Axel’s didn’t have a very warm welcome for Rieka in the fall of 2021 when she joined the pack.  We also so Axel’s physical coat condition decline after the arrival of the 2022 pups, Caz and Blackstone.  We are still trying to figure out what diagnostic tests we can run to come up with an answer, but it seems like this may be a stress induced situation. He has responded well to fish oil supplements and a species specific probiotic.  We will likely require bloodwork to get a full assessment of his health, but that requires anesthesia and we will need to wait until the wolves have passed their “winter hormone” seasonal dominance.  After the introduction of some of the nutritional supplements, we have noticed Axel’s tolerance of Rieka improve.

Axel has been posturing over all of his pack members as the cooler weather is giving us a glimpse of fall conditions.  We are watching this closely, as Denali seems to get the most focus, followed by Grayson.  Boltz will usually try to block Axel from interacting with Denali, but until the summer season ends, the insect phobia is keeping Boltz on the fringe of pack dynamics.  This is likely why Axel has gained so much confidence, but this is Ely, Minnesota, winter is definitely going to be here sooner than later, that’s a factor we can guarantee. 

Axel and Grayson posture about rank, which Wolf Care staff have seen since the two arrived as pups. We don’t think that will ever stop. Axel is typically the most active wolf in the pack and is often the first to check something out, even in the summer heat that has made its way to Ely.
Tadpoles are now present in the pond and Axel seems to enjoy time in the pond with Grayson.   It is easy to identify Axel, he has completely shed his undercoat, and he is usually the arctic wolf doing a ride-up or mount on any pack mate willing to stand for it.  In this photo, notice Grayson’s hackle response from his neck to his tail.  In the Ethogram, we code this as H1234.  

In the wolf world, communication is not restricted to howls and growls, there is a significant amount of body language that is used to express intent and in some cases, conflicting messages.  Axel’s photo is a prime example of a body posture called a Stand Over saying “I am asserting my status” and an ear posture that is Pricked and Turned Sideways that says “I’m not so sure I should be doing this”.  Axel is young,  and with youth often comes a strong drive to test those around them, but he lacks the experience to follow-through, which can create some apprehension.  Denali is on the receiving end of this behavior and as a wolf approaching 11 years of age, he’s seen youthful exuberance before and weathered it quite well. 

In contrast to Grayson’s more timid behavior, Axel is more likely to be on the other end of the spectrum, boldly going wherever he wants.  In this log’s photos, he displays a ride-up behavior on Denali.  Although, if you carefully look at Axel’s ears, they are pricked forward in interest, but turned sideways with a bit of intimidation.  In our Ethogram, we code this as “EPTS”.  This one behavior helps sum up Axel’s personality.  He has a strong desire to actively engage in testing behavior with all pack mates, but gets a bit intimidated when he gets himself in the middle of things.  The other pack members seem to have a lot of tolerance for his behavior, especially Denali.  If there is a wolf that is allowed to share the carcass with Denali, it’s usually Axel.  

This log was written by, Christina Wagner, a participant of the Wolf Photography Weekend.

Axel was very playful and initiated play more than the rest of the wolves. There were a couple times that Axel did not back down from more forceful play. He would tuck his tail while striking back at Boltz. During the evening carcass feeding, Axel would taunt Denali in trying to successfully obtain a piece of meat.  He was a very engaging wolf and loved the viewing windows.


This log was written by Porsha Cline, a participant of the Wolf Photography Weekend.

Axel was playful and initiated play with the other wolves.  He would bump into them, as well as display inhibited biting at them.  He would bow down attempting to initiate chase behavior from the other wolves.  He was quite successful at engaging the rest of the pack, and would assume submissive postures when they would engage with him, such as rolling over, lying on his back and submitting to neck pinning. 


Some of the behaviors that indicate a wolf is showing status is their tendency to mark with a Raised Leg Urination or RLU and when they carry their tail high above their back in what’s called a T-1 tail posture.   Axel has been displaying both, but since the retirement of Aidan, he’s had more resistance to his behavior from Boltz and Denali.  In this post’s photo, Axel was photographed on top of the pump housing during a weekly pack feeding.  Normally, he and Denali shared the carcass while the rest of the wolves waited.  On July 28th pack feeding, 3 days after Aidan was retired, Axel sat with his ears pricked and turned sideways, displaying a bit of intimidation as Denali and Boltz shared the carcass and kept him at bay.  We expect there will be more change in individual wolf alliances and subsequent dynamics before the pack decides on leadership, but for Axel, it appears to have taken him by surprise. 

Axel is climbing out of the pond after a summer enrichment program designed to keep the wolves cool during the warmest parts of the day.  These enrichment’s include items such as beaver tails and deer feet frozen in an ice block and thrown into the pond.  If you zoom in close you will notice the webbed front paw that aids wolves not only in swimming, but gaining traction in uneven terrain and helping walk on snowy conditions. 

Axel sure keeps Denali young.  In this week’s photo, Axel is doing a ride-up behavior to Denali.  This is a great example of the difference between a T-1 tail posture over the back and a T-2 posture, forming a straight line from the back.  Both,  T-1 and T-2 postures may indicate arousal or excitement; It could be dominance, it could be social or it could be antagonistic threat, it is important to watch other indicators.  But, the T-2 or straight back tail is often a more focused posture associated with a predatory drive, meaning a bit less social response.  The wag of the tail may also indicate the intent of the interaction; the speed and tightness of the wag should be noted as well.  Some of the most social (and submissive) greetings are when the tail makes a full circle.  In Axel’s case, the T-1 tail is as rigid as a stick and with little movement, likely expressing an aggressive arousal.  As a 2-year old, he appears to have stabilized his weight at about 103 pounds.

This photo was taken in April and shows Axel and Grayson in full winter pelage, when identification of these brothers is relatively easy.  Grayson has a darker saddle that is prominently distinguished across his back.  But, shed out the undercoat that makes those darker guard hairs more prominent and add a little sun bleaching of the white hair and identification can become more challenging.  Once you spend some time observing pack dynamics, behaviors can be a method for identification.  But, for wolf care staff that deliver morning medications to 5 wolves, often inches apart from each other, they need to be keyed into the facial characteristics of each wolf.   Can you ID the different facial patterns of these two?  We have spoke of this past logs, but it’s always fun to test ourselves when we get a photo like this.  Thanks to Kelly Godfrey for capturing this photo at the Exhibit Pack greeting rock.  Showing a longer and more slender muzzle is Axel who is standing in front of the rock.  Showing a broader and more classic shaped muzzle is Grayson, lying on the the rock.