“The pictures did indeed look like Kawoni,” said Ken Childress, the park’s senior naturalist, of the four-year-old female.
The photograph was taken Christmas Day at a farm on Ryan Road, just outside of Fall Branch. Childress said the residents had seen the wolf on more than one occasion and brought the photo for park personnel to examine.
Childress said a search team descended on the farm this past Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Unfortunately, all they found were paw prints.
“We’re just looking for signs, and if we can find them and get close enough to them, we’ll tranquilize them and bring them back,” said Childress.
Bait stations are also placed throughout the park, which remains closed to the public.
On the night of Dec. 2, a windstorm knocked over a tree in Bays Mountain Park, breaching the two fences of the wolf enclosure. Six of the park’s eight timber wolves escaped.
Four were lured back within a couple of days, with park staff and volunteers searching for the remaining two since then.
Childress said it’s not surprising that the other missing wolf, a two-year-old male named Adahay, wasn’t accompanying Kawoni at the Ryan Road home.
Though they’re social animals, the two wolves were treated like outcasts by the rest of the pack — which likely is a factor in their reluctance to return to the Bays Mountain enclosure.
“The thing you have to remember — these two are the members of that pack that were on the bottom of the list,” Childress said. “They were kind of the ones who didn’t quite fit in and got picked on. In nature, those are the ones that eventually leave the pack and strike out on their own.”
Childress said the survival rate for wolves raised in captivity, then forced to fend for themselves in the wild, is not good.
“They obviously have the instinct to hunt, but the question is do they have the skill and practice to do that?” said Childress. “The answer is probably no.”
Anyone believing they’ve spotted the wolves should immediately call 229-9447. Kawoni has a mixture of tan, white and black fur. Adahay is colored entirely black.