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ZooMontana's wolf Simpson diagnosed with rare condition, to be sent out of state for surgery

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Posted at 11:53 AM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 19:53:21-05

(ZooMontana Press Release)

BILLINGS - During the late summer of 2020, ZooMontana took in a young, abandoned, 7-week-old Grey Wolf pup. The wolf was found, fed, and briefly housed by families in Condon MT, and then turned over to Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Kalispell.

After unsuccessful attempts to relocate the pup’s pack, the wolf was transferred to ZooMontana, and aptly named Simpson. During his first few months at the Zoo, officials say he was doing great, with a few oddities attributed to puppyhood. However, as he grew older, his clumsiness and poor eyesight led caregivers to believe something more was going on. After an altercation with one of the Zoo’s adult wolves, his condition deteriorated significantly, ultimately leading the Zoo’s veterinarian team to take him in for a CT scan of his brain. The scan unfortunately showed some bad news; Simpson has Congenital Hydrocephalus.

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“This condition causes an increased production of cerebrospinal fluid, or "water on the brain", that increases intracranial pressure”, said Dr. Haynes Werner, one of the Zoo’s lead veterinarians. “In Simpson's case, his condition is likely to worsen as he gets older, and while he is currently on several medications, long term medical management is not his best option. We got to work to find solutions, and rested on surgery as his best option”, Werner added.

Being this is a unique, highly specialized case, ZooMontana’s veterinary team contacted specialists in the field to tackle the delicate surgery. After an exhaustive search, Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine agreed to take on the case. Simpson will travel with his local veterinary team to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital in March to have a shunt placed in his brain to drain the excess fluid and relieve pressure on his brain. ZooMontana Executive Director, Jeff Ewelt, said that everyone agrees that this surgery is the best option available to Simpson, but wants everyone to know that there are many risks are involved.

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The Zoo stated that surgery is expected to cost about $10,000, with another $10,000 in expected habitat changes to make the Simpson’s life more comfortable. ZooMontana has setup up a donation link on their website, www.zoomontana.org/support-simpson [zoomontana.org], if you would like to help contribute to Simpson’s surgery.