At some point, humans should have the capacity to learn and retain information. Well, I proved that theory wrong today. For the 5th time this summer, Malik managed to steal the sponge from my hands when I was cleaning their water container. Guard your possession or lose it is the lesson. I guess wolves are better adapted to learned behavior than curators.
The arctics have been spending a lot of time sleeping on the den together. This may be out of necessity rather than brotherly bonding, the snow is deep with a lot of slush and standing water making the den the few high and dry spots in the enclosure.
The focus on the pups has had an impact on the Retired Pack. We certainly don't spend as much time with them as we did prior to the pups. When this happens, we usually see an increase in Malik taking things from staff. This past week was a great example as he took a bag of wood chips, brush, coat and feeding bowl. Of course this is my fault as I left all of these items unattended for a split second. Malik seems to enjoy the focus of our efforts to retrieve the items. We should be back to normal with the pups transitioning into the Exhibit. We continue to use sprinkler hoses on the Retired Pack and this week's photo of Malik shows him soaking wet, but cool on an 85 degree day.
Malik has shed more than Shadow and had an easier time during the recent heat and humidity that plagued Shadow. Malik has a tendency to stay deep in the thick vegetation, rarely moving during the day. In contrast, Shadow remains alert on or in the den as he watches activities in the wolf yard. Staff did an excellent job of keeping both wolves misted with water, and monitored their respiration often. A cool front yesterday was a welcome relief to all, humans and wolves alike.
Malik is the only wolf here that is completely obsessed with stalking and lunging at Oscar. We will be blocking off the access area to the Retired Wolf enclosure to prevent Oscar from coming anywhere close to retirement enclosure. Each wolf has a different predatory drive and Malik's is engaged in high gear. Shadow is very social with Oscar and has no issues, but it is safer for Oscar to stay away from this area. Malik is also more relaxed since the construction is complete.
We really thought Malik would be more focused on Grizzer's presence in the adjacent habitat, but Malik doesn't seem to notice or if he does, he doesn't care. The wall between these two enclosures is a solid visual barrier with rocks and logs at the base of both sides and another layer of ground wire and concrete on Grizzer's side. We certainly didn't want any accidental meetings in the middle of the night. People often ask how to tell Shadow and Malik apart, this week's photo shows the more petite features of Malik. He has a very narrow muzzle compared to Shadow and has a cowlick down the middle of his face.
Malik has been trying to posture more status over Shadow, but Shadow is far from intimidated. These two show very little physical dominance, but they are masters at the stiff leg walk and circle behavior. Malik rarely every wins any of these posturing sessions, but he seems very stimulated to try.
Malik has taken extra efforts to guard and possess food from Shadow and the wolf care staff. He's always had that tendency, maybe because he's always been lower ranking and he had to compete for his food. Whatever the reason, he is very good and defending and threat displaying to anyone or thing that comes near his cache.
Malik (actually Grizzer did as well) had an interesting response last week that proves the point that associative learning is very important with wolves. One of the volunteers that helped move rocks in Grizzer's new habitat was on site with a group last week. Malik immediately picked up on the voice of that individual and visually identified him in a crowd of 24 people showing intense anxiety towards his presence. Initially we thought it was the large group as Behind the Scenes opportunities are very rare for the Retired Exhibit, but as we watched Malik, he was completely focused on this individual. The presence of this individual who was associated with the construction activity brought back a lot of anxiety for Malik, but 5 minutes after he left, all was calm again.
Due to the Planning for Pups weekend, the excessive heat and the ongoing work on Grizzer’s habitat, this week’s logs will contain the same content for each wolf. Aidan was weighed during Planning for Pups and he's lost a few pounds, down to 120 lbs probably due to construction. Denali was weighed and has increased by a pound, up to 125 lbs. The first thing we need to do is introduce the newest member of the wolf care team. Oscar, a collie mix dog, was recently adopted from the Range Regional Animal Rescue facility in Hibbing Minnesota. We decided to look for a dog that could help provide some social stimulus to Grizzer (through the fence, not as a pack mate) as well as serve for a role model for the 2012 pups. Grizzer is very social, rubbing up against the fence when Oscar approaches, of course, Oscar is always on a leash and under direct supervision, Grizzer is still a wolf. We discovered Oscar and his perpetual grin on his website photo stimulated our application for adoption. Aidan is excitedly whining towards Oscar and Oscar has also helped some of Aidan’s anxiety going through the medical pen gates. Shadow and Malik are stimulated as well, allowing staff to liberally coat fly ointment spray on their heads and ears as they watch Oscar. This is a bonus, as they are usually hard to treat. Oscar has a large extended family, with many staff offering to take him for walks and social time with staff off-site, but Oscar’s home is the Center, and each night, he settles into a sleeping bag as staff put on a CD of music, set the air conditioning to 72 degrees and allow him a good night’s sleep in the safety of the wolf lab before he begins another day of playing in the wolf yard. Oscar’s photo is posted on Malik’s site, the arctics were too hot to come out of the shade for a photo this week, so we used a winter photo of Shadow, reminding us of cooler weather and Oscar did a stand in for Malik.
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