This past weekend, the weather warmed considerably giving us a reminder of the upcoming change of the season. This resulted in some reduced activity within the Exhibit Pack, but in true Minnesota form, winter returned with some snow and sub-freezing temperatures. The wolves base their activity patterns on the weather, switching from a diurnal (daytime mode) in winter, to the crepuscular activity of dawn and dusk in fall and spring to a nocturnal exhibit during the warmest summer days. In this week’s photo, Axel has found the remnants of the cover hay before the snow blankets the Exhibit. But, shortly after the snowfall, the warm March sun can quickly motivate the wolves into a nap, which appears to be Boltz’s intentions here.
Whenever we discuss social behavior, we always reference the importance of sibling bonds. When we adopt pups, we try to get pups from the same litter. This doesn’t mean that litter mates or genetically related pack members won’t have strife, but in our experience, there seems to be moments when that bond is more evident. Today, on the surveillance camera, we caught a mid-day nap with Axel, Grayson and Denali. Axel is resting his paw along Grayson’s back. At this moment in time, life is compatible between the young brothers.
In the Exhibit Pack, staff have been successful with helping Axel work through some of his focus and excitement. One way to calm Axel is with bodywork techniques. The bodywork techniques staff use are the same ones that were used on Luna. Axel is quite receptive to the bodywork, and he will often present himself to staff for it.
Of course, distractions are still an important tool staff use to ease tension within the pack. One of Axel’s favorite distractions are freeze dried venison cakes. We go through these cakes quickly and are currently running low on our supply. The International Wolf Center has an AmazonSmile Wishlist, so if you are interested in donating a bag of venison cakes, follow this link to the Wishlist.
Boltz is back interacting with the rest of the pack. He likes to spend time with Denali, and still seeks Denali out as a source of comfort. Boltz’s confidence has greatly improved, and he is no longer intimidated by Axel’s presence. In fact, Boltz has been chasing after Axel and Grayson during the afternoon chases the pack likes to engage in. Spring must be in the air as the winter dominance starts to diminish.
Wolf Log written by Assistant Curator: Leanne Martin
The dynamics within the Exhibit Pack continue to shift. With the absence of a dominant male and female pair, the pack is not as settled as it would be in the presence of a dominant pair. It is likely that we will not see a fully settled pack structure until we welcome the 2020 pups into the Exhibit. Once the new pups have matured, we expect to see a male/female pairing that will create solid leadership within the pack.
Staff are working with Axel, helping to assert a little bit of dominance over him, encouraging him to submit and providing a positive reinforcement when he does. Staff must be mindful to not have him submit when Grayson is nearby, as we do not want Grayson to take advantage of him while he is in a vulnerable position. Distractions such as deer hides and legs, play a key role in helping keep Axel’s attention on something other than Boltz. These techniques have proven successful in reducing Axel’s focus and overall intensity of interactions. He still has some issues with personal space, often standing or lying inches away from another wolf despite their lip curl and growl warning him that he’s in their bubble.
Over the weekend, Denali controlled the carcass during the weekly “What’s for Dinner?” program. What was interesting was that he allowed Boltz to feed on the carcass with him, but he didn’t let the arctic’s on the carcass. It is always a challenge to assess correlation and causation in science, but within a day after the feeding, Boltz seemed to gain a little bit of power. Boltz has been steadily gaining confidence ever since and participates in pack rallies, yet he still isn’t fully comfortable around Axel. Denali seems to be source of security for Boltz and each morning, Denali and Boltz emerge from the main den together.
Written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin
As we reported last week, wolf care staff have been diligent in monitoring Boltz as he chose to isolate himself in the den. We had been hand delivering food to him, watching for his use of the heated water source close to the den and added another layer of hay in the den. In some sense, this densite is prime real estate in the Exhibit, but not if you have anxiety that keeps you isolated from the pack. We are happy to report that on Saturday January 18th’s “What’s for Dinner?” program, staff arrived to find all 4 wolves at the gate. Our management tactics of working on Axel’s dominance over the last week was enough to give Boltz time to build his confidence. This is not the first time we had confidence issues with Boltz. If you follow our wolf logs, you may recall we have some issues with flying insects that can result in the same response from Boltz during the summer months. Why is Boltz so sensitive? In 2012 when we adopted Boltz, he was almost 30 days of age before we met him. While he was socialized to humans at his source facility, he didn’t have the broad socialization process to life at a high traffic public facility, so stress influences him differently than our other wolves. Due to the neophobic nature of wolves (fearful of new things), the Center’s management policy prefers a pup adoption during the neonate stage of pup development between 10 -14 days of age. The wolf care team is a group of dedicated, well-trained individuals that will work on the 2020 pup’s exposure to new stimuli with a goal of positive conditioning. Our priority is to develop social alliances between the pups and the adults as well as the humans that will care for them throughout their lives. The playful antics of pups can create a positive distraction during stressful times. We definitely look forwards to the influence of Boltz’s future packmates.
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
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
The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.