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Wolf attacks director of Paso Robles rescue center

Nikki, a 4-year-old hybrid wolf, is seen at the WHAR Wolf Rescue near the Paso Robles Municipal Airport in 2010. Kristi Krutsinger, co-founder and CEO of WHAR Wolf Rescue, was attacked by one of the facility’s wolves on June 22, 2018.
Nikki, a 4-year-old hybrid wolf, is seen at the WHAR Wolf Rescue near the Paso Robles Municipal Airport in 2010. Kristi Krutsinger, co-founder and CEO of WHAR Wolf Rescue, was attacked by one of the facility’s wolves on June 22, 2018. Tribune file photo

A wolf attacked the founder and CEO of a Paso Robles animal rescue center last week, resulting in injuries that were so severe, she had to have her leg amputated.

The animal — which was living at WHAR Wolf Rescue, a facility located on Adobe Road near the Paso Robles Municipal Airport — bit a significant portion of Kristi Krutsinger's lower leg on June 22, according to Krutsinger and Michael Hill, director of San Luis Obispo County's health agency.

Krutsinger said she was rotating the animal, a 4-year-old male Mexican gray wolf, for feeding at the time of the attack. She said she wasn't wearing proper footwear, which may have contributed to her injuries.

Once Krutsinger was in the wolf's cage, it began biting her foot. She said after giving the animal her shoe, she tried to pull her foot and lower leg away and began calling for help.

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People nearby heard Krutsinger yelling and came to her aid, including an individual with emergency medical technician training.

Krutsinger's injuries were so significant she had to have her lower leg amputated. She said she's since been released from the hospital and is undergoing physical therapy and rehabilitation.

"I'm so grateful to be alive," Krutsinger said. "Even if they had to take part of my leg."

Kristiwharwolf.jpg
Kristi Krutsinger, co-founder and CEO of WHAR Wolf Rescue, gives a presentation at a library program at the San Miguel Community Center in 2015. Krutsinger was attacked by one of the rescue's wolves on June 22, 2018. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The county's Animal Services division responded to the property, and employees euthanized the animal, according to Hill, the health agency director. The animal's head was sent to a lab for a rabies test, which came back negative, he said.

Hill said he wasn't aware of any other similar incidents involving the facility.

"It's sad this happened," Krutsinger said. "I raised him from 4 months old."

Krutsinger said she believes the incident was a result of hierarchical jockeying within the wolf pack — the animal that attacked her was likely in the process of taking over as the alpha of the pack.

She tearfully described the wolf as "so amazing — there's such a thing as too much goodness."

About WHAR Wolf Rescue

Krutsinger co-founded WHAR Wolf Rescue in the late 1990s. The facility houses wolves and wolf-dog hybrids, some of which are taken to public events at schools, wineries and other venues.

Darian Krutsinger, Kristi Krutsinger's son and the rescue center's executive director, said the organization is still working internally on the situation. The future of the facility's event program is still being determined, he said.

Krutsinger said the agency is coordinating with law enforcement and all regulatory agencies to ensure no similar incidents occur in the future.

"There's not a public threat to safety," he said. "There never has been."

Kristi Krutsinger hopes to use the incident to help educate others about wolf-dog hybrids. She said some people breed and sell them in captivity, which she wants to prevent.

"I lost my friend," Krutsinger said. "I lost my pack member."

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden

Marilu Elder of Atascadero wants to run a pot-bellied pig rescue on her property and wants the city to redefine her pets as miniature pigs.

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