Dakota Zoo teaches safe methods for immobilizing animals

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Tell a 3-year-old to brush her teeth, and she might go ahead and do it. But you won't get the same response from a wild animal. Taking care of animals is not only a delicate job, but a year-round job. The Dakota zoo is showing the wildlife community how to make that job a little bit easier.

Large animals like a Bighorn Sheep have medical needs like any other animal, but obviously you can't walk up to them.

"Basically every animal needed something too. we don't just go out and oh let's dart that one just for this class,” said Dakota Zoo Director Terry Lincoln

Properly checking these animals requires sedation, which is why Lincoln chose the zoo's two grey wolves

"With the wolves, we are vaccinating as well as doing a teeth cleaning on them. You know your dog at home you can take to the veterinarian and they can work on them without having to chemically immobilize them. With wolves it's a different story,” said Lincoln.

The Dakota zoo held a seminar showing others zoos from across the country how to safely immobilize animals. Wildlife Vet Mark Johnson says the mixture in the dart is safer for the animals than ones used in the past.

"Some of the immobilizing drugs that we have, we've been using for decades, last a very long time in the animal without an antidote,” said Johnson.

People who came got an up close look at how the drug interacts with the animals and say the knowledge can be used for more than just medical purposes.

Olivia: " It’s very important in case we have an emergency like an animal escape, to have that route instead of another, more extreme route. To be able to anaesthetize the animal is a really good backup,” said Olivia Reimers, who works at the Bramble Park Zoo in South Dakota.

The effects of the dart can be reversed with an antidote and animals are normally back to their feet in a few minutes. The Bighorn Sheep, two bison and two wolves were immobilized. All the animals that were sedated, are now awake and all came back with a clean bill of health.