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Zoo wolf that escaped during hurricane led safely home

November 8, 1997

GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) _ The call of the leash turned out to be stronger than the call of the wild.

A zoo wolf that escaped during Hurricane Danny in July, then roamed the Alabama coast surviving on tourists’ leftovers, was led back home by the owner of a dog the wolf took a liking to.

``I’d jiggle Rocky’s chain and he’d just follow along,″ David Peleschak said of his milelong walk with the Arctic wolf named Paladin.

It was one of three wolves that escaped from Zooland in Gulf Shores during the hurricane July 19. One was recaptured and the other had to be shot. Paladin was spotted roaming the resort island repeatedly, but zoo workers never got close enough to catch him.

Peleschak and his wife, Kim, were getting their children ready for school Friday morning when he saw the 40-pound family dog playing in the yard with the 100-pound, snow-white wolf.

``Kim said, ’He follows Rocky; I’ll bet if you were to walk Rocky, he’d follow you,‴ Peleschak said.

Peleschak put a leash on his dog and started the one-mile trip to Zooland, including crossing a busy four-lane highway. The unusual parade prompted motorists to stop and gawk.

Once inside the zoo compound, Paladin’s wild instincts resurfaced and he bolted, but a zoo worker shot him with a tranquilizer dart.

Zooland’s veterinarian David Dykes said the wolf was in good shape.

During his four months of freedom, Paladin apparently spent much of his time in heavily wooded Gulf State Park, eating scraps left by tourists. Once the tourists thinned out this fall, he became more visible, eating out of garbage cans at restaurants and grocery stores.

The wolf never harmed anyone while on the run.