12 February 2021

For each log, I try to select a photo from the Explore.org Gallery that represents the weekly behavior of the Exhibit Pack.  Thanks to “jdy4wildlife” for posting this image of Grayson resting near his deer carcass.  Notice the outstretched paw that signals to the scavengers that he still has possession even though he is trying to nap.   This past week has been our first real blast of winter weather, with a polar vortex delivering some 25-30 below zero air temperatures.  Wolf Specialist Abby Keller provided some good details on wolf adaptations to cold climates.

Our wolves are all subspecies that are equipped to handle subzero temps in the wild! Gray wolves have an insulating undercoat with guard hairs to keep them warm in extreme temps. In the winter, they also develop a thick layer of body fat to keep them insulated. The paws of gray wolves are covered with fur that insulates their paw pads and increases traction on slippery surfaces. Their paws are also a kept at a lower temperature than their core body heat, minimizing the amount of heat loss in extremities. Blood that flows into the paws naturally heats up the blood returning to the heart; this phenomenon is referred to as countercurrent heat exchange. This saves metabolic energy and prevents the core from cooling down due to heat loss at the extremities. This mechanism is also found in penguins!

That being said, we do our best to offer as much comfort to them as possible. All of our wolves have 24/7 access to enclosed areas that block the wind and keep out snow. They also have several dens that the can use to rest in if they so choose. We provide multiple beds of hay for them to rest on off of the cold ground, as well as increased meals to keep their metabolism up, thus increasing their core body temp.