The Arizona Republic
Mar. 20, 2005 12:00 AM
A worker who was attacked and injured by two wolves last week while working at
a wildlife park wants those animals protected.
Animal handler Heather Mueller is now in critical but stable condition at John C. Lincoln Hospital-North Mountain in Phoenix after having surgery on Thursday, officials said. Nadia Caillou, public-relations director for the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, said Mueller had a message for doctors before taking some tests on Saturday.
"Don't hurt the wolves; take care of the wolves," Caillou said Mueller told hospital workers.
Two North American wolves attacked the 34-year-old Mueller on Thursday inside an exhibit that was not yet open. The woman suffered major injuries to her arms and legs but remained conscious and amazingly calm after the incident. Mueller, who has worked at the park for two years, was attacked inside a large, enclosed habitat area where the North American gray wolves had recently been released at the park.
Caillou praised Mueller's courage and her professional abilities.
"She is an extraordinarily competent handler," Caillou said. "She is an extraordinary person. She is a fighter. When you are dealing with wild animals, things like this can happen unfortunately."
She added that it's extremely rare for wolves to attack people, and they are usually shy and timid with a natural instinct to run from humans. The two wolves, Caillou said, have been with the park for seven years and never showed any signs of aggression in the past.
After 16 years at Fountain Hills, the park began moving to Camp Verde in May and officially took occupancy of the site June 1, Caillou said.
This spring, the park will open its Serengeti portion, featuring hoofed animals, Caillou said. The portion with predatory animals, including the wolves, is slated to open later.
The park is owned by Dean and Prayeri Harrison.