Staff have commented on how Grizzer has changed since Luna’s separation. Certainly having less food competition is always a bonus, especially for a 15-year old wolf with cataracts. Grizzer is far more social with staff (also a competition issue when Luna wanted attention), but more notable is Grizzer’s sleeping proximity to Aidan. The bond between these two individuals remains strong and Grizzer seems to be aware of Aidan’s health issues. Where younger wolves may see health issues as a weakness, older animals seem to more tolerant. Maybe there’s some empathy involved (certainly something we are looking forward to studying next summer with Dr. Matheus Silveira and the 2020 pups.) Grizzer is doing great, he is healthy and having no issues. He had some issues a few years ago with an ACL injury, but the use of Turmeric seems to be helpful. He hadn’t had a pain pill or anti-inflammatory in over a year. We also continue to give him a milk thistle capsule every morning to help with liver functions.
Grizzer is doing well for being over 15 years old. He has finally shed his winter coat and rests in the shade. Retirement has a new mister system to help keep him cool, but he has figured out a south wind will send the Exhibit Pack misters right into the shared fenceline. This image was taken in late May, what a difference a month makes. One other noteworthy item is that Grizzer weighed in at 120 pounds in June. This is a very solid weight for a 15 year old wolf coming out of a long, cold winter.
Grizzer is fast approaching his 15th birthday and despite some extreme cold from a few “Polar Vortexes” this winter, he has weathered another winter. We still have some concerns about his vision in his right eye, you may notice when he rests in the sun, that he has lost some nerve and muscle function on that limits his ability to close his eye. His nictitating membrane does cover his eye, but not at the frequency of upper eyelid blinking. This issue occurred during the winter of 2010/2011 while there was some rank order issues after Shadow’s retirement and Denali and Grizzer had some conflict. This is one of the reasons we would like to keep Denali healthy and active in retirement, as there is some residual conflict between these two and at 15, Grizzer doesn’t need the disruption to his routine. The other notable issue Grizzer had in the past was some right knee issues after a slip on the ice. But this winter, with the addition of Turmeric supplements and a thick layer of cover hay in the transition area gates, he is moving freely and interacting well with his packmates. To register for Grizzer’s Birthday webinar, follow this link:
As we reported in Aidan’s log and on facebook, Aidan was immobilized and taken to the Ely Vet Clinic for a surgery to remove two mass cell tumors on his leg. Since Aidan’s retirement in July, Grizzer had re-establsihed his social bonds with Aidan and was very mindful of Aidan’s removal from the facility. With surgery and recovery, Aidan was out of the Retired Pack for 5 hours and Grizzer was focused on the activities watching from the wolf yard viewing window we designed for the Retired Pack. As Aidan recovery from surgery, he was allowed access from the wolf care center building to a shared fenceline. Staff observed Grizzer whining and giving nose to nose greetings with Aidan through the fence before they were successfully reunited later in the day.
Grizzer is entering the winter with a good winter coat, a healthy amount of body fat and a packmate that helps divert Luna’s attention and at times, overwhelming interactions. When Aidan joined retirement, we had concerns on how it would impact Grizzer. At 14 1/2 years of age, we didn’t want to add to his stress levels. As we have reported before, Aidan and Grizzer resumed the bond they had as former Exhibit Pack members from 2008 – 2011. Aidan and Grizzer feed together, sleep in the same transition area beds and on more than one occasion, Aidan has intervened when Luna starts to assert dominance over Grizzer. Lately, we have noticed Grizzer doing some excited tail-wagging chases with Aidan as he and Luna run between the three retired enclosures.
Since Aidan’s retirement, Grizzer has been getting a lot of activity. He joins Aidan when he responds to Luna’s frequent invite chase maneuvers, which usually result in a chase through all three retirement enclosures and a climb on and leap off the three concrete densites. There is a strong correlation between Aidan’s location and Grizzer’s location within the retirement areas. These two males share space for the morning meds and feedings, they sleep near each other and if one goes to the back habitat, the other is sure to follow. Grizzer continues to show his confidence around Aidan. On November 6th, the wolf care staff noted that Aidan did a squat urination after Grizzer did an RLU (Raised Leg Urination). This lack of overmark is an indication that Aidan is accepting of Grizzer’s mark and by default Grizzer’s status. Aidan will do RLU’s especially if there’s food involved, but the association of marking behavior between wolves is interesting to watch. There is something rewarding to watch a wolf near the end of his longevity have the status and enjoyment of his youth,
When I began planning for Aidan’s retirement last winter, I was most concerned about how it would affect Grizzer’s life. At 14 1/2 years of age, I didn’t want to alter his routine or make him intimidated by change. I wasn’t sure I was even going to put Aidan with Grizzer initially, but then, I saw them through at the shared fenceline as Aidan began using the Pack Holding Area. Grizzer let out a series of social whines towards Aidan and Aidan reciprocated the greeting. On July 28th, three days after Aidan made the move out of the Exhibit Pack, he was reuniting an old social alliance with Grizzer. Grizzer initiated the nose-to-nose greeting with Aidan and in less than an hour was allowing staff to feed both wolves a bowl full of chicken with no competition. The trust between Aidan and Grizzer was apparent and not only did they socially interact, it appeared that Grizzer retained a higher status over Aidan that modeled their relationship in 2011. Grizzer has been actively displaying RLU behaviors, scraping the ground to spread his scent and taking carries a bit of a high sweep at the base of his tail as he walks throughout the enclosures. We even witnessed Grizzer helping Aidan in a short Luna confrontation. In the last few weeks, Grizzer has certainly perked up, with a social grin, he could pass for 12 years of age.
It seems like just yesterday we were brushing the wolves and now Grizzer is growing his winter undercoat. In Minnesota, this could be a definite advantage as weather can change quickly. Last week, we had a few days of cooler weather and something in the wolves changed. Grizzer certainly became more alert to Luna’s presence in the enclosure, especially during feeding time. Grizzer continues to show strength in his back right leg with a demonstrations of “Raised Leg Urination” or RLU’s that have a lift height well above his back, all supported by his back right leg. We are definitely pleased with his mobility and every day is cherished at this age.
Grizzer is doing well, despite some hot humid days and a bit of stability issues during these heat spells, he has a great appetite, has been spending more time with staff and has allowed us to remove most of his undercoat. He’s displaying a behavior called “Grinning” in this post’s photo. Based on our interpretation of events, Grinning is displayed when wolves are satisfied with circumstances. What circumstances cause Grizzer to grin? The mist from the Exhibit Pack is one circumstance. A full belly of food and a sleeping Luna would be two others that come to mind. The main issue we are watching is his response to stimuli, both sound and visual. His hearing seems to be great, but we do seem him struggle with visual distance, especially recognizing individuals at the fence. He recognizes the voices of the wolf care staff and whines to greet them, but if staff come in quiet and don’t vocalize, Grizzer is uncertain of their identity. Grizzer weighed in at 112 pounds, so we increased his diet a bit. We want to make sure he enters the winter between 115 – 120 pounds, giving him a buffer for calorie use on those cold winter nights. Although, Grizzer has been using the heated building on several occasions during recent thunderstorms, so he may be our first retiree to sleep indoors at night. We do have to be a bit cautious that an indoor, outdoor lifestyle doesn’t reduce his undercoat development, nor impact his social relationships with his pack mate or maybe pack mates depending upon Aidan’s transition.
If you read Luna’s log, you saw Luna displaying a “Nose-to-Nose” greeting to Grizzer, with Grizzer’s ears indicating a bit of uncertainly towards the interaction. In Grizzer’s photo, his tongue is sticking out, either in the middle of a licking motion or making a commentary about Luna’s interaction. As wolf care staff, we observer and interpret the behaviors, but there’s no definitive way to know what they are thinking and ultimately, what they are saying. But spending 14 years with Grizzer, we have witnessed a few facial expressions over the years.
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.