FRENCH CREEK — The West Virginia Wildlife Center and surrounding community faced a hairy situation Monday night, when two of their star exhibits escaped.
One family was quite disturbed to find strangers searching for something in their field that night. French Creek resident Phyllis Neuharth stated, “After dark, we noticed trucks had parked nearby and were lighting up the field right in front of my house. I had received a call from a neighbor about a missing wolf from the Wildlife Center earlier. I assumed that they were searching for it and that it would be tranquilized. No one came to the house to let us know why they were on our property. So, we watched with interest at all these people heading through the dark.”
Neuharth said her family continued to watch and added, “Then I realized that most of them had guns and that tranquilization wasn’t the plan. I was very upset; this is not how an incident like this should be handled.”
Employees of the Wildlife Center said they couldn’t comment, but the Director of Communications for the Division of Natural Resources Police issued the following statement: “On Monday, March 16, two gray wolves escaped their enclosure at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WV DNR) State Wildlife Center in French Creek, WV. Agency staff and local law enforcement responded to the incident. In the interest of public safety, a decision was made to euthanize the animals after attempts at recapture failed. The action was implemented in a safe and professional manner and provided resolution to the situation. WV DNR staff has completed safety inspections and fortifications of all enclosures at the Wildlife Center to ensure the safety of the animals and the public.”
Messina further explained that the wolves had damaged the perimeter of their enclosure, which created a small gap for their escape. When asked why they had to be euthanized, Messina stated, “The two wolves had reached a populated area, posing a risk to people, pets and livestock. One was encountered just before nightfall, prompting the decision to act quickly and decisively to eliminate the hazard to that community. The other was pursued for several hours after sunset but eluded recapture, again prompting the decision to keep it from bringing any harm to the community nearby.”