BILLINGS — Simpson the wolf at ZooMontana has had a rough year. First he was abandoned by his pack near Condon at just seven weeks old and then, after finding a forever home at ZooMontana, he was diagnosed with congenital hydrocephalus, a rare buildup of fluid in the brain. He went through a massive surgery to have a shunt implanted in his head and neck, plus a rocky few weeks of recovery. But now, this almost one-year-old wolf is starting to get back to normal.
Jeff Ewelt, director of ZooMontana, says that he is very pleased with Simpson’s progress: “Since his surgery, Simpson has been doing incredibly well. It was a slow recovery, certainly not going to beat around the bush about that, but since the first two weeks of his recovery, he has taken off. And what's so exciting about his recovery is watching him being able to finally be together with his buddy Onyx, our black colored gray wolf. The two of them can wrestle and they can just be wolves, which probably couldn't have happened unless Simpson had his surgery.”
Simpson is a lucky guy. Surgeries to correct his conditions are tough and expensive. If it hadn’t been for community donations, Simpson may not have made it.
“Here at ZooMontana, the community is our everything,” says Ewelt. “From the days when the zoo hit rock bottom and you know, the community bailed us out during that time. We hope we were able to create something that they are now proud of, I think we're there, but to see them come through again... It is amazing ... Simpson wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the incredible rallying of the community and our team.”
Simpson and Onyx are the youngest of the four wolves at the zoo, and they will soon have an expanded habitat all to themselves. Simpson’s condition makes it difficult for him to interact safely in the same enclosure with the two older wolves, brother and sister, Kali and Kahlua.
Simpson also looks a little different from his pack. He still has some visible signs from his surgery- a shaved head and shaved parts of his legs- but his hair is slowly growing back. Despite his odd appearance, however, the other wolves seem to all be glad to have their precocious little brother back.
Ewelt says that to see Simpson just be a wolf again has been the best medicine: “To watch Simpson today has been incredible. It just really confirms our decision that it was worth putting in the time, effort and dollars into making this animal better...our team came together; our veterinarians came together to make this happen. It's a real success story.”
If you would like more information on Simpson and all the other animals at ZooMontana, check out their website at https://www.zoomontana.org.