In the Exhibit Pack, it appears that Boltz has lost some confidence. He has been spending a good deal of time in the den and comes out only when he is sure that Axel and Grayson are distracted.  Axel and Grayson have been testing their limits with the older packmates, Boltz and Denali. This is a seasonal issue  that has played out many times in the Center’s 30-year history of ambassador wolves.  By opening the Pack Holding Area and letting Axel and Grayson visit Grizzer, it diffuses some of the tension, keeps Grizzer stimulated and gives Boltz some time to move about the enclosure.  The leadership in this pack is in flux with tension between Axel and Grayson being observed as well. Axel will often ride up on Grayson, and the two of them have been engaging in face-offs. A face-off is a face to face confrontation between two wolves, with tense posturing. When Axel and Grayson are focusing on each other, that gives Denali a break from the tension.  It is always educational to look back at previous events when analyzing pack dynamics, Shadow and Malik, arctic brothers born on May 8, 2000 had their fair share of brotherly moments.

Logs written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin

Denali getting a restful moment from the pack activity


August 2008 – Shadow and Malik face-off with Grizzer watching

The temperatures in Ely have been dropping below zero this week. Wolves are usually more active during the colder months, and pack dynamics are more intense. Axel and Grayson continue to test Denali for weakness and have been focusing on Boltz as well. Distractions are an important tool that staff use to ease tension within the pack. One of the most important distractions we use is food. If staff feel like things are getting too ramped up, we will feed a deer torso,  a bag of chicken, a beaver carcass, or whatever else we have on hand.  If you watch the Exhibit Pack webcam, you might be able to spot some of these food resources in the enclosure!

Written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin

In an effort to give Grizzer some social stimulation, we have been opening up the Pack Holding Area and allowing the Exhibit Pack to come in and greet Grizzer through the fence. At first, they displayed some anxious behavior, with Grayson being the most anxious. Denali, Boltz, and Axel all calmed down after a while and had face to face greetings with Grizzer. Although there was some posturing between Denali and Grizzer with neither of them backing down, the interaction wasn’t aggressive, which is a good sign. Grayson stayed back and didn’t approach Grizzer at all. Grayson has always had more of a timid personality, and with the current lack of leadership within the pack, he struggles to maintain confidence.

Wolf logs written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin


Things are going well in the Exhibit Pack. The wolves have been sharing bedding space, taking advantage of the cover hay on top of the pump housing. The pump housing is large enough so that all four wolves can fit on top, however, Axel can be a bit obnoxious and test the patience of the others. This testing behavior usually leads to him going off and finding his own space. There is plenty of cover hay in front of the observation windows, so he doesn’t have to look too far for a comfortable spot.

Ely has had some significant snowfall recently, and with fresh snow comes an air of excitement for the wolves. Axel is often the instigator of interactions and has been observed engaging Grayson in chases around the exhibit. If you watch our wolf cams regularly, you may notice that the Exhibit Pack’s activity level tends to heighten around 4 pm.  This increase in activity is indicative of the pack’s circadian rhythm, the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that is present in living beings.

Wolf logs written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin








Exhibit Pack Log November 20, 2019

The Rock Work is Complete

Over this past weekend we had an excavator on site doing rock work around the pump housing and den and although we have some more finishing work to do in the spring, phase one of the big rock hauling is done.   This project was funded through a recent Facebook fundraiser and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who donated. This project was initiated in honor of Aidan and Luna, both significant users of the den site area.  

The wolves were not locked off exhibit since staff had concerns about how Luna would react being near the Exhibit Pack. Boltz had limited concern about the excavator, and Denali, though a bit cautious, was more curious than fearful. We did not see the same tolerant response from Axel and Grayson. Both were very agitated and fearful of the excavator and retreated to the back of the enclosure. Being younger, Axel and Grayson do not have as much experience around large equipment. It took them a while to calm down, but once the excavator left, they came back down to the front of the enclosure to investigate.

The main reason we wanted to get this project done before winter was to reduce flooding in the den. The new rocks that have been positioned around the back exit of the den will act as a barrier and allow excess water to run off and around the den, not into it.   The level platforms will also be great vantage points for our new pups in 2020.  We’ve included a picture of the before and after den site project.


Before  10/4/19                                                                     After  11/17/19


Wolf Log written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin


Exhibit Pack Log November 13, 2019

With Height Comes Advantage

In Ely, the snow is here to stay for the season. During the colder months, wolf care staff will provide insulating cover hay on top of the pond pump housing, dens, and in front of the observation windows. The wolves will often sleep in the hay on top of the pump housing and dens, because being up higher gives them better access to the sun’s warmth. Height is also something that the wolves utilize to gain power. Grayson often vocalizes from on top of the pump housing, and postures over whoever is resting near him in an attempt to gain status. In this photo, you can see Grayson on top of the pump housing, exhibiting a T-2 tail.  Notice Axel’s tail, which is turned down slightly in response to Grayson.

Colder Weather Intensifies Pack Dynamics

Snow has arrived in Ely, and it appears Boltz has gained some confidence. Colder weather usually heightens intensity of ritualized dominance in the Pack. In this photo, Boltz is staring at Axel and Grayson and exhibiting a slight lip curl along with pricked ears and a T-2 tail. Notice Grayson’s ears, they are pulled back in a submissive posture. If you look closely, you will spot Denali in the distance behind Boltz. Axel and Grayson have been focusing on and testing Denali for weakness. One of Boltz’s roles as a mid-ranking wolf is to take some of Axel and Grayson’s focus off Denali. Despite the focus of the younger wolves, Denali is still engaged socially with the rest of the Pack, and not quite ready for retirement yet.

This log was written by Leanne Martin

Wild wolf appears to be visiting the enclosure

Boltz. Photograph courtesy of Kelly Godfrey

The leaves are falling fast, and so are the daily temperatures. Earlier this week, Ely got a light dusting of snow, which melted later in the day. The sunsets as of late have been incredible, with the sun hitting and highlighting the remaining leaves of Fall.

The Exhibit Pack has been heard howling frequently these past couple days, and they seem focused on the back fence line of the enclosure. There have been reports of a wild wolf hanging around the area, and this could be a possible explanation for the behavior. Even in captivity, wolves are territorial and highly aware of things going on around them.

Special thanks to Kelly Godfrey, who took the two photographs in this post.


Fall has arrived in Ely

Fall has arrived with dynamic colors on the maple trees and some dynamic behavior from the young adults.  In this photo, Axel is doing a ride up on Denali with his tail extended above his back in what we term a T-1 tail.  At 11 years of age, Denali maintains a wide stance for support, but his wagging tail held in a relaxed position demonstrates the lack of concern about these interactions.  Grayson is coming around the tree in an intimidated ear posture called Ears Turned Sideways and Slanted Back or ETSB if you are familiar with our Ethogram codes.  Grayson’s expression is more of intimidation likely in response to his brother’s dominant posture.  Notice Boltz is not in the mix; he has been using the medical pen and den to avoid some conflict with Axel.  He’s still an active pack member, just a bit more cautious when Axel’s tail extends above the back.