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Opposition Rises to Deadwood Wolf Petting Zoo

Animal protection advocate Shari Kosel from Lead alerts me to what sounds like an appalling little business coming to Deadwood. On January 21, 2015, the Deadwood Planning and Zoning Commission approved a permit for Fur-Ever Wild Deadwood, a Minnesota-based company that will offer customers the chance to play with wolf pups ($20 for 20 minutes).

Kosel explains the Fur-Ever Wild (and I’m feeling like “Wild” needs to be in quote marks) business model:

Wild wolves are bred in their Minnesota facility.  Once the pups are a few days old, they are pulled from their mothers, before their eyes open.  According to their Facebook page, “Fur-Ever Wild -Deadwood, is the second location to Fur-Ever Wild. At the Deadwood location we offer education and up close encounters with wolf pups.”

When the wolf pups are too old to be used in their petting zoos, they will be transported back to Minnesota and killed for their fur [Shari Kosel, petition, 2015.04.28].

Separate pups from their mother, use them as props for novelty entertainment for six months, then kill and skin them. I wonder if Fur-Ever “Wild” will have signs or brochures explaining to its customers the fate these wolves will face once the petting is done.

The original Minnesota Fur-Ever “Wild” raises cougars, bobcats, otters, beavers, lynx, fishers, martens, and badgers for fur. Neighbors say the facility violates a township ordinance against keeping exotic animals and lowers surrounding property values with its smell and risk.

To prevent this nuisance from coming to Deadwood, Kosel says she will submit the online signatures she gathers to the Deadwood Planning & Zoning Commission May 6th to support her request that they rescind the wolf pen’s permit. Kosel also plans to ask State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven and the Animal Industry Board to deny Fur-Ever “Wild” its state permit.


  1. Joseph Nelson 2015-04-29 10:10

    It is not just for novelty entertainment, it is educational too!

    I am curious to see how this pans out, as a Minnesota appellate court revived the nuisance case against FEW on Monday, 27APR15, and it is possible that the Minnesota location will shut down. However, I do not see this being a nuisance to Deadwood. The nuisance issue in Minnesota revolves around the noise and odor of so many animals, I do not imagine a dozen or so wolf pups will produce the same level of odor or noise as the 60 acre property in Minnesota . Rather, I imagine Deadwood will see this as quite the attraction, and money will flow into their coffers. There seems to be other petting zoo type places in the HIlls, such as Reptile Gardens, I do not see Deadwood having a problem with this business coming into town.

    It is also worth noting that Terri Petter, Executive Director of FEW, has responded to the petition with “Shari Kosel. Thank you for putting your name on this petition. This is legally slander. When you lie like this and send it out in this format. My lawyer will be in touch.”

    Not sure if it is legally slander, as I am not sure what is false about what Ms. Kosel put on the petition. Maybe the “Once the pups are a few days old, they are pulled from their mothers, before their eyes open.” sentence?

    Last thought: Will they offer wolf fur items for sale?

  2. Roger Elgersma 2015-04-29 16:59

    These animals will never be wild. Nor will they have a life.

  3. SDBlue 2015-04-29 17:23

    They are touting this as an educational exhibit, right? Will they explain to all the children who visit this exhibit that the beautiful creatures they get to pet will soon be killed for their fur?

  4. grudznick 2015-04-29 18:12

    It’s probably legal. It’s likely nothing can be done. Oh well.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-29 19:33

    False marketing indeed, Roger! SDBlue, the company’s “educational” materials should most definitely include an explanation to visitors that the wolves they are petting are not wild, have been separated from anything like natural conditions, and will be slaughtered immediately after their cuddly usefulness is done.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-29 19:36

    Joseph, Shari Kosel tells me she has documents supporting each of the statements she makes on her petition page. The Fur-Ever “Wild” folks sound like the roster of characters whom I’ve heard throw that word at me for intimidation purposes but without any legal ground.

  7. grudznick 2015-04-29 19:56

    Mr. SDBlue, the fur industry is an important part of the history and today’s economy in the great state that some of us blogging here live in, South Dakota. We wear fur and we eat meat.

  8. SDBlue 2015-04-29 20:09

    It is Ms. SDBlue, grudz. As a fourth generation South Dakotan, I confess I enjoy a good steak. However, I do not wear fur. My ex-brother-in-law is a furrier in Duluth, MN. I am familiar with the industry and am vehemently opposed to it.

  9. grudznick 2015-04-29 21:24

    Correction noted, Ms. SDBlue. And just so you know I’m not the evil some say I am I want you to know that I do not wear a hat made from housecats. Never have.

  10. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-29 23:35

    Hmm. I haven’t heard of FEW. I’m wondering about endangered species. Wolves have gone back and forth between protected in MN and not.

    There is something that seems extra cruel about ripping babies away from their mothers and social connections. The latter is especially important to wolves.

    Of course, I feel bad about veal and baby dairy calves. I understand why those things are done, but that doesn’t mean I like it. For a farm kid, I’ve always been a real softie about pain inflicted on animals. Sigh.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-30 06:23

    Indeed, given that wolves are social creatures, I would think that a purported wolf lover would raise them in a more natural fashion. But hey, there’s money to be made, and people who will pay 20 bucks to pet some baby wolves in ignorance of their real situation.

  12. barry freed 2015-04-30 08:00

    You hit the nail with your last sentence. Some dog lover will surely stand outside the property with a sign informing potential clients of the cute puppy’s fate. Would be too sad to pet them knowing their fate. That’s why I can’t go in the dog pound “just to look”. I have come out with a dog every time. (twice). One saved my Dad’s life.
    Last I knew, the State’s position was that anti rabies shots do not work on Wolves ( Wolves are immune from eons of eating infected prey and very rarely get rabies, so the State says they can’t be successfully inoculated). When a puppy nips and draws blood, and they will with those needle sharp teeth, by Law, the pup must be killed for testing. That is their fate anyway, but the State says a person bit should get shots as a precaution. How to get around that personal injury lawsuit?

  13. Bob Newland 2015-04-30 14:22

    Grudz wears hats made from the scroti of naked mole rats he has harvested.

  14. grudznick 2015-04-30 15:58

    And as you know, Mr. Newland, they are very soft and supple.

  15. DLl 2015-05-07 11:51

    I use to volunteer at the Minnesota FEW. First of all none of you have a clue what you are talking about. Before you start judging and making comments you should go visit the place. I may not have agreed with everything that was said and done there but the one thing that cant be denied is how much the volunteers and workers loved the animals. The volunteers there worked there butts off and it was hard work but it was done because we loved those animals! In my time there i was never afraid to be around an animal and the worst smells were the food trucks when we had to sort them. I never saw an animal intentionally harmed let alone killed. Some of the animals were fifteen years old which was actually old for captive wolves. I learned a lot in the time i volunteered and i will carry it with me into my new career as a vet tech.

  16. Dan 2015-05-08 19:11

    FEW claims the wolves will only be killed after they die of natural causes. They also claim the petting zoo will contain only wolf pups. So, let’s say a wolf is kept there as a “pup” for four to six months; then is replaced. If you have, say ten wolf pups there at a time, that’s a minimum of thirty wolves per year being removed and returned to Minnesota to “live out there natural lives”. In five years, FEW will have one hundred and fifty (150) wolves at the Minnesota sanctuary. The math does not work; especially if, as DLI claims, they will live up to fifteen years.

  17. Susan Humphrey 2015-05-12 02:26

    This is a farming and ranching state, so I would hope that those in agriculture would realize that raising animals for fur isn’t any different than raising an animal for meat, milk, wool or eggs. You can still pet it, and show it affection…even give it a name. I gave a name to all of my 4-H animals. They were treated with much affection…even knowing where they would end up.
    It sounds to me as though people would enjoy petting the puppies, the pups would enjoy being petted and an honest living would be made. Some people might call that “exploitation”…and those same type of people also think its “exploitation” to raise a calf up into a beef-steak. As long as animal welfare isn’t an issue, why let the “Animal Rights Agenda” try to take away a lawful business?

  18. Tasiyagnunpa Livermont 2015-05-12 11:46

    I feel this goes against fair hunting. I wonder what Boone and Crocket would say.

  19. Craig 2015-05-12 12:23

    Susan: “raising animals for fur isn’t any different than raising an animal for meat, milk, wool or eggs.”

    Well it is quite different from raising an animal for milk, wool, or eggs since you can collect those things without harming the animal.

    The meat argument has more merit – but at least when farmers and ranchers raise a cow that animal is used not only for the meat, but also for the leather hide. There isn’t much which is wasted. Since I haven’t seen a menu with wolf meat on it, I’m assuming wolves are killed simply for their hide, which is why most people are against furs… because most animals raised for their furs are not treated very well, and the bulk of the animal ends up in a grinder or landfill after the hide is removed. Since the fur is so valuable, they take steps to prevent damage to it, which often means locking the animals up in small enclosed spaces for fear they might scratch or bite one another.

    The other aspect of this which is troubling is that they want people to bond with the animals only to take the animal away after a few months and eventually kill it. I know petting zoos exist, but most of the time they don’t run out and kill the animals the minute they stop being cute and cuddly.

    I guess in my view there is a vast difference between raising a cow for a steak and raising a wolf simply to skin it. Opinions vary.

  20. Dan 2015-05-12 13:02

    Susan, you have a valid argument that is not relevant to FEW. FEW claims all of these wolves will be allowed to live out their natural lives. As I noted previously, that is statistically impossible; unless FEW considers death at human hands to be “natural”.

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