Once the winter storms clear, Utah’s Hogle Zoo will send Angel, its lone gray wolf, to a sanctuary in the northwest, where she’ll live out the rest of her days among a pack, and four rescued red foxes will take her place in the Salt Lake City exhibit.
The zoo won’t be housing any more gray wolves after Angel leaves, the facility announced Wednesday.
It’s a “difficult transition” for the zoo, said spokeswoman Erica Hansen, but it’s also a product of conservation efforts decades in the making.
The Hogle Zoo has housed packs of gray wolves since at least 1958, Hansen said, and what records exist show the pack was once made up of seven canines.
In 1973, Hansen said, gray wolves were near extinction and listed under the Endangered Species Act. This lead to the Species Survival Plan working with zoos to breed gray wolves in captivity.
That endangered designation also began a wolf recovery effort in the 1980s, where gray wolves were reintroduced into the wild throughout the northern Rocky Mountains. The population has since returned to a healthy level, and the animals are no longer considered endangered.
Because of these larger populations, Species Survival Plan had stopped working with zoos to breed gray wolves. For Hogle Zoo, that means it’s harder to get new wolves when one dies, leaving the remaining wolf without a companion, Hansen said.
Hansen said the zoo either has to try to take in rescues or turn to sanctuaries, and that means the zoo is normally getting older wolves that typically die within a few years, and the process starts again.
Angel, who is 12, came to Hogle Zoo from a sanctuary after Neph, a 14-year-old gray wolf, died in 2017, leaving her partner Glacier alone.
Glacier died in November 2018 at almost 13 years old, and zoo administrators started to figure out what was best for Angel, Hansen said. In some cases, zoos will bring in a dog to be a wolf’s companion, but Hogle Zoo decided against that.
“What’s going to be best for Angel is to get her up there to that wolf sanctuary, where she is with a pack, and wolves are social creatures, so she should be embraced in their pack and be just fine,” Hansen said.
Hansen said once Angel is out of the exhibit, they will begin modifying it for the red foxes.
The foxes are “young and playful," and Hansen said the zoo is excited to show them off and teach guests about local wildlife.