Canada zoo finds escaped wolf pups in moment of joy tinged with tragedy

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: All Canada Photos/Alamy</span>
Photograph: All Canada Photos/Alamy

Emotions are bittersweet at a Canadian zoo after a runaway wolf pup was safely located after four days on the loose, but another was found dead along a road.

Conservation officers and zoo staff in Canada have spent the last four days searching for a runaway wolf after mysterious break-in freed a pack of the predators from the popular zoo.

In a statement on Friday morning, officials at the Greater Vancouver Zoo said Tempest, a one-year-old grey wolf, had been found and was “back with her family”. She had been located near the zoo, the statement said. But the news came a day after the zoo announced that another escaped wolf, Chia, had died, probably after being hit by a car.

“We are so grateful for this positive outcome for Tempest but are still processing the loss of Chia,” the zoo’s statement said, adding it hoped to finally reopen on Saturday.

The zoo announced on Tuesday morning it would not open to crowds that day. It later acknowledged that a pack of grey wolves had escaped after “suspicious” damage to the fence of their enclosure. The zoo said the incident was probably the result of “malicious intent”.

Related: Canada conservation officers seek runaway wolf days after zoo break-in

Opened in 1970, the tourist attraction has nine adult grey wolves and six pups. Staff did not confirm how many had initially escaped after the fence was broken, nor did it say how many remained unaccounted for.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating the break-in, but a lack of surveillance footage has made it difficult to identify any suspects.

overhead view
The Greater Vancouver Zoo is seen in Langley, British Columbia. Photograph: Canadian Press/Rex/Shutterstock

“I can just tell you that there was damage done to the enclosure to allow the wolves to exit. At this point, there’s no surveillance, so we don’t have any information to indicate how they got in or suspect information,” said Cpl Holly Largy of Langley RCMP.

Located outside Vancouver, the zoo spans 120 acres in the Fraser Valley and is close to a large forested area that contains a naval radio communications facility.

Animal rights activists have in recent years focused on the zoo following two attacks: one on a girl who was bitten by a black bear, and another on a staff member attacked by a jaguar.

In 2019, the Vancouver Humane Society released a report criticizing the zoo. In 2020, the owners of the zoo spent millions on a “major overhaul” of the facility.

The apparent act of vandalism also comes as the plight of wolves, which once thrived in the region, faces activists’ scrutiny. This year, the province extended its aerial wolf cull for another five years. The controversial program kills as many as 300 wolves a year in an effort to save woodland caribou.