Three wolves arrive to start exhibit at Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth
DULUTH -- A band of brothers is roaming 1,500 square feet of the Lake Superior Zoo. Three gray wolves, born in April 2003 at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn., arrived this week and will have a public coming-out party on New Year'...
DULUTH -- A band of brothers is roaming 1,500 square feet of the Lake Superior Zoo.
Three gray wolves, born in April 2003 at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn., arrived this week and will have a public coming-out party on New Year's Eve as the zoo inaugurates its wolf exhibit. It was paid for with money from the Minnesota Legacy Fund.
Leslie Larsen, the zoo's director of education and animal management, said it's the first time she knows of that the zoo has had wolves.
The wolves are 105 and 120 pounds of muscle covered by silky gray, white and brown fur. They're on loan from the Wildlife Science Center but are expected to live out their days in Duluth. They're in the prime of their lives and could easily reach 20 years, Larsen said.
The Wildlife Science Center doesn't name its animals, but the zoo will name the wolves, Larsen said. Details still are being determined; a public contest might be involved.
The wolf exhibit was planned before the zoo's master plan was unveiled in May, but it fits in with the philosophy of making better use of the zoo's space, Larsen said. In the past, heavy, hoofed animals had been housed in the hillside that's now the wolves' home, Larsen said. They'd eat the vegetation, and their heavy, cloven hooves would dig into the clay, causing erosion.
"Well, we've got Kingsbury Creek running through the zoo, and it's our mission and our job to make sure we're not causing erosion into the creek and into the watershed," Larsen said. "The whole thing ties together. And now we've got these large canines that are not going to cause the erosion problem because they're not going to eat all the grass, and they're lighter and they don't have feet that are going to dig into the ground."
The wolves create a new situation for the Lake Superior Zoo's zookeepers, Larsen said. Zoo personnel don't have direct contact with large carnivores such as bears and big cats. But they will be in the enclosure with the wolves. "It's exciting, and we certainly don't take it for granted," she said. "We're extremely respectful of the opportunity to do that."
Although the wolves were raised in captivity, they were not hand-reared, Larsen said. "Which is a good thing from our perspective, because hand-reared wolves tend to not be fearful of humans, and you don't want a 120-pound animal thinking that it's OK to come up to you."
The wolf exhibit had been scheduled to open in the summer, but that was before Duluth was hit with monsoon-like rains. "It created a really sticky mess to get in there and do this construction," Larsen said.
But the overall plan is unchanged. The zoo hopes to seek accreditation in March and would learn in September if it achieved accreditation. The zoo lost that status from the American Zoological Association in 2006.
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