfield Zoo now missing a leg
March 3, 2006
BY ANDREW HERRMANN Staff Reporter
Brookfield Zoo keepers got an unpleasant surprise this week: One of its wolves was missing a limb.
Zoo officials don't know how the wolf's front right leg was torn off but they say it doesn't appear the animal got into a fight. The unnamed male Mexican gray wolf is recuperating after surgery and should be able to function on three legs, Tom Meehan, director of veterinary services, said Thursday.
'Hard to say' how it happened
Keepers discovered the injured wolf in his exhibit early Wednesday. Meehan said the accident likely occurred shortly before the zoo opened.
Zoo workers searched the wolf area unsuccessfully Thursday to find the limb. Officials also were trying to determine if there are any design flaws in the $2.5 million exhibit, which opened in June 2004.
Asked how the incident could have occurred, Meehan said, "It's hard to say. There really weren't good signs of exactly what happened.''
The break, from about the middle of the lower leg, was "done very cleanly,'' he said. The animal had no bite marks or scratches that would indicate an altercation and Meehan described a fight as "very unlikely.'' None of the other wolves had injuries, he added.
Last December, keepers split the wolves into two groups -- five older established wolves in one area and three younger animals, which were added to the exhibit last fall, into another. The move came after a younger wolf was attacked by others while feeding.
Meehan said the injured wolf was one of the younger animals, though not the one that had been attacked last year.
Veterinary surgeons removed the injured animal's limb above the elbow.
'He's already standing'
A wolf, Meehan said, can "get along really well on three legs.'' A similar wolf that lost a leg at another facility was successfully released back into the wild, he said.
"There isn't anything that we need to do special to get him to learn how to ambulate on three legs,'' Meehan said. "They pretty much pick that up on their own. He's already standing.''
The injured wolf will remain in Brookfield's animal hospital for the next three to four days and then be returned to the wolf area, though off-exhibit. It was uncertain when he would go back on public view. When he does, a sign explaining his condition will be added.
Common sense is a wonderful thing...it's just not common.