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Ely Wolf Center loses ambassador wolf

Boltz suffered from neurological issues in recent months

Keith Vandervort
Posted 11/23/20

ELY - Boltz, a popular ambassador wolf at the International Wolf Center here, was euthanized last week. In recent months, a neurological issue with his hind legs was discovered by wolf care staff, …

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Ely Wolf Center loses ambassador wolf

Boltz suffered from neurological issues in recent months


ELY - Boltz, a popular ambassador wolf at the International Wolf Center here, was euthanized last week. In recent months, a neurological issue with his hind legs was discovered by wolf care staff, and despite the efforts of veterinarians, radiologists, wolf care staff and countless others, no progress could be made to treat the condition.
Upon experiencing the debilitating health issues with his hind legs this fall, Boltz was given an MRI at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital.
Radiologists at the University of Minnesota reviewed the results, as did Dr. Kristine Woerheide from the Ely Veterinary Clinic. Unfortunately, the MRI did not lead to a conclusive diagnosis of Boltz’s condition, according to Chad Richardson, IWC communications director.
“This was a challenging management decision because there was no clear indication that he was fully incapacitated,” said Lori Schmidt, the Wolf Center’s Wolf Curator. “Throughout this condition, he had been waxing and waning in mobility. While it doesn’t appear that the condition had a significant pain correlation, his lack of strength in his back legs made him vulnerable to falling. As colder, icier conditions arrived, he was struggling to become mobile. We are ethically obligated to manage an animal’s behavioral health and the anxiety of his vulnerability was increasing. Dr. Kristine Woerheide’s dedication to this case was phenomenal.  Unfortunately, Boltz didn’t respond to any treatment options.”
Dr. Woerheide conducted a spinal tap last month for additional testing for several potential diagnoses, but test results showed no definitive answers and treatment efforts yielded no results, Richardson said.
After he was euthanized, his body was transported to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostics Lab for a necropsy. Those results will further educate staff as the center continues to manage its four remaining wolves in Ely.
Boltz had been on exhibit at the Ely Wolf Center since 2012. He was representative of the Great Plains subspecies of wolves. That subspecies is typically found in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. He was born in 2012 and joined the Exhibit Pack in July of that year.
He and his pack mates at the Wolf Center have educated tens of thousands of visitors at the center’s exhibit in Ely, as well as thousands of people throughout the world through regular YouTube videos, wolf logs and webcams.
“We are heartbroken to announce this loss to our Ambassador pack,” said Grant Spickelmier, the Wolf Center’s executive director. “But we are consoled by the fact that during his eight years with us, Boltz educated and inspired tens of thousands of people at our interpretive center and online. His educational legacy will go on.”
Boltz was always a low-ranking wolf. Early on, he developed a phobia about summertime insects, particularly wasps, hornets and bees. “When he heard something buzzing overhead, he dropped his head and retreated to the wooded portion of the enclosure,” Richardson said.
“This more elusive behavior added to the visitor experience when they were able to get a glimpse of him watching through the trees. Whether at the visitor center in Ely or via the many webcams, Boltz had many supporters,” he said.
“As most dog owners recognize, canids have unique personality traits,” Schmidt said. “One benefit of socialized wolves is the opportunity for staff to reveal those traits as we teach about wolf behavior.  Boltz was a calm, social pack member that would wait and watch, before trusting a situation. His facial expressions of that mistrust were cherished by staff and visitors.”
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.
For more information about the International Wolf Center, visit

How Boltz got his name

Back in 2012, when Boltz arrived at the International Wolf Center as a pup, he hadn’t yet been named. Staff always wait to give each wolf a temporary name until they’ve had a chance to be around that particular wolf.
Well, this new brown and black wolf had a habit of bolting throughout the yard and through any open gate on a dead sprint. He soon became known to staff as Bolts.
Within a few months, a naming contest was held and several suggestions came in, including one for Boltz from a longtime supporter named Raylene. Obviously, that was the name that was eventually chosen.
“The ‘Z’ was added to Boltz to give him a bit more class than his nickname,” said Ely Wolf Center’s wolf curator, Lori Schmidt. “Wolf care staff were pleased that the Name the Pup contest winner was already a familiar name for Boltz, and that it honored his personality.”
When news was shared last week that Boltz was euthanized because of ongoing medical concerns, Raylene responded with an email.
“It speaks to the impact that the International Wolf Center has had on so many people,” Schmidt said.
Here it goes:
“I was up there at the Wolf Center in the summer of 2004 as a wolf nanny to Grizzer, Maya and Nyssa. It changed my life. Seeing and working with Lori (Schmidt) and all she knows about wolves convinced me to move forward with my dreams. When I came home, I went to college as an adult female and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Conservation Management and I now run a rehab center of my own here in Texas for all wildlife, but focusing on coyotes. We have five adults and four pups at this time. It is what I have always dreamed of doing. That summer at the International Wolf Center was just what I needed. I am sad that sweet Boltz is gone, but in what we do for animals we have to make decisions on what is best for them and their wellbeing. I know he is better now, but most definitely missed. Boltz, we love you boy, and you will always be in my heart.”


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