MacKenzie requires many more calories per week than Lakota, and management of getting the ideal amount of food to MacKenzie without overfeeding Lakota has been a bit of a challenge. But, we seem to have settled into a routine and MacKenzie is doing well. The weekly video clips also help wolf care staff make a comparative analysis of her mobility week to week. MacKenzie did have a rough day last Thursday. There were several dead trees removed from the retired enclosure at the last “Workin for Wolves session, and more dead trees in the area surrounding the enclosure. In an effort to reduce the fire potential next summer, winter time burning is necessary. The fire crew from Vermilion Community College donated 2 hours of time to cut, pile and burn this debris. Lakota was fine with the chainsaws, fire and burning pile, but MacKenzie had a bit of pacing, until the crew left. Wolf curator, Lori Schmidt, was there with the crew, but with MacKenzie’s poorer eyesight, she reacts negatively to things that she hears, but can’t see.
One of the concerns when working with wolves is the issue of separation from the pack being perceived as a dispersal from the pack. Some facilities have observed problems when a pack member is absent, even for the shortest of veterinary checks, and the rest of the pack doesn’t accept it back. We had a bit of concern about Lakota’s surgery, but we were cautious and kept Lakota in the adjacent vestibule in the Retired Pack so MacKenzie was able to see her. MacKenzie was amazingly tolerant, and lay several feet from the gate until Lakota was returned later to the enclosure. There has been no sign of investigation of Lakota’s stitches, and no dominance between the sisters.
With the more frequent feedings, smaller portions of food are required. Fortunately, people are cleaning out their freezers before deer season and donating some freezer burned meat to the Center. This makes for a nice meal, and a good size to cache in the enclosure.
MacKenzie is doing well, she has had many more interactions with Lakota in the past month than she had in the earlier part of the winter. This is usually an indication of how a wolf is physically doing, if they seek social contact, they seem to be feeling well.
MacKenzie’s photo may look a bit under the weather this week. Wolf care staff noticed her holding her left ear at an odd position and rubbing against the fence. When wolf care staff attempted to check the internal ear canal, she became very agitated. MacKenzie is a very dominant wolf and is very reluctant for any handling when she’s not feeling well. Upon the Veterinarian’s recommendation, wolf care staff started MacKenzie on otibiotic ear ointment twice a day. Getting the ointment in her ears is a bit of a challenge, but she allows wolf care staff to come behind her while another staff person offers frozen bonedust through the fence. She only has one week of this treatment.
They say when one sense becomes compromised, the others take over. In MacKenzie’s case, we know that her vision has been marginal for some time, but her sense of smell and hearing are tremendous. She is always alert to the sound of gates, freezer doors, voices of staff and interactions in the main exhibit. As her video demonstrates, her appetite is good; she really enjoys the beaver tails during a feeding.
The warming of the spring has been hard on wolves that still have a full winter coat. Staff have begun brushing the wolves to encourage shedding. At this weekend’s “Working for Wolves program, we will be mounting the sprinkler hose on the retired enclosure fence to provide some added relief this summer. The placement of the hose has a tendency to upset MacKenzie, as her poor vision has made it hard for her to define changes in the enclosure. Once the hose is in, the cool mist of air is a welcome addition to the summer enclosure.
MacKenzie is doing well, she has some days when the temperatures are too warm for much activity, but she becomes more active later in the day. Staff will begin brushing the wolves to remove the dense undercoat and aid in their cooling. In this week’s video, you will see MacKenzie take the deer leg that Lakota was enjoying and retreat back to her favorite spot in the back of the enclosure.
We are happy with the continued stability of MacKenzie. She is alert to the presence of staff and the Exhibit pack, and seems to be able to move about the enclosure without difficulty. In her video clip, you may see a bit of hind quarter mobility issues when she does a full body shake to remove the snow from her back. She maintains a good appetite and is a treasure for those of us who work with her.
MacKenzie continues to be mobile with the anti-inflammatory, but we have been watchful of her pain response. The best judge of pain is when she lies down or strains to get up in the mornings. Wolves are incredibly tolerant of pain, so we want to make sure she is as comfortable as possible. In this week’s video, you will see her assert dominance over Lakota, with the glance of an eye and a stand-tall body posture. We also are assessing her alertness towards staff and, while it’s not quantifiable, the look in her eyes. Anyone who has worked with older animals knows that look of pain. Fortunately, we only see that look on occasion, but it is something we note in the logs.
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.