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'Please don't shoot our wolves': Science center finds 1 escaped wolf, still searching for another

Four wolves got out, and two have perished.

The Wildlife Science Center is pleading with the public to remain calm and understanding as they search for what is presumed to be the one remaining escaped wolf in the area. 

Four wolves escaped their enclosure at the Stacy, Minnesota, science center the morning of Thursday, May 27, Animal Care Coordinator Megan Beckel told Bring Me The News. The days since have been a race to find them and bring them back safely.

Two have already perished. One was struck by a car Saturday and suffered a broken back. The center euthanized him. Another is presumed dead, likely shot and killed after the rescue team heard gunshots following a brief sighting, Beckel said.

Wednesday morning, however, brought some good news. A call led them to a 1-year-old sub-adult just off Highway 22. The capture crew darted him, then followed him until he lost consciousness around 10 a.m.

"I can't even describe our emotions," Beckel said, describing the rescue of this sub-adult as "rejuvenating" after days of challenges. 

That leaves one escaped wolf remaining, a 5-year-old known endearingly as Gigantor because of his size. Beckel said he's been spotted in the area, with a limp and injured paw. Beckel and the center have been pleading with the public to avoid any aggression or violence toward the escapees.

"He's hurt, he's scared, he has no idea where he is," Beckel said of GIgantor, saying people shouldn't approach or chase him. "Please don't shoot him. Just call us and tell us the location and when you saw him, and then continue on your day."

The Wildlife Science Center is asking anyone in the area to keep an eye out for the remaining wolf and report it by calling 651-464-3993, or even sending a Facebook message

How the wolves escaped

The Wildlife Science Center — which is a research, education and conservation facility — said the incident appears linked to a recent birth. Iris, one of the center's most well-known wolves, lost her longtime mate Chief just when breeding season was starting.

"Remarkably she did mate another male and he stayed by her side in lieu of Chief," the center explained in a Facebook post.

However, she only had one pup — an unusually low number for a gray wolf, which typically has an average litter size of four to six pups. The Wildlife Science Center, facing a difficult decision, decided to give the lone pup to the International Wolf Center, under a previous ambassadorship agreement between the two organizations.

"We took the puppy away from Iris and it was too much for her to bear," the Wildlife Science Center wrote on Facebook, noting the wolves dug under the ground apron and — combined with the recent heavy rainfall there — it collapsed the den. 

That led to four of the wolves (though not Iris) escaping into the surrounding areas.

The Minnesota DNR told Bring Me The News Tuesday it was aware of the situation, but not involved. And the Anoka County Sheriff's Office said deputies are keeping an eye out and dispatchers are monitoring 911 calls for sightings.

The center described the ordeal as a "living nightmare," and said people should approach them the same way as they would a coyote, and not immediately assume they are a threat.

"PLEASE DON'T SHOOT OUR WOLVES!" the center continued. "They are family to us and we are spending every waking hour trying to bring them home."

This story includes reporting from Melissa Turtinen.

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