Luna, an ambassador wolf at the International Wolf Center, euthanized

Her battle with cancer ended peacefully on Tuesday

Chad Richardson, administrator
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-233-7132
Cell: 651-214-4989

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Luna, an ambassador wolf at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, was euthanized Tuesday, Nov. 26.

The 7-year-old wolf had undergone surgery in March 2019 to remove a mass on her left neck area. The biopsy report at that time was inconclusive, but the return of the growth in July led to a second biopsy with a diagnosis of an aggressive spindle cell sarcoma. The July surgery revealed several deep masses embedded in the muscle behind her shoulder blade. Extracting those masses was not advised by the Center’s trusted and longtime veterinarians. Staff prepared to manage Luna to the best quality of life possible despite the terminal diagnosis.

Wolf Care staff closely monitored her and watched in awe as Luna continued to be an active member of the retirement pack at the Center. When Wolf Care staff assessed Luna on Tuesday, she had a good appetite and took her medication, but the mass had begun to rupture, and her pain response was significantly increased. The decision was made to euthanize her based on a recommendation from the veterinarian in Ely.

“When the Center adopted Luna, she had some underlying health conditions that resulted in surgical intervention to provide a plate for a fractured femur,” said the Center’s wolf curator, Lori Schmidt. “At the time, surgeons didn’t think she would make it, but she proved them wrong. She was resilient and showed us the tenacity of wildlife that leads to animals’ survival in the natural world.”

Luna joined the Center’s pack in 2012. She was representative of the Great Plains subspecies of wolves and is a black color phase, believed to be found in less than 5 percent of the population in Minnesota. She and her packmates at the Center have educated tens of thousands of visitors at the Center’s exhibit in Ely, and thousands more around the world through regular YouTube videos, wolf logs and webcams.

In an effort to learn more about Luna’s condition, she 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 the five remaining wolves at the Center’s facility in Ely.

When she was in the exhibit pack between 2012-2016, she was known for displays of dominance, intense possession and assertive behavior. That intensity was heightened during weekly feedings and further increased when the 2016 pups were adopted. These behaviors proved too challenging for the new pups, so Luna was moved into the retirement enclosure in 2016. Initially, staff thought her behaviors were personality driven, but when she was moved her into the retirement enclosure, she became calm and rarely showed the snapping defensive dominance that she had in the main pack. After more research and consultation with specialists, staff believed that her behavior was likely a proactive move to defend herself and her vulnerable condition.

Luna was welcoming of the staff’s individual attention, especially after staff received advanced training on body work techniques that made her more active and improved her physical activity.

“This is an incredibly sad day at the International Wolf Center,” said Chad Richardson, the Center’s administrator. “We know that many of our members closely followed Luna over the years. When her cancer diagnosis was confirmed, we heard from many of those members and followers who were so saddened to get the news. To all of you: Thank you for your kind words about Luna. They’re all being shared with our Wolf Care staff who, as you could imagine, have taken this news especially hard.”

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