KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Another wolf in under a month has died at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium.
Unalii the wolf passed away in his enclosure on Sunday morning, a release from the park stated. On Jan. 28, park staff reportedly noticed Unali appeared lethargic while displaying swelling and bleeding in his rear right thigh and leg.
Unalii’s symptoms had rapid onset and park staff immediately notified a local veterinarian, the park said. “Staff and volunteers worked that night under the direction of the park’s veterinarian to offer treatment until Unalii could be seen by a veterinarian in person the next day,” said the park’s release. Unalii reportedly passed before the appointment with a vet the next day.
Sara Anderson, the park’s veterinarian, reportedly saw Unalii twice in December for an injured leg. Anderson reported that she believed Unalii suffered a ligament strain and was prescribed medication for pain. She noted no signs of infection or another injury, according to the release.
“I feel that due to the rapid nature of Unalii’s passing, there would not have been anything that could have been done differently to change this outcome,” said Anderson.
Unalii was the second wolf at Bays Mountain to die in the last month. On January 20th, Takoda, considered by park staff to be the leader of the pack, was euthanized after “an ear injury and subsequent infection,” according to a previous release.
Park rangers are awaiting necropsies for both animals from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to learn the official cause of death.
According to the release, Bays Mountain park staff observe the animals throughout the day and if they notice anything out of the ordinary, they address the issue in a timely manner. Park staff are reportedly trained to treat minor injuries, but sometimes a vet is called immediately.
Chief Ranger Tyler Wicks said the animals’ safety is the park’s top priority.
“We monitor their behavior every single day to look for unrest in the pack and any potential injuries that might happen,” Wicks said. “Those are processes that have been in place since we first got wolves.”
Both Unalii and Takoda were born in 2014 in Sandstone, Minnesota and have been at the park since they were puppies.
“He had a kind and friendly spirit that endeared him to anyone that worked with him,” said Park Manager Megan Krager. “He was known to be a big eater and always tried to make his way to the front of the chow line at feeding time. Everyone at the park will miss him greatly.”
Wicks said both lived beyond the typical lifespan for a wolf in the wild.
“Wolves in the wild can live between 3 and 8 years on average depending on what population and where they live,” Wick said.
Even in captivity, wolves engage in a pack social hierarchy. Takoda was considered the pack’s leader, and Wicks said her death had an impact on the others.
“When she died, that did cause some unrest in the pack,” Wicks said. “Now that Unalii has also passed, that is going to continue to cause some unrest.”
The remaining five wolves are moving freely between their four enclosures as they deal with the loss of two of their pack members.
Wicks said there is little park staff can do to affect how the new social order shakes out in the pack, and they will have to utilize their safety procedures from a distance.
“We observe their behaviors and try our best to make sure they stay safe and healthy,” Wicks said.
As the wolves get acclimated to the new hierarchy of the pack, Wicks said their are no plans to add new wolves to the enclosure.