Investigation Reveals Gate to Wolf Area Left Open

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Menominee Park Zoo_5281665446629886449
OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – According to a police report, a worker at Menominee Park Zoo in Oshkosh, accidentally left a gate open to the wolf area before a child was bitten by one of the wolves.

The incident happened Friday, May 22nd, at the Menominee Park Zoo.

A police report from the Oshkosh Police Department says a 3-year-old boy was bitten by a 12-year-old wolf named Rebel.

According to the report, the 3-year-old boy’s mother told police she saw a group of 15-20 people up close to the wolves, and took her son to that area.

She said she was taking pictures of the wolves, and as she was putting her cellphone into her purse, she heard people yelling at her to get her son’s fingers out of the chain-link fence surrounding the wolves.

As she looked up, the wolf bit the boy in the middle and ring fingers of his left hand, drawing blood.

After word of the bite spread, a zoo worker called the parks operation manager and told him the gate was left open and should not have been.

The report says health officials advised the boy’s parents to have him get rabies shots in case the wolf was infected.

The report says zoo officials did not want to have the wolf euthanized, which would be necessary to test it for rabies.

A rabies test requires that brain tissue be sampled, which cannot be done on a live animal.

However, parks officials say the state Division of Public Health mandated the wolf be euthanized and tested for rabies.

The tests showed the animal did not have rabies.

Local 5 spoke with the NEW Zoo and the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary about the number of procedures they each have in place to make sure their visitors stay safe.

They also stress that the public needs to understand that the animals they are viewing are wild animals.

“We’re very careful and safety conscious and you shouldn’t be able to get up close to an exhibit by accident,” says the curator of animals at the NEW Zoo, Carmen Murach.

Because the NEW Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, they are required to have an extra level of safety standards in place. 

“Things like safety catch cages, and gates that are double locked and, um, just all sorts of procedures to work safely with animals and to make sure that you don’t accidentally end up in a space with an animal that you shouldn’t be with,” explains Murach.

Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary’s Director, Mike Reed, says some safety precautions they have in place, include: double fencing, posting clear signage, and conducting regular exhibit checks throughout each day.

Reed says in a statement to Local 5, “However, the public needs to also understand these are still wild animals and should be viewed and appreciated from the appropriate distance.”

The NEW Zoo agrees with that statement.

“We do rely though on people to have some common sense out there, you know? These are wild animals and many of them are very territorial, and it’s one thing for them to see you at a safe distance where you belong. It’s a whole other thing, um, you know, when a person who they’re not familiar with ends up encroaching upon their territory,” says Murach.

Local 5 reached out to the Menominee Park Zoo and the Oshkosh Parks Department to see if any procedures have changed as a result of the incident, but as of Thursday night, we have not been able to get in touch with anyone. 


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