Over the weekend, Boltz continued to take a recommended dose of prednisone in hopes that we would see an improvement in his mobility.  While he does seem like he is more stable and less anxious, there is still an issue with his gait and strength in his back legs, particularly his left leg.

We should hear the results of the Blastomycosis test , which can impact the Central Nervous system and cause lameness.  Although he has no other classic symptoms of blasto, including loss of appetite, lesions, lung congestion etc.

If the prednisone is determined to be working, we would like to taper him off to a lower dose that will still give him relief, but reduces the issues associated with a higher dose of prednisone.  The risk of prednisone is that it is an immune suppressant, and we will certainly be watchful of any other potential viral or bacterial influenza or pneumonia issues that can present itself as winter approaches.

There are a few more possible conditions that are on the Veterinarian’s list.  We will be assessing testing methodology this week as we continue to strive for a diagnosis.  He has settled into the Pack Holding Area and has a thick straw bed near the wolf yard observation area that is a frequent place for him to rest. He is able to climb on the den and takes advantage of the warmth of the sun on some cooler fall days.  He and Grizzer have face-to-face interactions, but there is no anxiety observed in either wolf by the updated retirement living arrangements.

The Exhibit Pack’s howling has increased, often with all three wolves howling near the Pack Holding Area.  Boltz was even observed howling with them.  We don’t know if he will ever rejoin the pack. Everything is hinging on a diagnosis.  At this point, he is in a safe environment, with multiple security cameras to monitor his movements and social interactions from wolf care staff and Grizzer.  I plan on sharing more video on our YouTube channel and hopefully post a live feed of Boltz on our upcoming Webinar on Tuesday, Sept. 22, as we welcome the first day of fall.  There is still room to register for the webinar, check out this link to Register for the First Day of Fall Webinar.

The Center has posted a Facebook fundraiser to help support the many medical and logistical efforts needed to help understand Boltz’s condition.  https://www.facebook.com/donate/363942581650869/

The update on Boltz is good news, bad news… I will try to keep you as updated with things that I know, as I know them.  But, please understand, my time is spent with the wolves, trying to figure out his medical issues, reviewing test results and working with the vets to figure out the next steps in diagnostics.

We have Boltz in the Pack Holding Area enclosure (normally a Grizzer hang out).  Grizzer is in the Back Habitat and East Side Retirement areas.  Grizzer and Boltz share a fenceline and gates and are nose to nose in several places.  There is no aggression from either wolf, so the possibility exists for them to be together,  but it is critical that Boltz has some rest time and not be intimidated or encouraged to be active until we can get a diagnosis.  The gates are closed to the main Enclosure, so Boltz cannot be face to face with Axel, Grayson or Denali.  We don’t know if Boltz will be physically, or equally as important, psychologically able to rejoin the Exhibit Pack.  Until we know more, we don’t want any fence to fence aggression that might impact a reintroduction down the road.  But, we still want the wolves to see each other through the “Wolf Yard Viewing Window”, so they know he is still around and not “dispersed’.  Grayson has been howling the most to him and they all hang out and watch as wolf care spends time in retirement (now twice as long with 2 separately managed wolves).  I would say the only thing which is probably concerning for Grizzer is the movement out of the Pack Holding Area and his main “Wolf Yard” window, but we need Boltz close to the building to better manage any medical emergencies.

As I said in the previous post, we immobilized Boltz and took him to the Ely Hospital to have a spinal and head MRI on Tuesday, September 15th.  Here’s what we learned.

The Good News:  The U of MN Neurology department got the images yesterday. They said:  ” there does not appear to be any obvious structural abnormality in any of the imaging.  The lumbar and thoracic spine looked fine to us, as did the brain.  So no disc compression or cancer seen to be causing the pelvic limb paresis.”

The Bad News:  We don’t know what is causing his instability.  He is eating well, getting adequate hydration, socially interacting with staff, but sways in his back legs and seems to occasionally lose support in his back legs (particularly his left leg).  This is not likely a pinched nerve because there was no disc compression on the MRI.  We will continue to work with the vets on diagnostic options and will keep you posted as we learn more. As I am working on this, I just got a text from the Vet, the bloodwork is normal.

I will go forward with the September 22nd Wolf Care Webinar on the First Day of Autumn and will have more opportunity to share video and will include Boltz in the live feed portion of the webinar.  If you would like to register, check out our website at https://wolf.org/programs/webinars/

We conducted a safe and effective immobilization of Boltz on Tuesday, September 15th.  Staff and our Veterinarian from the Ely Vet clinic were extremely patient to avoid causing Boltz any undo stress with the process.  He did extremely well with exceptional vital signs during the event which lasted much longer than a normal exam.  He received a complete MRI of his spine and a brain scan to determine the possible cause of the lack of stability experienced over the last few weeks.  The imagery will be sent to the University of Minnesota Neurology lab for analysis.  We also gathered enough blood for a full panel, a complete blood count and saved some blood to allow for additional testing as needed.  He is also being tested for Blastomycosis, a fungal infection that can be caused by inhaling fungal spores.  After arriving back at the Wolf Care Center, he spent the night inside and will remain in the adjacent Pack Holding Area until we can determine the exact cause of his condition.  At this time, we don’t know if he will rejoin the Exhibit Pack, we need to make sure he is healthy, not only physically, but that he is psychologically ready to join the pack.  Separation from the pack can impact rank and Boltz had some significant challenges in dealing with pack dominance in the past.  We will keep you posted via the wolf logs, but at this time, we will not be featuring him on a webcam, but will be monitoring 24 hours a day on surveillance.

As we have previously posted, we tried some non-invasive treatments in hoping to find some improvement for Boltz before we put him through a much riskier procedure of immobilization and transport to the vet clinic.

We had two goals: The first was to find him some relief and improvement in mobility and the second was to get him to feel comfortable going into a more confined space for the potential need for immobilization and further diagnostic work.

In hopes of giving him a less intimidating access to the Pack Holding area, we opened a four-foot by seven-foot gate. While there is a chute with an overhead gate, wolves seem to have an avoidance of things overhead, particularly Boltz, with his phobias of flying insects.

 On Saturday, he came down to the front of the enclosure four times, even going through the gate of the Pack Holding area, but not far enough for staff to close the door without startling him and negatively conditioning him to the space.

Boltz was eagerly taking his meds each morning from Sept. 9 to Sept. 13, with a good amount of meat to keep his energy levels up.

Staff monitored his pattern of movement over the weekend and felt there was not enough improvement after the first five days of the steroid treatment. The vet was on site Monday to implement the next stage of treatment including immobilization, bloodwork, an MRI and x-rays.  This is much more risky in the wooded area of the enclosure where Boltz has chosen to stay.

Wolves, by nature, are fear-avoidant and that tends to be magnified when they are not feeling well.

Boltz rests comfortably in the thick brush

Here is a Boltz update for 10 September 2020:

When working with wolves, we are always dealing with a species that has some innate fear avoidance behavior.  We socialize the pups at a young age to try to overcome some of their fear response in a human environment, but being neophobic is one of the challenges of managing wolves and makes them much different than dogs to manage.  When a wolf is not feeling well, it is not uncommon for them to retreat to a comfortable spot and avoid pack interactions. This may be a defense mechanism to avoid being vulnerable or may just be in response to feeling poorly.  Boltz has found comfort in the upper wooded portion of the enclosure.  Staff bring him food, water and have been diligent in getting him his medication.  Because we don’t have a diagnosis yet, we start at some basics and work our way towards more significant treatment.  His symptoms seem to be pointing towards a disc compression that may improve with steroids.  But, before starting anyone on steroids, we had to make sure he didn’t have an infection (or that a protozoa could be causing some neurological symptoms), so we started him on antibiotics first.  He completed his antibiotics and started a full dose of steroids today.  We hope that if he feels better, he will want to come down to the front medical pen where we can have a better chance of drugging him for a trip to the vet for further diagnostics.   The medical pen and the pack holding area both have chutes with overhead guillotine gates that can be intimidating for wolves even on a good day.  So, we decided to move Grizzer out of the Pack Holding Area for the day and leave the large 4 ft by 8 ft gate open in case Boltz decided to come down for a visit. We will keep you posted on his progress and any further diagnostics.

Over the last two weeks, the wolf care staff have been focused on the well-being of Exhibit Pack member Boltz.  In summer, we typically experience Boltz’s nocturnal behavior  and tendency to seek comfort in the wooded areas of the enclosure, where he tries to avoid the pitfalls of summer including heat, humidity and a variety of insects.  In early August, he was starting to modify his behaviors a bit, coming down to hang out on the top of the den in the breeze.   With the return of the “What’s for Dinner”program in August, Boltz was feeding on the weekly deer carcass with Axel and Denali (actually Denali chooses who gets to eat with him and Boltz is always welcome).  On August 23rd, we were in the middle of several days of 85 degree heat and 90% humidity.  While this wasn’t as oppressive as the 94 degrees on the 4th of July, it was more problematic because the wolves have already begun to grow their winter coats.  Staff noticed Boltz a bit wobbly on his back legs.  There was no noticeable signs of an injury and we have had experience with wolves dehydrating.  The staff gave Boltz a dozen bonedust ice cubes and within an hour he was much better.  But, the next few days, the heat and humidity continued, with Boltz waxing and waning in mobility.  Our first concern was that he may have lost electrolytes while he was dehydrated, so pedialyte ice cubes were added.  Boltz did better and started to eat what was offered (chicken drumsticks are his favorite), but there was something about his movement that just didn’t seem right.  Hours of surveillance video was reviewed (thanks to the Explore.org cameras, we have a better view of the upper hillside and back den).  We pieced together a timeline and shared it with our local vets as well as the U of MN Neurology department.  We are going through several possible diagnosis; treating the less invasive items first in the hopes of improving his stability before having to immobilize him and take him to the clinic.  There is always a risk to immobilization even on healthy animals, much more on animals that may have their immune systems compromised.  The other risk, which we take very seriously, is if we take him out of the pack for vet care, the other wolves may perceive him to be a disperser, essentially ending his place in the Exhibit Pack.   We want to make sure that we exhaust all options before we go through with removal from the pack.  The first treatment includes a 7 day dose of Clindamycin for a possible protozoa.  On his first day of treatment, he gladly ate 4 pounds of meat, had several drinks of water (staff have added two more waterers to the upper enclosure) and is choosing to rest under the dense canopy.  The other pack members frequently walk by when staff are with Boltz and he seems to accept Denali and Grayson, but Axel seems to stimulate a lip curl response from Boltz.  Boltz seems to be more comfortable in the upper enclosure than he is in the lower enclosure near the public.  This  has been our experience with other wolves that aren’t feeling well, they prefer to stay to the back and seek some cover.  We will continue to search the cameras to monitor his behavioral patterns and will keep everyone posted on the wolf logs as we work through some potential issues.  If you have been a follower of our webinars, you may recall that Boltz had a medical exam in May and was diagnosed with an odontoblastoma.  While this type of cancer is benign, there is no doubt we are concerned about the potential for this to be something more serious.

An animals eyes can tell us how they are feeling

Center Staff do enrichments for the Exhibit Pack three times a day, at 12, 2 and 4:15 CDT.
We try many different things, and as the summer goes on, we have noticed that the wolves have their preferences. Some of those preferences include: blueberry ice cubes(Grayson especially loves crunching on them),  frozen soup bones, bonedust pucks, coconut halves, as well as beavertail popsicles, beaver feet popsicles, and deer leg popsicles. Staff throw the popsicles in the pond, to encourage the wolves to go into the water and cool off on hot summer days.
Overall, the wolves didn’t seem to show much interest in the watermelon, citrus fruit, or spice(oregano, cilantro, basil) ice cubes we tried throughout the summer. Another enrichment that we do is to spray cedar oil on the wood chips under the eaves of the building, and on top of the dens. Cedar oil helps repel insects, which helps the wolves, (especially Boltz) feel more comfortable.
Staff have also had success getting Grayson to take food during the afternoon enrichments. Grayson is more timid when it comes to taking and defending food, especially from Denali. It can be a challenge for Grayson to get food when he knows Denali is around. In the afternoon(usually around 2), Grayson is often willing to come to the fence and take food when he knows Denali is sleeping up the hill.
Sometimes enrichment isn’t something provided by the staff. Lately, Grayson and Axel have been observed chasing after the red squirrels and chipmunks that make it into the enclosure. Sometimes the small mammals make it into the trees before they can be caught. That doesn’t stop Axel and Grayson from watching the trees closely, and even jumping up on the trunks. Chasing after tree- dwelling visitors is a very stimulating activity if you are a wolf! 
Written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin

The wolves are definitely tuned into the return of the public to the viewing windows at the Ely, Minnesota Interpretive Center.  In particular, Grayson’s predatory drive is stimulated by the sights and sounds of an active viewing window.  The wolves are generally more crepuscular with activity peaking around dawn and dusk, but with daily wolf care happening from 7:30 – 10, early morning visitors (to the facility or to the webcam), can usually catch wolf activity.  In order to provide some positive stimuli to the wolves, staff also conduct enrichment programs at 12 pm, 2 pm and 4:15 pm that vary between frozen treats, scents, feathers and even some bear bedding from the North American Bear Center, also located in Ely on the west edge of town.

It has been a while since we had time to post a log, but that’s not to say that the wolf care staff haven’t been busy.  Since the Center closed as part of the Governor’s plan to reduce the spread of COVID 19, we have been doing the traditional summer preparations to ensure that the wolves are ready for the heat, the insects and the pack dynamics without the anticipated 4-year cycle of pups.  To accomplish all of our goals, we install a UV filter system to clear the pond water of algae, high pressure misting systems to cool the wolves, made hundreds of enrichment activities, entered into an agreement with Explore.org to add additional cameras on the Exhibit and now that we are again open to the public, conduct multiple enrichment activities a day.  The wolves are all dealing with the summer heat in a variety of ways.  Denali seems to dominate time in the den and is often on display on the Explore.org north camera.  Denali likes to park himself at the den entrance, keeping the other wolves from entering.  Boltz tends to avoid the daytime heat and bugs all together, spending his days resting in the upper enclosure.  Axel and Denali are food focused, so anytime there is an enrichment treat, Axel is usually first to arrive.  The bonus of having the Explore.org cameras lies in the ability to see the wooded upper enclosure and the back of the main den.  Grayson continues to show the most awareness of activity within and outside of the enclosure. He is a frequent howler in response to wild wolves, coyotes, even occasionally his retired neighbor, Grizzer.

                                   

We also had some auction items that didn’t receive bids from our earlier Wolf Care Auction, so we are posting the description of the item, the retail value of the product and the opening bid price.  This will be managed through my email, with first come, first serve on bid items.  Please follow this link to see the items including value and bid price set for the auction.   Please send me the Item number and description of what you are interested in and your amount of bid price to curator@wolf.org.  We will be accepting email bids until Friday April 10th.  Thanks for your support of the ambassador wolves.