An escaped wolf has been shot dead by keepers just months after giving birth to cubs — the first to be born at the wildlife park in its forty-seven-year history.
The female named Ember managed to get out of her enclosure at Cotswold Wildlife Park on Friday.
Staff tried to tranquilise the three-year-old Eurasian wolf after it was found wandering just outside the park’s perimeter towards the A361 but say it was out of range.
Visitors at the park were told to stay indoors as a precaution but staff insist the animal did not pose a danger.
Armed zookeepers were scrambled and Ember was shot dead.
A post on the park’s Facebook page today (Mon) read: “You may have seen or heard in the news about the devastating death of our beloved Wolf Ember.
“Had there been any way to save her we would, of course, have taken it. Euthanasia is, and always would be, our last resort.
“However, she had somehow escaped her enclosure and had made her way to an area that was beyond the range of a tranquiliser dart, and potentially within reach of a busy road.
“The safety of our visitors, and the public, has to be our priority and our keepers were put in the unenviable position of making a decision that no animal lover should have to make.
“Our staff have dedicated their lives to caring for animals, and their conservation, and work tirelessly to allow visitors to experience many majestic animals at close quarters.
“We have taken measures to increase our already robust enclosure security checks, to ensure there can be no repeat.
“We would like to thank all visitors to the park who were with us on Friday for their co-operation.
“We would also like to honour Ember and the pleasure she gave to so many visitors. Her death is felt by all who had the pleasure to know her.”
Visitor Penelope Bennett said on Twitter: “Wolf on the loose at the Cotswold Wildlife Park and we are all shut in the walled garden.”
Last night (Mon), the Oxfordshire zoo, which has the largest privately owned zoological collection in the UK, was investigating how the wolf managed to break out.
At around 11.00pm on Friday, keepers discovered that the wolf has escaped from its enclosure.
Cotswold Wildlife Park spokeswoman Debbie Ryan said: “As a precaution, all visitors and other staff were notified immediately.
“Those that were indoors were asked to remain where they were.
“At no time were members of the public in any danger as the wolf was away from the visitor area throughout.
“To say we are devastated is an understatement.”
Two-year-old Ash and three-year-old Ember are recent arrivals at Cotswold Wildlife Park.
Both were born in Sweden and arrived from different collections in October 2016 as part of a breeding programme.
Five Eurasian Wolf cubs were born to first-time parents Ash and Ember on May 21 this year.
The healthy pups, currently unnamed, are now settling into their new home at the Cotswold Wildlife Park.
The births were an unexpected but welcome addition to the collection, say park staff.
For the first ten days, the cubs were hidden from sight inside one of the underground dens the parents had excavated.
But in a series of adorable snaps, the cubs were seen playing in their woodland enclosure behind the Flamingo and Pelican Lake just two weeks ago.
The Eurasian Wolf is one of the largest wolf subspecies and the largest found outside of the Americas.
This species was first recorded by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his publication Systema Naturae in 1758.
Eurasian Wolves are still hunted in many countries, but are increasingly protected by local laws.