Escaped wolf recaptured in Britain after hour-long lockdown

A wolf that escaped from the UK Wolf Conservation Trust's premises in Reading, England, is led by a handler after being recaptured, Thursday Jan. 18, 2018. Witnesses said the wolf got free after strong winds knocked down a fence at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)

LONDON — A wolf escaped from its British sanctuary Thursday as high winds battered the country, triggering hours of concern and a lockdown at a nearby school. The animal was eventually recaptured unharmed but questions remained about exactly how it escaped.

Witnesses initially said high winds had knocked down a fence at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust near Reading, 45 miles (73 kilometers) west of London, which provides sanctuary for 10 wolves.

A sanctuary official, however, said later that the wolf appears to have been intentionally set free.

The wolf named Torak was on the loose for more than five hours, causing officials to lockdown a nearby school and to warn the public not to approach the animal if encountered.

Teresa Palmer, founder of the wolf trust, said the wolves are routinely padlocked into enclosures. She said she received a call that a wolf was on a footpath outside the sanctuary Thursday and found that the gate to its enclosure had been left open.

"I think somebody deliberately opened the gate," she said. "A lot of people don't particularly believe in having animals in captivity."

Palmer said Torak was frightened but that he was eventually coaxed into a trailer without the use of tranquilizer guns.

"The fact he went through a field of sheep shows he never would have been a danger to the public. Now he's given up. He's had his moment of freedom," she said.

Palmer and her late husband founded the wolf conservation trust more than 20 years ago.

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