Government documents about the August escape of wolves from a vandalized enclosure at Langley’s Greater Vancouver Zoo show that there was a frantic early effort to corral the majority of the animals and get them safely contained.
Emails and handwritten notes by members of the Conservation Officers Service and other B.C. officials indicate that the zoo initially reported that there were 15 total wolves, of which three were back in their enclosure shortly after keepers discovered the hole that had been cut in the fencing on the morning of Aug. 16.
Another 11 were “roaming zoo grounds” according to handwritten notes made by a Conservation Service Officer, while one had “escaped zoo grounds.”
Conservation Officers quickly arrived to help, and even considered using a drone to search for the animals.
By the end of the first day, almost all of the wolves were accounted for.
The notes also indicate that keepers discovered the damage and escape at about 6:30 a.m., and that the RCMP had taken over a “mischief investigation” into the cut fence by later that day.
The wolf escape took place on Tuesday, Aug. 16. One young wolf, Chia, was found dead outside the zoo grounds near 264th Street on Wednesday, Aug. 18. The last missing wolf, Tempest, was captured using a non-harmful trap and returned to her enclosure on Friday, Aug. 19.
The documents reveal that early on, zoo staff and Conservation Service Officers rounded up a dozen wolves that had escaped from their enclosure, but which were still within the confines of the zoo.
Only one of the wolves was initially suspected to have gotten off the property, getting out under the fence where the Salmon River crosses the zoo.
Text messages and emails also showed that tranquilizers were used to recapture several of the wolves, but that others simply returned to their enclosure by the end of the day.
“Another large white wolf was seen nearby, and CO [Conservation Officer] Ferguson took a shot with the dart gun but missed,” reads part of an incident report created by the CSO. “Meanwhile, CO Plamondon got into position close to the wolf, and as it ran by, CO Plamondon was able to dart it. The wolf succumbed to the drugs in the creek, so staff quickly recovered it before its head went under the water.”
Veterinarian Ken Macquisten also darted and tranquilized at least one wolf, and CO officers darted a third.
The wolves spent some time that morning in the animatronic dinosaur exhibit and near the grizzly bear enclosure.
“Guys heads up, 11 back in the pen 3 still at largest [sic],” texts from Conservation Service Officer Jack Trudgian read. “They came back quicker than the last ones that escaped. Hungry.”
His texts also emphasized that the COS members were to try to recapture the animals alive.
Internal emails involving B.C. government officials also show that as early as the first day of the escape, officials considered bringing in members of the BC Trappers Association, who had volunteered to help with humane traps.
On Aug. 18, two days after the initial escape, provincial officials issued emergency paperwork to give three trappers permission to capture the remaining free wolf. They would successfully locate and trap Tempest on zoo property the following day.
The documents list a number of tips that were called in during the course of the search, by people who thought they had seen one of the missing wolves.
Some of the tips were plausible – a couple of people spotted a wolf near 264th Street, where Chia was found dead a few days after the wire was cut.
One report came from a motorist who thought they might have hit an animal in the middle of the night near the zoo.
Other reports were certainly not sightings of the wolves. Locations included the Glen Valley area northeast of the zoo, as well as far to the west, near 232nd Street and 56th Avenue, and as far afield as Surrey. Reports came in from Cloverdale, and from the area in the 15400 block of 104th Street near the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board offices, which would have required the wolf to travel about 26 kilometers and cross many busy roads.
So far, RCMP have not announced any suspects or charges in the vandalism that released the wolves.
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