SD regulators OK wolf cubs, fox kits at wildlife center

Published 10:06 am Thursday, May 21, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. — A Minnesota woman will be able to keep wolf cubs and fox kits at a wildlife education center she’s opening in Deadwood, but visitors won’t be able to play with the animals, a South Dakota regulatory board decided on Wednesday.

The South Dakota Animal Industry Board granted a permit allowing Terri Petter to house the animals at the roughly 17-acre Deadwood location. But they barred the “pet and play” portion of Fur-Ever Wild’s Deadwood site, which would have allowed groups to mingle with the baby animals.

Opponents of the Deadwood facility were largely unable to air their concerns about Petter’s fur operation and the alleged conditions and treatment of animals at her location on 100 acres in Lakeville, Minnesota, because the board said they were outside the scope of the proceedings. The project faces opposition from people in part concerned that Petter’s real purpose is to raise animals for fur.

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The board ultimately considered whether Petter can safely possess the animals, and she highlighted the fences and enclosures, among other security features, at the facility to keep animals and people safe. Adam Wiechmann, a veterinarian for the state who inspected the facility, said he believes it’s ready to handle wolf cubs and fox kits younger than 6 months old.

Petter said after the hearing that the decision is “great news” and said that the location would still be a viable business even though public contact with the animals isn’t allowed. She initially planned to have six wolf pups and seven fox kits at the Deadwood site.

“We can still educate,” she said. “We can still teach people about the fox and the wolf, and it’s what we wanted to do all along.”

State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven advised the board against allowing the “pet and play” aspect of the location.

“The consensus of science, especially among public health veterinarians, is (it’s) generally recommended that dangerous animals such as wolves and animals which may serve as a reservoir for rabies such as foxes not be in public contact,” Oedekoven said.

Opponents also said they were concerned about safety at the Deadwood site. Sharon Martinisko, a Deadwood resident, said her biggest concerns were the possibility of injury and the spread of disease.

“By eliminating the contact, that took the biggest piece out of it,” she said. “The facility is going to be closely monitored. If not by city government, it will be monitored by the citizens.”