A WOLF which escaped from Colchester Zoo this morning has been shot dead.

The escaped animal was reported missing today at 8am after damage was seen to a fence. One wolf remained in the enclosure, one returned immediately, one was stunned and returned and two others died after being shot after getting out of the damaged enclosure.

At 3pm Essex Police tweeted that there had been a positive sigthing of the animal and it was being contained.

Colchester Zoo said at 3.50pm "Please note a full explanation/report will be given in due course after conclusion of the events please bear with us at this difficult time."

At 3.57pm there were reports Colchester Zoo had a "positive sighting" of escaped wolf reportedly cowering and frightened in undergrowth.

At 4.02pm Colchester Zoo was still open although lower half of the zoo has been closed off as a precaution while police search for the wolf.

At 4.14pm there were reports gunshots had been heard near Colchester Zoo.

At 4.17pm there were uncomfirmed reports the Essex wolf has been shot dead.

At 4.19pm the body of dead wolf was seen loaded into a 4x4.

At 4.26pm Colchester Zoo was refusing to confirm reports that wolf has been shot dead while the zoo prepares a statement.

At 5pm The Zoo said: "They are dangerous, wild animals, not pets, they would have posed a very real risk to the public."

At 5.01pm Colchester Zoo said it doesn't know how the damage to the perimeter fence occurred.

Police teams had been searching fields around the zoo and Maldon Road. 

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Police are assisting staff at Colchester Zoo in the search for a wolf which escaped.

Police at Birch Park overlooking the zoo.

“The helicopter and ground units are searching Maldon Road and the fields surrounding.

“Officials at the zoo said Wolves are naturally timid but should not be cornered in any way.”

This picture was taken of the wolves in the snow last year

A picture of one of the wolves taken in 2012

A statement released by the zoo after the shooting of the escaped wolf said: "At 7.30am on Tuesday 26th November, it was discovered that the perimeter fence to Colchester Zoo’s wolf enclosure had been damaged and five of the six timber wolves had left the enclosure. It is not known at this stage how the damage occurred despite the fence being routinely checked on a daily basis.

One of the wolves returned immediately of its own accord and one was darted and recaptured. Unfortunately, an anaesthetic dart takes 15 minutes to take effect and may not work at all in a stressed animal so two wolves that had left the perimeter of the zoo had to be shot. They are wild animals and in an unpredictable situation they would have posed a risk to the public.

The remaining wolf has now been located and very sadly also had to be destroyed.

We have obviously had a very difficult day and would be grateful for your consideration. We have nothing further to add at this time."

A police officer in Birch earlier today

The police helicopter was involved in today's hunt

Police closed the road outside the zoo 

Worried residents discuss the drama

Zoo staff were involved in the search for the missing wolf

Land owner Nicholas Cotswold makes his way to a Colchester Zoo staff member on his land