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Sister Zoo Vets
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf examines sea otter Clara

If Dr. Karen Wolf needs another skilled set of hands for a tiger procedure, she knows who to call.

And if Dr. Allison Case has a beaver or owl that needs attention while she’s out of town, she has a second clinic just a van-trip away.

The two women are head veterinarians of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, respectively – and these sister zoos have veterinary teams with a long tradition of helping each other.

“People don’t realize there’s this crossover,” explains Dr. Wolf of the unique veterinary partnership. “I have absolute confidence that if I or my associate veterinarian Dr. Kadie Anderson were to be ill, Dr. Case could step right in. And I’m also confident that I could fill in at Northwest Trek. It’s really nice to have such a collaborative effort.”

“I see it as that we’re one large entity, sharing two zoological parks,” sums up Dr. Case.

Vet Collaboration

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park Veterinarian Dr. Allison Case examines cougar Carly

The veterinary crossover began years ago, when Dr. Case was a full-time veterinarian for both Point Defiance Zoo and Northwest Trek. She spent 11 years caring for animals at both places, and still has a deep familiarity with both the system and the older animals at the Tacoma zoo.

Since 2017 she’s been full-time solely at Northwest Trek, but is still on call to help at Point Defiance when necessary.

“If one of the Zoo vets is out of town, I can provide help,” Dr. Case explains.

Point Defiance Zoo vets don’t come to Northwest Trek as often – with many more animals, their days are busy – but there’s a long tradition of the Zoo intern veterinarian spending time at the wildlife park to gain extra knowledge and experience in procedures unique to outside large-animal work – like doing moose x-rays in the forest.


Sharing Red Wolves, Knowledge and More

The Trek-Zoo collaboration is in full swing with red wolves. A leader in bringing back these iconic American animals from extinction, Point Defiance Zoo cares for its breeding pack of red wolves at Northwest Trek, out of public view. Zoo vets come regularly to care for them, but Dr. Case steps in when necessary, and Dr. Wolf is the veterinary advisor for the red wolf Species Survival Plan.

Finally, while Dr. Case, Dr. Wolf and Dr. Anderson are all equally trained professionals, everyone has their area of deep experience to share across the animal kingdom.

Intern Veterinarian Dr. Kadie Anderson examines clouded leopard Orchid

“Not everyone can know everything about every species,” explains Dr. Wolf. “Dr. Case has years of working with elephants from earlier in her career. She’s also extremely good with ungulates, so we bring her any hoof-stock questions we have.”

“Together we have a wide range of unique experiences and specialized training,” adds Dr. Case. “Dr. Wolf loves a deep dive into internal medicine cases, and has a tremendous amount to offer when discussing challenging medical problems. We zoo vets are always exchanging information, even across the country. The veterinary network of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians is always buzzing with tips or studies or radiographs. That sharing is one of my favorite things about being a zoo vet.”

The two zoos’ veterinary technicians also share specialized equipment. While there has been tremendous growth in Northwest Trek’s veterinary equipment, Dr. Wolf supports sharing Zoo properties such as laser therapy and dental imaging equipment.

“Being a zoo veterinarian involves a lot of collaboration,” sums up Dr. Wolf. “That’s what makes it fun.”

“We’re one huge family,” agrees Dr. Case.