Two gray wolves escaped their enclosure at the West Virginia Wildlife Center, near French Creek, West Virginia, according to a spokesperson for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
The two were euthanized in the interest of public safely after attempts to safely recapture them failed, according to Andy Malinoski.
Once common across the eastern U.S., gray wolves last held-out against civilization in the mountains of central West Virginia, where the last native wolf was taken in 1897.
Wolves had already disappeared from more-developed surrounding states and had been eradicated in Ohio by 1842 and Pennsylvania by 1892. Though biologists now value the species, humans removed them from much of the northern hemisphere, largely because of conflicts with domesticated animals.
Sheep husbandry was known to have suffered in the mountain and particularly in Braxton, Webster, Randolph, Greenbrier, Nicholas, and Pocahontas counties.
Native populations in the U.S. remain only in the northern Rocky Mountains, in southern Arizona and New Mexico, and in the northernmost Great Lakes region.
According to Malinoski, the staff at the wildlife center and local law enforcement responded, and the decision to euthanize the animals was reportedly made after they were not able to be recaptured.
“In the interest of public safety, a decision was made to euthanize the animals after attempts at recapture failed,” Malinoski wrote in correspondence with local press.
“The action was implemented in a safe and professional manner and provided resolution to the situation. WV DNR staff has completed safety inspections and fortifications of all enclosures at the Wildlife Center to ensure the safety of the animals and the public.”
As far as is known, the last eastern wolf roamed the remote Allegheny Mountains until it was shot and killed in Webster County in 1897 by 17-year-old Daniel Stoffer Hamrick.