It has been a challenging month, but after some concerning days, Aidan seems to be making some progress. In this photo, there is a significant amount tail details to interpret. The pack is doing a chase round the enclosure. focusing on Grayson who has his tail tucked and is an a slightly crouched position. Unfortunately, that is a somewhat common occurrence for the more timid of the two yearlings and is usually instigated by Denali. Boltz is closest to Grayson with a t-2 tail, which follows a straight line from his back in more of a predatory mode. Denali is next on top of the hill with a slightly lower tail posture and more of a wagging sweep indicating less intensity and a bit more social. Just below Denali is Axel, who has an elevated T-1 tail above the back and a closer look at the photo shows his direct eye contact with Aidan. Axel’s focus is Aidan even though he is running with the pack, hence the T-1 tail. The most interesting observation here is Aidan. It has been over a month since he started to lose confidence and became a target of the pack. Aidan reverted to his yearling days when Maya would physically drive him to the den site. He had the same timid, tucked tailed cowering behaviors when he was the omega of the pack. But, this was our pack leader, would we be able to get him back to leadership or would he be able to co-exist at a lower rank? We still don’t know how this will all play out, but from this moment in time, Aidan has a high tail with a slight rise at the base indicative of a wolf with attitude and yes, confidence. If he’s not the focus and he is in the safety zone, he is showing more moments of confidence than of intimidation. This is progress. We are also confident that as spring emerges and hormones transition to the seasonal influence of prolactin, things will get easier for Aidan. But, as a wolf approaching 10 years of age, retirement is inevitable. So, why not pull him now? This tail posture also shows a wolf who still wants to be part of the pack.
If you are a frequent viewer of our webcams, you may have noticed a significant change since last week. Our pack leader Aidan appears to have lost confidence when dealing with the pack. He has reverted back to using a safety zone of the main den to avoid testing, reminiscent of his early life in the pack. As a yearling, Aidan was the pack omega and often forced to stay near the confines of the densite due to Maya’s dominance, now as an aging pack member, he seems to be displaying similar behaviors. I am posting a video on the Center’s Youtube channel that shows a clip of this behavior as a yearling and what we have been monitoring in the last week. This may be a temporary winter dominance issue or may be a transition into retirement for Aidan. Wolf Care staff are assessing the situation throughout the day. Staff are discussing the behaviors of each wolf to determine the best management action. It does appear that Aidan still wants to lead this pack as indicated by his ear and tail posture when the pack is moved to an adjacent holding area, but less confident when the pack is active around him. Aidan has a special affinity for Grayson, who has been observed going into the den with Aidan at various times throughout the week. This is a challenging time for staff to ensure we are making the right decision for the pack and for Aidan. We have a wolf care webinar on Friday, February 2nd where we will discuss our management plan. If you are interested in being a subscriber to all 12 webinars or as a single webinar viewer, the registration is online at https://wolf.org/programs/webinars/
Aidan, our dominant pack leader of the Exhibit Pack had a growth removed from his front left leg. Staff have been monitoring its presence for several months, but a sudden change in size prompted the vet care team to decide to remove the growth. This was a 2nd growth removed in the last 6 months, with the first found to be a low grade mass cell tumor that had not metastasized, This second growth was adjacent to the first growth, but not connected in the tissue. He had not shown any clinical signs of illness and staff were diligent in developing a recovery plan to reunite the pack once Aidan gained full mobility from the anesthesia. Surgery was completed by 8:30 am on Wednesday November 8th the pack was reunited with Aidan still showing strong leadership by 4 pm that day. The wolf care team will be monitoring pack activity and Aidan’s progress through recovery. This was a particularly poignant surgery as colder temperatures and snowy weather can increase pack intensity, especially testing from the young arctic wolves, Grayson and Axel. In addition, wolf care staff had a some somber moments as we remembered the loss of Lakota on November 7, 2008…the year Aidan was born.
If you are interested in contributing to Aidan’s medical expenses or in honor of any of past, current or future ambassador wolves, please consider a gift to the Wolf Care Fund. On the donation page, under Destination, select the drop down menu box for Wolf Care and include any special comments or memories you would like to share in the comments section.
This week’s log was submitted by Wolf Photography Weekend Participants – Jim and Lexy Hilton
Aidan’s (center) last hurrah? Planning for his retirement party…or his last fight? The oddsmakers are busy. Bets are being placed. Will Aidan’s brother, Denali (top right), step out with Aidan or stay behind and take charge in his absence? Or will the newcomer and youngster, Axel (bottom center), with the support of his younger and more aloof brother, Grayson (top left), be next in line over Boltz (middle right) who is four years their senior and more of a lone wolf?
With the growth of the 2016 pups comes an inevitable shift of dominance within the pack. However, Aidan isn’t quite ready to call it quits. Here he is in his glory, diligently dispersing quarrels and keeping everyone in line. It is a rare moment when the dominant male can have a lengthy moment of peace.
As pack leaders age, they seem to develop some strategies to work smarter and not harder. Aidan has recently displayed a strategy that avoids the troublesome task of defending food from fellow pack mates or hungry ravens; Take your food to the den and sleep in the den opening. It appears to be successful, as he now does this for even the mid-week feedings of smaller amounts. This can result in some challenges for wolf care making staff work harder and smarter. Aidan still gets a post-feeding medication to aid his digestive issues and there are time he requires a den-side delivery service.
This week’s logs were written by the Bio 1476 – Wolf Ethology Students:
The warmer temperatures have all the wolves a bit lethargic. We saw very little activity from Aidan during the day, especially after their Saturday night feeding. The wolves received an enrichment of bear hair and Aidan actively participated with the pack in investigating the hair. We saw some play bouts between Aidan and the yearlings and he seems to be fully recovered from his surgery. These play bouts seem to put a spring back in Aidan’s step. Aidan continues to keep a watchful eye on all the activities in the wolf yard. He was weighed recently and is a bit less than his previous weight, but still relatively in line with Denali.
Even though we had a clean removal of the mast cell tumor and test results identified it as lower risk issue, we are at a heightened level of awareness when it comes to Aidan. For those of you who have recorded data whether it be a Wolves after Dark program, a behavior team after an introduction or an Ethology class, you have probably heard us say “…every observation is important to note, even when a wolf is sleeping…” This is even more critical now, not only has we are going on 2 months since his tumor removal, but as we transition from age 9 to age 10, the time frame when we see changes in pack leadership.
After the removal of Aidan’s mast cell tumor, it took him some time to feel well enough to fully engage with the pack. Based on experience, the 14-day course of antibiotics didn’t help him feel any better either. Initially, he stayed in the upper part of the enclosure, usually resting with Grayson. Within a few days, he started to localize on the pump housing where the layer of sand and metal housing offered a cool place to lie and catch a breeze. He would watch and only intervene on pack issues when the activities reached a certain level. On the 24th of June, we began a weekend program called “Pups at One Year”; Participants not only observed the wolves during the day, but had the opportunity to stay overnight and watch the pack during their most active sessions. Participants commented that their observations of Aidan changed from more reserved behavior on Saturday to a more interactive pack leader by Sunday morning. They commented that even when Aidan was more reserved, his presence was powerful. Without physically interacting, he could walk up to Denali or Boltz who would be asserting dominance on the yearlings and with one look, Aidan could stop the interaction. On Sunday morning, the pack had a portion of a deer carcass left in the pouring rain and the yearlings were taking tidbits from the carcass despite the rain. Aidan definitely thinks smarter and not harder, dragging the deer carcass under the eaves of the building for his Sunday feeding. The yearlings seemed to take advantage of that move, learning from the pack leader is an ongoing thing for yearlings.
As you may recall, we attempted to complete Aidan’s medical exam on April 17th, but Aidan was resistant the effects of the drugs and we had to postpone it. Since that time, we have been monitoring a growth on his front leg that seemed to be growing at a faster rate and we had ongoing concerns with his discoid lupus and possible correlations with tumors. In consultation with our veterinarian, we are always suspect of fast growing growths on a 9-year old wolf. On June 7th, we completed an immobilization and took him to the vet clinic for x-rays, blood work and a removal of the growth. He has had an odd back leg on and off for the last few months, but the x-rays showed good hip and knee conformation, so the stance issue could be related to a nerve condition. We are still investigating correlations with his discoid lupus and some of the digestive issues that cause him to be slow in processing food after feeding. He is currently on Metoclopramide and Pepcid AC to aid some of his digestive discomfort and he seems to have improved in that aspect. The biopsy from the growth was diagnosed as a Low Grade Mast Cell Tumor which is a better scenario than a High grade Tumor which has a less favorable prognosis. Our Vet was able to get all of the tumor creating clear margins, which is important with this type of growth. There is no indication that the tumor had metastasized or begun to spread to surrounding tissues (via the bloodstream or lymph) and start new tumors. Staff are diligent during wolf care checks to monitor for any abnormalities whether they be external parasites, scrapes, bites or growths, especially on our older ambassadors. It is important to understand the process of veterinary care on the pack leader, Aidan couldn’t be removed from the pack for this procedure or for any recovery time. If we took him out, the pack could be testing upon his return, especially Boltz. We managed this scenario with the pack going into the east side retirement area and Aidan recovering within the Exhibit. The immobilization drugs were completely reversible, but because he was also under gas anesthesia during surgery, he needed a bit more time. Aidan was at the clinic by 7:30 am, back on site by 8:30 am and the yearlings (who were less than a threat to him) were back with him by 11 am. Denali and Boltz waited a few more hours before joining the pack in the heat of the day, when the wolves are least active. We saw some interesting behavior with Grayson actually blocking Denali from approaching Aidan. One of our staff witnessed Aidan, licking his leg while it was lying on top of Grayson’s back. Of course, we would rather he didn’t lick it, but he is keeping it clean. The Wolf Curator spent the first night on site to monitor activities and saw a similar alliance with Grayson and Aidan though the night. While Aidan initially spent time away from the pack in the upper enclosure, by the 3rd day, he was back in charge of the pack and interacting in all activities, even running with the pack. We are continuing to treat the suture site with a topical wound powder and are very glad we were able to successfully keep the pack structure in tact while tending to Aidan’s very important needs.
In this photo, Aidan attempted to enter the pond, but was blocked by Boltz. I was able to capture a bit of this on video for this week’s Youtube. Some of these postures may be too subtle to notice, but with Aidan advancing in age, any posturing is significant. We are still seeing some alliances with the yearlings; Grayson gets preferential treatment from Aidan and Axel seems to be more socially interactive with Denali. Our biggest concern is the focus that Boltz displays towards Aidan. If Aidan is showing any anxiety or signs of weakness, Boltz instantly responds by following, doing a face off or if Aidan is really anxious, Boltz attempts to do a ride-up behavior. Staff protocol is to always greet Aidan as the dominant pack leader first and to watch, but not intervene on rank issues. Intervening and stopping the rank posturing can often give each wolf confidence that they gained some status and make them more intense in future interactions. Our best course of action if tension arises is to provide distractions. Distractions do vary based on the temperature, time since feeding, wind conditions etc., but our list of distractions usually includes ice chunks in the pond, a misting system to keep the wolves cooler, beaver tails, deer legs, bison jerky and miscellaneous hides.
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