If Lakota was having a good week, then we would say that MacKenzie had a great week. Staff observed MacKenzie in some very social behavior, and some dominance behavior. It is great to see the social dynamics of these two as they reach 15 years of age. One questions asked of us, is when do you know if the older wolves are declining and would consider euthanasia. Our response is, as long as the wolves are demonstrating social interactive behavior, and the pains of old age are under control, we will continue to support these two wolves that have given so much to the visitors to the Center. I would also like to make a note to the Nannies selected for this year’s pups. We are still juggling teams, and once the teams are set, we will send out a briefing packet to each team member (probably by email), so teams can have some opportunity to converse prior to arrival and possibly offer to carpool to Ely.

You may have noticed that we are experiencing some technical difficulty with the webcams. We hope to have them repaired this week. We appreciate your patience and support for the Ambassador wolves at the Center. The Nanny Application deadline has passed. Now we will begin to coordinate teams and make selections. We plan to have the award letters mailed by February 15th. The wolves are doing well, and have fared the recent cold snap without issues.

MacKenzie continues to be very interactive in asserting her dominance over Lakota. This is all very calm and postured behaviors, but it is clear that she still has a good mental capacity and remains a very focused wolf. Lakota and MacKenzie are 15 years old today, in honor of their birthday, they received a small amount of sundried cranberries from Paul and Christine Batiste, along with a donation to buy them something special for this week's dinner. We haven't decided yet, but I think we will likely get them a roasting chicken a piece.

Lakota and MacKenzie had two treats in honor of their 15th birthday. On Monday, April 28th, the actual day that we celebrate as their birthday, they shared a bag of dried cranberries. Wolves have a bit of a sweet tooth, even in the wild; you can occasional blueberries in wolf scat. We don’t make a habit of this because we did have an issue a few years ago when Lakota over indulged on raspberries that she picked on the edge of the enclosure, but it is a good treat. The second treat came in the form of a roasting hen that they received as their mid-week meal. What a difference a few days can make, the photo of Lakota digging in the snow for berries was a Monday photo, the photo of MacKenzie carrying the chicken in a nearly snow free enclosure was a Wednesday photo.

Happy President’s Day, Due to the Holiday, all of the logs will be the same posting today: The Nanny selection process has been completed and award letters were mailed on the 15th of February. We are still in the selection process for the Behavioral Observation program, and have extended the deadline until April 15th. We intend to have the Behavioral Observation award letters for those current applicants sent by February 22nd. Please be patient, as this is a very important task. We want to make sure we have a good fit for each crew to have the most positive experience for the pups. One other comment relates to a new face you may be seeing on the Exhibit Pack webcam. After 6 months of training, work with the Retired Pack and an opportunity to gain Shadow’s trust, Don Gossett and Sharee Johnson have been successfully integrated in the Exhibit Pack as a Level I wolf care staff. Shadow was a bit hesitant at first, but has been very responsive to the newest staff members. Being a Level I handler means that they must always be accompanied by a Level III for safety, with a Level 2 for backup. So, when new staff are in the enclosure, you are likely to see 3 or 4 staff. We want to make sure that all staff that will be handling pups are perceived as part of the program by Shadow and Maya. If a staff person is not trusted by Shadow, and they are observed handling the pups, it can create an aggressive situation. This is why we are so stringent on the Nanny program, it is critical to the social dynamics of the wolf yard that all people interacting with the pups respect the adult wolves, especially Shadow. Remember, this pup introduction’s purpose is to maintain a socially cohesive pack.

MacKenzie has been having a good month; she is extremely interactive with staff, which is always a good indication that she’s feeling well. The only issue has been with branches breaking off in the snow. One of the White Pine branches landed inside the enclosure and has caused her a little anxiety. It’s wedged in the snow and can’t be moved by hand, and needs some saw work. We will wait to do that until we can move MacKenzie and Lakota into the holding area, so we don’t cause any more anxiety for her. This will have to wait until some snow melt to get access to the holding area, so in the mean time, MacKenzie has created a new path around the tree limb. Lakota has no problem with it, and enjoys sticking her head in the limbs. MacKenzie’s limited vision is probably impacting her reactions.

MacKenzie has been greatly benefited by a warm week of weather. Temperatures reached over 30 degrees this weekend and this makes her much more agile and comfortable. As I write this, she's been watching the Exhibit Pack as they race around the exhibit. Her desire for status has not decreased with age. She continues to maintain the dominant role in the Retired Pack and shows dominance through the fence at the Exhibit Pack. A few weeks ago, we wrote about Lakota losing her vocal chords and not being able to howl, but still goes through the motions. This is age related, not injury related. The one thing we have noticed, is that MacKenzie doesn't stimulate to howl, even when the Exhibit Pack is in full chorus. So, we don't know if she has lost her voice as well.

The video this week shows a short clip of MacKenzie showing some dominance over Lakota. It is not as physical as the younger wolves’ dominance rituals, but the eye contact says the same thing. MacKenzie is, and always has been the leader of her pack. But, we are acutely aware of the fact that they will be 15 years of age in April. Staff have noticed MacKenzie sleeping a deeper sleep this past week. We know Lakota sleeps soundly, but we believe her hearing is going, as she doesn’t respond to sound when she’s sleeping, But, MacKenzie is usually alert to the sound of a gate opening, or any vehicles driving up to the wolf lab. Twice last week, staff noticed her sleeping in a side rest position and she didn’t lift her head until the staff were right at the edge of the Retired fence. We certainly want to let her get her rest, but we also want to make sure everything is ok. So far, she has been, lifting her head to look at us with a look as to say “why are you bugging me again. It could be because the temperatures have been very warm (+30 degrees Fahrenheit – warm for a full coated wolf), or there may be the start of something more. The Plasma TV’s in the building are tuned into the Retired Pack all day so they can be frequently monitored. As a reminder, the Nanny and Behavioral Team applications are on the website under the Programs tab… the deadline is February 1st.

The wolf logs will all be the same today, we would like to thank all of the wolf care supporters this past year. From the significant donations to the Water in the Lab fund to the vitamins and nutritional supplements, straw, squeaky toys, pigs ears, blueberries, tools, jump drives, web cams and many more items that are donated to the lab each year, we are so grateful there are so many people who help support the Retired and Exhibit Pack. There are too many names to mention, but you know who you are. We can always count on you when the wolves are in need. We are happy to report that all is well on this New Years Day, 2008. The Exhibit Pack received 2 frozen fish from a recent fishing trip, one caught by Assistant Wolf Curator, Donna Prichard and one caught by Lori Schmidt, Wolf Curator. Grizzer and Maya enjoyed rolling on them. The retired wolves are doing well, excited about the thawing of two deer legs for a mid-week feeding. The Nanny applications are posted on the website, they can be found on the Programs tab, look in Wolf Seminars or Learning Vacations – Northern Minnesota. We did institute a prerequisite program for the Nanny program this year, we did this based on some experiences that we had in 2004. Wolf pups are not dog pups, and we want to make sure nannies have to skills knowledge and abilities to assist in the socialization process. This is an historic time for the International Wolf Center, 2008 will mark the first time the Center has had three age structures in a pack and we want to make sure the best interest of the pups and the pack in mind as we move forward. If you have questions about the Nanny program, please email the curator directly at curator@wolf.org

MacKenzie has been responding well to the newest wolf care staff and seems very at ease with the activities of the Exhibit Pack. This may be due to the fact that the Exhibit Pack seems to have settled a few rank order disputes and things are calmer than they’ve been. MacKenzie’s eye condition is noticeable in this week’s photo and video. The cell growth on her cornea hasn’t advanced at all this year, and she hasn’t had the squinting issue with sun reflection on the snow. She’s still leery of looking right at a camera, but that’s probably more behavioral, as the camera lens is like a direct challenge. As a reminder, Nanny and Behavioral Observation applications are still being accepted until February 1st. We are willing to accept the application as an email attachment.