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Missouri family charged by Yellowstone wolf

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“Town Crier” newsletter – Briefs from the Region (1) – 6/5/20

According to the Billings Gazette, the VanZants of Lebanon, Missouri, needed roughly an hour for their adrenaline to subside after a young wolf from Yellowstone National Park’s Wapiti Lake essentially charged the family, getting within 10 feet of both adults and young children, including a 1-year-old in a baby carriage. The VanZants, who opted for a Yellowstone trip after COVID-19 canceled out previous plans to visit Disney World, were having a picnic at Hayden Valley’s Otter Creek picnic area along the Yellowstone River when they noticed what they thought to be a loose dog around 150 yards in the distance. They soon realized it was a wolf, and put the two oldest children, ages 10 and 5, up on the table for a better view. Then, the wolf disappeared into the trees, before reemerging 10 yards out behind a downed tree. The wolf then, suddenly, jumped over the log and ran straight toward the VanZants before stopping 5 feet away. Michael VanZant was prompted to pull out his .380 caliber pistol, and mother Ashley began hurling sticks at the animal—one struck the wolf’s head, causing it to growl, and Michael grabbed a large branch, waving it in front of the wolf’s face to ward it off. Once the wolf backed off, Ashley moved the children to safety inside their truck. The wolf then ran off, leaving the VanZants with one heck of a story for the folks back home. “The Wapiti pack, that this wolf is a member of, has had a lot of contact with people in Hayden Valley,” Doug Smith, Yellowstone wolf biologist, told the Gazette, calling the pack the most exposed to humans of any in the world. He compared the individual to a teenager, curious and bold, adding that wolf encounters of this nature are “extraordinarily rare.”

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