Lucas is doing well; During Lakota's illness, he has been observed trying to play bow to her, but he is very tolerant of her condition and has shown no signs of being aggressive with her. A recent snowfall has led to more interaction between MacKenzie and Lucas. Their activity level has increased dramatically in the last few days. This may be in part due to the unusual number of wolf care and vet visits to Lakota in recent days, causing more stimulus.
On Saturday, December 11th, while the Exhibit Pack was dominating Malik, Lucas was observed bark howling. Even though he's aging, the hormonal surge during this time of the year tells him that he needs to keep the younger boys under control. While he's separated from the Exhibit Pack by the pup pen, he still has a raised leg urination pattern, telling all that he's still the dominant male. Of course, older hips don't let him extend his leg as high as he used to. Last week he was observed propping his back leg on a stump during a RLU. He may be getting older, but he is getting wiser.
Off all the retired wolves, Lucas seems to be the one that is showing the most signs of aging. His hair is turning very white around his face and he has some of the classic weepy eyes of older animals. He seems to have some increasing allergy problems causing some this weeping. Wolf care staff clean his eyes on a regular basis, and hopefully, the cold weather of fall will put some of the pollen to rest. Lucas really has shown a pattern of spending time in the denboxes. There are days that he won't even get up to greet staff.
The following was written by Jen Wagner, a participant in the Workin' for Wolves weekend – October 2004. Lucas did very well this weekend with all the activity. At times, he was pacing, but he soon settled down. He was standing really well without leaning on MacKenzie and Lakota for support. It was a joy to watch him this weekend, I have a friend for life.
Wolf care staff noticed Lucas having difficulty with balance and stability in his hind legs this morning. The Center Veterinarian, Dr. Chip Hanson arrived for an examination and prescribed Deramax, a pain killer to ease his discomfort from a chronic degenerative spine condition. If this is not effective, a more aggressive treatment with steroids may be implemented. This spinal condition was first identified in the October 2004 immobilzation, where all the wolves were drugged and brought to the lab for a complete examination. Staff have been monitoring his comfort level and were quick to note any change in behavior, attitude or pain response. He's been on joint and immuno-nutritional aid supplements for the management of chronic inflammatory conditions for the last several years. The last several weeks, wolf care staff have had many daily brushing sessions to remove shedding hair in efforts to make him more comfortable. As his winter coat was shed, his physical structure was more apparent. He appears to be losing muscle tone and motor skills as well as having difficulty with muscle control during defecation, possibly indicating that this condition is worsening. Wolf care staff delivered a straw bale to the pack for more comfort and warmth during today's rain. Lucas was hand fed several pounds of meat after the Deramax treatment and will be on daily feedings to reduce and stomach discomfort during the treatments. With the Ethology class on site this week, there is significant observation time to monitor his health. We will post to the logs any significant changes that may occur.
Lucas's condition has improved this morning after 24 hours of Deramax pain killer. Although, he continues to show difficulty defecating. The effectiveness of Deramax may reduce his pain, but this is still a degenerative situation. It's difficult to determine how long the Deramax will be effective. Realistically, we will likely see continued decline in the next 6 – 12 months, although other factors may influence this such as weather conditions. We will continue to use Deramax as long as it keeps him mobile, I will keep taking video footage to document condition. If the Deramax loses effectiveness, we can switch to Steroids. We will use the wolf logs to keep all supporters informed. Thanks again for all the kind thoughts and emails sent by the wolves supporters.
Lucas is responding well to the Deramax pain killer. He is most active later in the day, and most stiff when staff arrive in the morning. Staff have been taking the time to walk him around the enclosure to work on muscle tone, but are cautious to not over stress him. As today's photos show, he still has an alert look, with clear eyes. Monitoring pain in wolves is more challenging than dogs as their tolerances seem to be so much higher. But, with Lucas, his discomfort is shown in his eyes, and the more staff observe, the more they can notice subtle changes in condition. The web cam seems to be malfunctioning in the Retired Enclosure, and tech support has been contacted. We hope to have this up and running soon.
Sorry for the delay in logs, as we always state, the first priority of all of our wolf care tasks is the task of caring for our wolves. As previous logs have shown, Lucas was having some difficulty with mobility and we were trying some painkillers, and he seemed to respond well, but as they wore off, he declined again. We were very cognitive of long-term use of painkillers and thinking that this was a response to the degenerative spine condition identified in an exam 2 – years ago, we tried to wean him of the pain killers after a week and replace them with steroids, with the intent that the anti-inflammatory would relieve the pain. Lucas did not respond to the transition, although he had individual days of improvement, his overall decline continued. Vital sign checks in the last few days of his life showed a strong heart, but a lowering body temperature. We placed straw in the den box to make him comfortable and give him an insulation effect. Our efforts in the last days were to spend time with him, make him comfortable and attempt to reduce his pain. Lucas's photo this week, shows the face of a wolf enjoying the attention. On the afternoon of July 11th, a status check of his temperature and an assessment of his mobility, as well as the look in his eyes, led us to make the decision that as managers, the most humane thing we could do, was to help ease his suffering. He held his head high, even as his legs gave out. He was surrounded by staff as first an injection of a standard immobilizer was given. He fell asleep in the straw bed in the corner of the exhibit, before he was carried to the adjacent vestibule, where he was euthanized. Board member, and friend of the wolf care program, Larry Anderson injected the final euthanasia dose, as staff members were inside the enclosure to distract Lakota and MacKenzie from the gate. After this week’s logs, Lucas will join a new pack, the Gone, but not Forgotten pack.
Lucas is doing much better than in previous weeks. His stability seems to have improved and he is showing more social behavior than in previous months. In the last few wolf checks, he's spent most of his time getting brushed by the staff, sometimes tag teaming him. His shedding process is much farther along, and the loss of the dense winter undercoat will only improve his tolerance to the summer heat. He's long and lean again, but will still seek the comforts of the denbox for a daily snooze.
This log written by Working for Wolves Participant: Michele Amacker During the Working for Wolves week-end, the retirement pack enclosure had their straw replaced with cedar chips and their den boxes and pond cleaned. Vines were planted on the outside of the enclosure in hopes to eventually decrease the noise from the road and improve the environment of the enclosure. Lucas was a little tense during the beginning of the project but relaxed somewhat as the morning went on. Signs of his years are showing, like stiffness while getting up and some unsteadiness walking. On Sunday, he was not pacing as much, but still did not join Mac and Lakota during wolf care.
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.