HomeOutdoorsNewsBeloved ‘Smokey’ the Wolf Dies at Wildwood Zoo, Cause of Death Released

Beloved ‘Smokey’ the Wolf Dies at Wildwood Zoo, Cause of Death Released

by Jon D. B.
gray wolf in captivity
Gray wolf in captivity. (Photo by John Milner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Named for his unique, beautiful coat, Smokey the wolf was a favorite of Wildwood Zoo visitors. Sadly, the 12-year-old male has died.

Often found howling at sirens and instigating play with his pack, Smokey was a staple of Marshfield, Wisconsin’s Wildwood Zoo during his life. But the the City of Marshfield Parks & Recreation Department regretfully announced his passing on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Wild grays can reach 14-years-old, and captive wolves can live to be 16. But both are exceptionally rare, making 12 years a well-lived, lengthy life for any gray (or timber) wolf. Wildwood Zoo considered Smokey a senior wolf, and as local OnFocus reports, he died of “natural causes.”

“Preliminary findings indicate that Smokey experienced a heart attack from natural causes, but further lab work is being completed to confirm the initial diagnosis,” Wildwood Zoo said in their statement on Smokey’s passing. Athens Vet staff would perform a necropsy to determine his cause of death.

“He had lived here at Wildwood Zoo since October 2015, when he was transferred from the Wild World of Animals in Pennsylvania. He arrived with his two siblings (Malakai and Luna), who continue to call Wildwood Zoo home. The other wolves are adjusting well but will continue to be closely monitored by our staff,” their statement continues.

“As always, the Parks and Recreation staff appreciates your continued support of Wildwood Park and Zoo.”

A fixture of the Marshfield community, Wildwood Zoo is free to the public, but encourages donations to support further conservation efforts.

Gray Wolf Conservation a Key Issue for Americans

As Wildwood Zoo states, “Our goal is to foster an understanding of our partnership with nature and the environment through animal conservation, education, and recreational opportunities.”

The zoo ” is a place to celebrate the diversity of wildlife, educate visitors about conservation and habitat preservation, while emphasizing the protection of threatened species,” they continue.

Zoos play a pivotal role in American conservation efforts, with some choosing to house the endangered gray wolf (Canis lupus) species. Some double as rehabilitation facilities, while others (like our AZA-accredited Nashville Zoo) remain pivotal to the survival of endangered species through captive breeding programs.

If you are curious as to whether your local zoo is meeting the current best-practice standards for captive wildlife, ask about AZA accreditation. AZA, or the American Association of Zoos & Aquariums, uses recognized experts to evaluate U.S. zoos and aquariums. Only those that measure up to the established standards and best practices of that profession earn AZA accreditation can become members of AZA.

Sadly, only 10% of zoos and aquariums are AZA members. Be sure to look for the “Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums” logo on zoo websites, advertisements, and entrances. To find an accredited zoo near you, visit AZA’s list of AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. Currently, Wildwood Zoo is not an AZA member. Regardless, Outsider sends our best to staff and officials during this difficult time.