The Center offered a Photography Weekend, taught by our Wolf Care Staff member, Kelly Godfrey.  During the session, we asked participants to review the Center’s Ethogram and identify behaviors that gives us an assessment of pack dynamics.  Often when we do wolf care, the staff’s presence in the enclosure can create competition for attention and doesn’t give us true sense of dynamics.  Here are the results of their observations:

Denali – Still in the Mix:

Written by Dana Pond, Christina Rizzo and Sheri Kreager

This weekend, we observed Denali very focused on pack interactions and engaging in many social encounters with Axel and Grayson.  He played with his ears pricked forward (showing no submission).  Clearly stimulated, he would rise from a resting position to join in on the play sequences.  On several occasions, we also observed Axel “Invite Chase” (a behavior where a wolf rest down on the front legs, then springs upward and away).  Denali would willingly, all be it slowly, join him in a chase up the hill.

Photo by Ron Kalin – showing the pack rally with Grayson on the left, Axel on the right with the high tail and Denali facing them, wagging his tail.

 

Written by Bill Brandon, Deb Hyde

Grayson was the most vocal among the three wolves remaining in the Exhibit Pack.  He howled quite frequently on this particular day.  However, the other wolves didn’t seem to pay attention to him. No other wolf as observed returning his vocalizations.  Grayson’s howls were short duration, but he continued to howl for an extended period of time.  Perhaps he is missing former pack member, Boltz (wolf care staff should note, that the vet was on site to assess Boltz and Grayson has a particular bark-howl warning for the vet).

 

Fall is here, and Winter is not far behind. The temperatures in Ely have been cooling off, and it has started to get below freezing at night. Wolf care staff have begun some of the seasonal changes to the enclosures, including removing the UV pond filter from the pond pumphouse, and plugging in all of the heated waterers.
With the cooling temps and Winter on the way, this is the time of year that wildlife are searching for additional food resources. Staff have noticed heightened wildlife activity around the enclosures and wolf yard. A couple of weeks ago, students from Vermilion Community College were on site performing  dissections on roadkill deer carcasses. As you may imagine, the scent of deer carcasses is quite enticing if you are a wild animal searching for food. That night, our Ring camera on our wolf yard garage picked up footage of a wild wolf investigating the carcass freezer. This past week, we also got footage of what appeared to be a domestic cat near the wolf yard!
Wild wolf activity does not go unnoticed by our wolves. Grayson is especially in tune to what is going on in and around the enclosure. Grayson often bark howls in response to stimulus from wildlife near the fence. Sometimes Grayson is the only one to howl, but other times the whole pack joins in.
It is not only the wild animals that are searching for additional food, it seems as though the Exhibit Pack has been consuming more of the deer and beaver carcasses we feed them each week. As the weather grows colder, pack activity and dominance increases. Since the wolves tend to be more active this time of year, they have to consume more food to maintain their body weights.
Written by Wolf Care Assistant – Leanne Martin

I just wanted to share a change to the Wolf Logs.  As we move forward with managing Boltz’s condition, we have transitioned his weblog information to the Retired Pack.  As we are approaching the winter season which is known for being the season of wolf dominance, we needed to make some decisions about Boltz’s status.  Boltz continues to have mobility issues that would preclude us from putting him back into the Exhibit at this time.  Based on the challenges we had in immobilizing in September and the fact that we don’t have a heated water source in the upper enclosure, we could not risk the potential that he would isolate himself to the woodline even if he improved.  We are also facing the most dominant time of the year, all of these factors are leading me to keep him in retirement for the foreseeable future.  I will include Boltz in the weekly posts for the Retired Pack, but if there are more details on his medical condition, I will post those to his individual page which can be found in the Retired Pack – with his image.

As far as an update on the Exhibit Pack, they are active and starting to change their routines from Crepuscular (dawn and dusk) to more of a diurnal pattern.  In this week’s logs, Axel is greeting Grayson who is resting on what we call the “Greeting Rock”.  This is the rock we encourage the wolves to “Greet” staff for overall physical examinations or to disperse some tension within the social group.  Notice Grayson and Axel’s ears are in a “Pricked and Turned Sideways” posture indicating interest and uncertainty with the interaction.  Axel tends to be more dominant, but with Grayson on the top of the rock, his height gives him more of an advantage, making them both a bit uncomfortable.  Denali is doing well, he continues to dominate the carcass, run with the pack (unfortunately, sometimes that involves chasing Grayson) and has a hardy tail wag whenever wolf care begins.

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.

 

In order to reduce the risk of exposure between our wolf care team members, we have restricted wolf care to 4 individuals while the Governor’s Stay in Place order is active.  If one of us gets sick, another team-member  that has not been exposed can step in rather than the entire WC staff being exposed.  Even though the Center is closed to the public, we want to assure people that the lives of the wolves has not changed, the morning med deliveries are the same, scat is collected,  socialization is maintained and the staff are starting to work on the spring time activity within the enclosures.   The staff have been actively packaging items for shipment to the winning bidders from our recent auction giving the wolves plenty to watch at the windows in the absence of our public during this period of closure.  Axel and Boltz’s tension has calmed down and we are very happy to report the densite construction that was a Facebook Fundraiser last fall solved our flooding issues.  We will continue to monitor it as we get rain today, but so far, it is staying dry.  We do have several other dry spots to rest under the eaves and in the slated den, but the main den-site is the prime location in the Exhibit.

We had to cancel the Working for Wolves crew that had a tremendous group of people willing to come and help with our many projects including the wet, stinky hay, the dead trees and branches from winter storms, the improvement projects in retirement and the need to sterilize the lab for pups.  So, the spring 2020 Working for Wolves crew will be the 4 of us; if you see us on camera with wheelbarrows and pitchforks, that is our next task. The wolves  enjoy  the  insulating  warmth  of  the hay all  winter, but  risk mold  in warm,  wet,  weather  is  always  a concern.

As we move closer to Spring, temperatures are warming up and snow is beginning to melt during the day. If you recall, in the Fall of 2019 we had some rock work done on the main den in the Exhibit. One of the main goals of that project was to reduce the amount of flooding in the den during the Spring melt. We are happy to say that so far, the den is nice and dry! Denali and Boltz frequently sleep in that den, so it is important that it is kept dry and comfortable for them. Axel and Grayson seem to prefer sleeping on the hay near the viewing windows, and on the pond pumphouse.

Wolf Log written by Assistant Curator: Leanne Martin