Today, Nubee is 17 days old. Nubee has been seeking interaction with her littermates more frequently. Although her littermates are readily able to dominate her she remains very fiesty and is often able to withstand their dominant behavior. Her feeding behavior has also began to pick up. Just days ago staff often struggled to feed little Nubee, but now she seems to readily take to the bottle.
Today Grizz is 27 days old. First morning with the pups program started. Griz slept on the concrete floor and did not appear to be bothered. He was much more relaxed than in previous presentations. Grizz is also starting to show more dominance to both Nubee and Groan, but is still submissive to his handlers. Grizz has been feeding voraciously from the bottle and is still not eating very much weaning formula given in a bowl. He is gaining weight steadily and growing fast.
Today Nubee is 21 days old. She continues increasing in coordination, mobility, and strength. She is doing well in the public programs and has been sleeping through them. Nubee has a large vocal variety. She frequently growls when she is displeased with staff and littermates. Nubee initiated dominance over Groan – Groan remained on her back – letting Nubee bite her. During feeding times, she does not like to be held for long, and likes to feed from the bottle while lying next to her siblings. Nubee's bottom incisors and canines are continuing to develop and erupt.
It's the start of the 25th anniversary celebration weekend, and the Youtube Posting will be delayed until Monday to show some of the weekend events. Grizzer did some fairly intense testing of Shadow on Thursday morning. It was preceded by some time spent in holding, when the wolves can get extremely excited. The upper windows of the Exhibit were washed, which requires all wolves to be locked off, and staff were prepping the wolf yard for the first Behind the Scenes programs of the summer. These changes to the wolves environment were enough to cause some tension, and redirection. It is very important to understand that wolf management requires a consistent and calm style, and when that changes, any underlying tension comes to the surface.
Grizzer has been receiving some increased dominance from Shadow, and some testing from Denali. The concern that we have is that Shadow may be overcompensating his dominance due to his joint stiffness, and Grizzer may redirect to Shadow if Denali continues to take advantage of him. Normally, Grizzer is very non-confrontational. His observations are more likely to show a calm wolf with a few bouts of chasing and wrestling, then more calmness. Managing wolf exhibits requires constant observations of all wolves, their normal behavioral patterns and any deviation from normal.
Staff have observed the pack in the last week, and there seems to be a pattern of Maya lying closer to Aidan and Grizzer associating with Denali. Aidan still has some anxiety, and receives some dominance when there is excitement in the enclosure such as enclosure enrichments or delivery of fly ointment. Overall, Aidan does seem to tolerate the situation, even though he is vocal about the attention. After he receives dominance, he follows Maya and begins soliciting attention almost immediately. He has displayed more fore-leg stabs than any other wolf on exhibit.
Denali is one of the easiest wolves to manage when it comes to fly ointment. He will stand still and allow staff to apply ointment to ears, feet, legs, toes etc. He is the model wolf when it comes to physical care, but behaviorally?, that's another challenge. Denali seems to have no consistency to testing, whether it be staff or lately Maya. When Maya is engaged in dominance over Aidan, Denali has been actively grab biting Maya, creating more tension for Maya. When Maya does address the issue directly with Denali, he either runs, or does a face off with high tail. These are two significantly different responses. With staff, Denali will either test by grabbing anything near him, or he will rest his head on staff's shoulders and just sit there. This is why wolf care staff are trained to expect the unexpected, and why there is no such thing as an expert in captive wolf management because every day is different and every wolf personality as well as pack dynamics can influence a wolf's behavior.
Grizzer is improving in social interactions. On the first few days after Shadow's retirement, he was more aloof, and seemed a bit anxious. In the last week, this has improved, and he is again socially interacting with Denali in wrestling behavior. Wolf care staff did two things that helped stimulate Grizzer. The first was the application of fly spray on the ground to stimulate scent-rolling. This was a management need to help apply fly repellent to the wolves coats, but it served to stimulate Grizzer who is obsessed with scent-rolling. The second activity to help Grizzer related to a dog pup. As many of you will recall, Grizzer is extremely social to pups. We had one of our Vermilion students bring their 3 month old dog pup to the outer gates and in the observation area. Grizzer was extremely excited, and was face to face through the windows with the pup (we would never risk a dog pups life by bringing them into a pack of wolves, it is even risky to introduce wolf pups). This worked, the following day, Grizzer was far more socially interacting, if we're lucky, the dog pup may have stimulated an increase in prolactin hormone, a naturally occuring nuturing hormone that cycles in summer.
The most noteable behavior since Shadow's retirement is the fact that Maya, while still showing some dominance, has much less tension. She clearly will have an influence on who leads this pack, but for right now, she is involved in all interactions. The wolf care staff will be coordinating a few more observation periods in the upcoming months to watch these dynamics unfold. Most observations need to occur after hours, during the cooler parts of the day, so watch the web for short – one night programs called "Wolf Watches", allowing people to participate in these observations.
Malik has certainly increased his social interactions since Shadow's retirement. This includes interacting on the den site with Shadow, but also more tolerance for staff that used to intimidate him. One benefit of retirement is the fact that a wolf can sleep all day long with no programming obligations, and Malik and Shadow are both showing a tendency to get long rest periods during the day. The only disturbance they have is when the temperatures increase and staff turn on a misting hose over their enclosure. Both wolves seem to enjoy standing in the mist and cooling off. But, don't assume 10-year old wolves are beyond trouble. Between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, one of the retired wolves (we assume Malik, only because he has a history of hose biting), managed to get the sprinkler hose, and shredded the hose into several parts. A new hose was installed on Monday, with some restraints to keep it out of reach.
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.