New Year’s Eve fireworks blamed for death of wolf at Clay County sanctuary

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The owner of the Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary said hours of powerful New Year’s Eve fireworks led to the death of one of his wolves.

A wolf named Solomon passed away just hours after fireworks finally stopped going off near the Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary. In a video recording obtained by News4Jax, Solomon was seen being comforted by Sanctuary co-owner Debra Knight. Solomon was laying on his side with his head in her arms. He was excessively panting and his legs were paralyzed. Moments later, Solomon took his last breath and died. Sanctuary owner John Knight told News4Jax Solomon died from a stroke.

“His left leg went first, then his right leg. It worked up the rest of his body and he died,” he said.

According to John Knight, Solomon was an older wolf who was sensitive to the loud sound of fireworks. John Knight said on New Year’s Eve, Solomon endured six continuous hours of loud fireworks that frightened him so much that it caused his heart rate to skyrocket.

“We went out to check on him and he had a stroke. He lasted 20 more minutes after that,” John Knight said.

Solomon (Big Oak Wolf Sanctuary)

John Knight has rescued dozens of wolves and wolf-dog hybrids that have come from bad situations. He said what happened to Solomon can happen to any older wolf once their heart rate goes through the roof following a terrorizing ordeal such as six hours of continuous fireworks.

“What happens is, they’re terrified and their heart rate goes through the roof. In older animals, their tissue isn’t as strong, and there’s not a lot of integrity in the blood vessels and everything, so once that blood pressure goes up and stays up so long, they can have what’s called a cerebrovascular accident, which is a stroke,” John Knight said.

Unfortunately, Solomon was not the first animal at the sanctuary to die following a night of prolonged fireworks. John Knight said Bariah, a wolf-dog hybrid, also died from a stroke following New Year’s Eve fireworks the year before. John Knight said that when these animals are in the wild, they simply run away from loud noises and keep running until they are far enough to feel safe. But in the sanctuary, the animals can only run so far. They can also hide in underground dens on the property, but John Knight said that’s not enough.

“They still can’t escape something that’s 120 to 150 decibels,:” he said.

But it’s not just wolves that are affected by fireworks. Dogs are also affected. John Knight said he’s not against people enjoying fireworks, but he is asking folks to consider neighbors with pet dogs that may be sensitive to prolonged hours of really loud fireworks.

“Ninety percent of dogs are affected by fireworks. You may be having fun, but you’re killing someone’s wonderful pet. Just remember that if you overdo it, there’s a good chance you could kill your neighbor’s pet,” he said.

According to multiple published reports News4Jax found online through Google searches, there have been documented cases of dogs dying of heart attacks and strokes both in the United States and the United Kingdom after they were spooked by fireworks.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, pet owners can protect their pets during fireworks demonstrations by:

  • Turning on soft music and moving the pet to an interior space or room in the house with no windows.
  • Purchasing the pet an anxiety vest that fits snug on the animal.
  • Ask your pet’s veterinarian to prescribe your animal an anti-anxiety medication.

As for the other wolves and wolf-dog hybrids at the sanctuary, John Knight said that they are showing signs of being traumatized by the fireworks but are slowly coming around. He said the fireworks were not typical firecrackers and bottle rockets because when they went off, they shock his house.

John Knight recently wrote a 576-page book called “The Sanctuary.” In the book, he talked about how the wolves he’s rescued have appeared to transition from wildlife to domestic animals by the way they respond and interact with people who take care of them. It’s unclear if being traumatized has caused them to revert back.


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