HOWL Colorado

Wolves kill their zookeeper in Sweden

A sad story was posted to the English newspaper, the Daily Mail, web site sharing the news that a Swedish zookeeper died after being attacked by the wolves under her care.There is assuredly more than enough blame to go around in this situation. Here’s the story as we know it:

The woman entered the enclosure alone, at 11 a.m. and the pack of 8 wolves attacked her – sadly emergency services would not enter the enclosure to rescue her for fear of being attacked themselves.

We don’t know much more – specifically why the wolves attacked.

The wolf enclosure was one of the zoo’s most popular exhibits as they allowed visitors to enter and pet the wolves.

And thus, we are presented with the true dichotomy which represents the wolf.

99.9 percent of the time, these wolves would never attack a human. However, the wild streak of these animals is never gone and some unknown trigger can cause a wolf to decide it’s finally had enough of something or other and it lashes out.

Was the zookeeper at fault for walking in alone? Certainly it wasn’t wise, but she probably had hundreds of previous occasions where walking in alone had led to nothing but a positive experience with these same 8 wolves.

Wolves do NOT predate humans. It just doesn’t happen. They attack (extremely rarely) for reasons related to territory and defense. Habituation to humans continues to have a constant correlation to attacks.

It is the saddest story when it takes the death of someone to remind us starkly of what we should already know.

All wild animals, but specifically predators, deserve our respect.

The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center specifically has decided after years of experience not to create packs larger than 4 wolves. They generally try to keep their wolves in pairs.


Even when the number gets up to 4, the pack dynamic begins to establish. One wolf becomes the alpha, another often becomes the omega. No matter how large the enclosure, an omega can have a miserable life due to not being able to escape being picked on.  Pack dynamics can also make management of the situation for an individual human caregiver difficult. No longer is the human calling the shots, you are at the mercy of the desires and interests of the alpha wolf.

Again, 99.9 percent of the time the alpha wolf’s desires and interests aren’t a risk to any person. It may be the treat you have in your pocket, your shoe laces, whatever catches their attention.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the alpha wolf wants you out of their territory. They tell you if you are paying attention. If you don’t pay attention – things can get prickly.

Did the zookeeper not pay attention to the warnings? Complacency, familiarity and trust could all conspire to a trained professional not spotting the signs.

Wolves are not the only canines which possess this potential for snapping under specific criteria and situations. Your dog can too. Stress, unexpected situations, or territorial threats can all cause your pet pooch to tap in to it’s wild instincts.

Your dog gives off plenty of warning too. Would you know what to look for?

One such example local to Colorado involved 9NEWS (the NBC affiliate) anchor Kyle Dyer having her face bitten, and badly injured, by a dog which was recently rescued from a frozen lake. Kyle, attention so focused on her job, did not notice the warning signs the dog was giving off. She put her face close, and snap – an unknown, unrecognized catalyst caused the dog to defend itself aggressively against a threat only he could perceive.

All animals require respect, and you can avoid many risky situations by giving it to them.

HOWLColorado offers our condolences to the family and friends of the zookeeper.

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