Death of Alaska Zoo’s lone wolf, Windy, signals end to resident wolf pack’s reign

A gray-white wolf looks toward the camera from a snowy background.
Windy, a gray wolf, at the Alaska Zoo, where she lived from when she was a pup to the age of 16. (Taleah Reece/Alaska Zoo)

The last member of the Alaska Zoo’s resident wolf pack has died at the age of 16, zoo staff said Monday.

Windy was a gray female who came to the zoo in Anchorage in 2006, one of a half-dozen pups the Alaska Department of Fish and Game took from a predator control zone, where wolves were being hunted and trapped, Alaska Zoo Director Pat Lampi said.

“They were wonderful animals,” Lampi said. “I would say they were the best ambassadors of species that we’ve ever had here at the zoo.”

Zoo staff would walk the wolves every day on a service road and introduce them to visitors, and the wolves were part of an education program, Lampi said. Over the years, about 3 million people had a chance to experience and learn about wolves, he said.

Wolf pups on a towel or blanket.
Six wolf pups that came to the Alaska Zoo in 2006 (John Gomes/Alaska Zoo)

Windy lived longer than her siblings and much longer than a wolf in the wild, which has a life expectancy somewhere between five and 10 years, Lampi said.

Windy played a key role in educating people about wolves, he said.

“We were able to dispel a lot of the myths and false information that has been put out about wolves over generations,” Lampi said. “So people could learn about them, see them, understand more about them and gain appreciation for the wild counterparts.”

The howling of wolves won’t be heard at the zoo for the foreseeable future, but if an opportunity comes along to again have wolves there, the zoo will look into it, Lampi said.

“Right now, it’s kind of a hole in the zoo, for everyone,” he said.

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.