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Zoo cuts off contact with wolves after fatal attack

Zoo cuts off contact with wolves after fatal attack

Published: 18 Jun 2012 08:48 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Jun 2012 08:48 GMT+02:00

Authorities at the Kolmården zoo have put a stop to any close contact with their park's wolves after a female zookeeper was mauled and killed by a pack of wolves on Sunday.

In the wake of Sunday's attack, which left a 30-year-old woman lying dead in an enclosure which houses eight wolves, has prompted the popular animal park to take drastic measures as it reviews wolf handling procedures.

The first step, according to the head of the zoo, Jan Roy, is to eliminate all close contact with the wolves – for both staff and visitors.

“We’ve noticed that we can no longer continue doing this, the risks are obviously too big to work in this manner, it’s going to be stopped,” Roy told Sveriges Radio (SR).

The zoo has still not decided whether the wolves will be put down.

The woman's death, which staff members believe occured extremely quickly, was reported to emergency services shortly after 11am.

Paramedics were unable to reach the woman's body for a time as she was still surrounded by the wolves, wrote daily Aftonbladet.

The deceased woman had worked with the zoo as a guide and lecturer for over three years, in which time she became extremely close with the wolves.

At the time of the attack, the 30-year-old was by herself with the pack of wolves, engaging in what the zoo refers to as a “social activities” – in which staff members build trust and rapport with the animals.

“She has been taking care of some of the wolves since they were little,” one colleague told the paper.

The zoological expert of Kolmården, Mats Höggren, has spoken out about the 30-year-old’s life and death.

“She was really competent and trustworthy, with excellent contact with the wolves up until this happened – which truly adds to our surprise and dismay. We saw no previous evidence or behavior in the wolves that would indicate such an incident could occur,” Höggren told the paper.

Kolmården zoo, which is near Norrköping in central Sweden, has opened again on Monday to resume normal business, according to TT.

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Your comments about this article

09:35 June 18, 2012 by Borilla
Put the wolves down? Don't be ridiculous. They are wild animals. That is why they are being kept in a zoo and not roaming a public park. It is sad that the young lady was killed but wild animals, by definition, are known to do that sort of thing. Was the intent to "socialize" the wolves so the public could mingle with them? Of course eliminate close contact with the wolves. If the zoo had done that in the first place, this would not have happened. Don't blame the wolves for doing what comes naturally.
09:49 June 18, 2012 by libertarianism
To me, it seems very unhealthy and exceedingly cruel for wolves (and other wild animals) to be held captive. They should never have been penned up like this. Never.
09:58 June 18, 2012 by BackpackerKev
The moment you stop respecting that these are wild animals and become content, incidents like this occur. That has been the philosophy of many Zoo keepers which has probably saved them from death many times over.
10:00 June 18, 2012 by JMSN
I totally agree, I for one am completely against Zoo's (except petting zoo's), due to the fact that holding wild animals in captivity for human entertainment is extremely cruel and it's something that you should only still expect in LEDC's, but not in culturally advanced countries such as Sweden,

As for the wolves, how can putting them down even be contemplated? They should be transferred to a National Park or refuge for animals, where they can live in the wild and act wild, which is what they're supposed to do, they were never designed to behave like chihuahuas! People often forget this!
10:04 June 18, 2012 by strixy
Why put them down? They are wild animals behaving accordingly to their instincts. Wolves fear people and holding them in captivity will make them feel frustrated and possibly aggravate their instinct to protect the pack.
10:18 June 18, 2012 by Åskar
The problem is that they are NOT wild. They have been among people all their lives and have completely lost their natural shyness.
10:29 June 18, 2012 by klubbnika
One should be more careful hangin around wild animals.
11:19 June 18, 2012 by sivisvitam
I cannot understand how putting them down is even considered as a possible way to handle this either. Wild animals remain wild even though they're used to humans. People seem to forget that, especially keepers who handle those animals every day.

I really wonder what actually happened while having "social activities". Did she trip and fall maybe? And what are these "social activities" that they do with dangerous animals? Do they also do that with lions, bears and crocodiles in order to "build trust" and is that really an absolute necessity?
11:36 June 18, 2012 by Twiceshy
I guess the wolves did not consider her as part of the pack. Just because dogs consider humans as their pack doesn't mean that wolves do...
11:40 June 18, 2012 by Åskar
@Twiceshy

The wolves did most probably consider her part of the pack according to people more knowledgable than I. One theory about what happened is that she might have been challenged about the leadership.
11:43 June 18, 2012 by Twiceshy
Åskar that makes sense... I have read that wolves tend to have a stark change of "personality" when they reach adulthood, unlike dogs.

While a dog will accept you as their leader for their whole lives, wolves are likely to try and become the leader once they're adults.
12:41 June 18, 2012 by Scepticion
What I don't understand is that they were not more careful, letting a person in there alone. After all, a girl was attacked just a few weeks ago, apparently in the same wolf compound:

http://www.thelocal.se/40734/20120509/

Obviously those wolfs are a bit on edge these days, whether it's about leadership challenge, or something else.

This seems like gross negligence.
13:23 June 18, 2012 by Alfa166
Went to Berlin zoo yesterday and it's really shocking to see those wild animals in small cages. They clearly look depressed and mentally altered (Tigers or bears walking in small circle for hours). I know there is a few benefits for the species in general but those places should not exist.
14:22 June 18, 2012 by eric_jo
They should put down one of them infront of the others...that will teach them!
15:28 June 18, 2012 by Brianito
Congats to all at The Local, your on-line news article got a mention on the the "News Limited" website in Australia about this tragic story. Keep up the good work
16:25 June 18, 2012 by gpafledthis
Ok if you "put down" the wolves you open the door to "putting down" all of Malmoites !! Same thinking if you "ring fence" the banks why not first "ring fence" malmo ??
17:20 June 18, 2012 by libertarianism
Re 15, sick.
17:26 June 18, 2012 by strixy
If they conidered her part of the pack then most probably she failed to respond correctly to their body language signals that constitute ritualised aggression (a 'pretend' attack that will not escalate if the 'underwolf' displays submission).

There is a guy in the UK who lives with a pack of wolves and I saw him on tv being challenged by the alpha wolf (he left the pack for a while to study wolves in poland and was replaced by a dominant female). He immediately lied flat on the ground, showed his belly and licked the wolf's lips. The wolf went away satisfied she had been understood.

One shall remember that wolf packs held in captivity are reconstructed. And there is much more aggression and violence in a reconstructed pack than in a pack of related animals. Therefore lets not blame the wolves for human ignorance.
19:06 June 18, 2012 by Brent Schumacher
There's a place called the International Wolf Center here in the US, where they have similar contact with wolves. I wonder if they change their policy after this incident.

I am curious as to how people in Sweden feel about wolves. I can't think of more polarizing animal in the US.
20:02 June 18, 2012 by nar klockan klamtar
A keeper should absolutely always be in the sight of another keeper when mixing with any of the animals.
21:27 June 18, 2012 by DAVID T
She was probably on her period and it just takes one wolf to get a whif then it's full carnage.
22:19 June 18, 2012 by skogsbo
david t, you joke but it's quite possible, the pheremones given off will be different, I've known search dogs that would always and only try to smell the crotch of women when the painters were in!
22:47 June 18, 2012 by mafketis
Sad story. But the headline.....

Sweden: Okay, wolves. We're not saying a word more till you apologize and say you're sorry. And don't pretend you don't understand why we're doing this!

Wolves:........
09:30 June 19, 2012 by DAVID T
@skogsbo

I wasn't joking -Went to the zoo once with my ex while she was on her period and the animals definitely notice. Also it's always the male that is the leader in a pack so if a female goes in and smells of blood....
10:35 June 20, 2012 by samwise
the wolves should be put down if the attack happened in the wilderness.

the experts who suggest wolves should be fed in that fashion need to be dealt with too. if you think the zoo environment is abusive for animals, how about running experiment with humans with the experts' theories?
21:22 June 20, 2012 by Smiling Canuk
We had a similiar tragic incident in Canada several years ago also with a female attendee. She was menstruating at the time. I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but who knows?

BTW - I saw a very large wolf running acoss a field about a month ago. That's not that common a sight, even here in Canada.
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