Fortunately, for staff and wolves, Maya is calmer. Her photo this week shows her in some pair bonding behavior with Shadow, she’s back to strong social behavior rather than knocking Shadow out of the way so she can get to Aidan. Shadow’s more content and if you say the postings of his facial expressions in the last few months, you will see the change as well. There’s a saying in wolf care, if the dominant female isn’t happy, nobody’s happy… (Of course, happy is not a wolf behavior that we can measure)
The following text was written by Workin' for Wolves participant: Awen Briem. Maya continues to display the most predatory behavior of the wolves in the ambassador pack. On Saturday while volunteers cleaned the retired pack enclosure, Lakota and MacKenzie were moved into the holding pen and given venison ribs. They left the ribs in the holding pen when they moved back to the retired enclosure. At the weekly feeding that night the ambassador pack was moved into the holding pen where Shadow discovered the ribs; Maya took one from Shadow. It is of note that Wolf Care Staff began using a new high definition video camera and monopod on Saturday. Wolves are acutely aware of unfamiliar items. While the ambassador pack is familiar with staff cameras, this particular equipment was new to them and their behavior displayed intimidation. Of the ambassador pack Maya seemed most intimidated by the new items.
Maya as the sole female, demonstrates all the classic dominant female traits. One that is common on the Exhibit is her marking behavior, or Modified Raised Leg Urination or MRLU. In the wild, this behavior can be observed with a dominant pair of wolves marking their territory. A dominant male will RLU, with the female marking below the male with a MRLU. If a lone wolf enters the edge of the territory, the paired scent mark of both male and female mean that the territory is occupied. In captivity, there isn’t as much purpose to marking territory, but Maya marks food caches, and food in general.
Maya is very interested in the pups and whines with intensity when they are in view. The pups are responding to her the most, with Red Paw doing a full tail wag when he's next to the fence. Maya continues to show pair bonding behavior with Shadow, as her photo shows her face to face greeting. Both Shadow and Maya are sleeping near the lab door, and are quick to respond to any distress calls from the pups.
Maya’s favorite winter activity in the last week seems to be lying on top of the snow pile and sliding down it like an otter. This large snow pile in front of the exhibit viewing area is the result of snow removal from the roof. The snow was then snowblown away from the building so the wolves would not have access to the roof. This has been one of the best enclosure enrichments this winter and has provided the wolves a high place to perch. It is not uncommon to find Maya laying on top of the snow pile and watching or stalking her packmates from atop the hill.
Without another female, Maya is somewhat left out of the dominant rank order displays. But, as previous videos have shown, she still wrestles with her litter mate, and shows bonding behavior to Shadow. It will be interesting to see how her behavior changes once the new pups arrive. She has intense social behavior, and we see her as being a strong influence with the pup introduction. 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.
When we say that we feed the wolves once a week on their natural pattern of feast and famine consuming, that doesn’t mean they only eat on Saturday night’s “What’s for Dinner program. Other behavioral issues that come from large carcass consumption is caching and visiting caches the many days following a feeding. While some of the larger carcasses such as beaver, are not easy to bury, the wolves due stash them and come back to them. The pack is often observed feeding mid-week, and wolves like Maya, are very keen on caches within the enclosure. Maya marks caches and is very defensive of them, and is more likely to carry them around the enclosure than any other wolf. As a reminder, the Nanny and Behavioral Team applications are on the website under the Programs tab… the deadline is February 1st.
Maya has the most interesting facial expressions when interacting with the pack. She continues to ride up on Shadow, licking him in the face and showing her bond with him. When she's interacting with Grizzer, she reverts back to littermate competition, and does show Grizzer her more dominant side. Her intensity for Aidan is most noticeable with her eye stalk, followed by a physical stalking and lunge, and staff can tell when her tolerance for Denali is running low. But, Maya also shows a timid side, whining to staff and seeking attention and reassurance, which is the nature of a social pack animal.
One point we would like to make about Maya, even though we dominate the logs with talk of her dominance, she is not an aggressive wolf, just a wolf focused on showing Aidan his place in the pack. It is more likely due to Aidan's nervous behavior being viewed as a weakness, than Maya being aggressive. She is still the same timid, high pitched-whine at the fence towards staff wolf that she has been as a pup. It is critical to understand wolf behavior, not apply human emotions and appreciate the value of these behaviors when it applies to survival in the wild.
Maya has been spending some time showing Denali that his juvenile behavior is not going to be accepted by the dominant female. This certainly gives Aidan a break, as Denali needs a lot of lessons. The fall migration of songbirds has started, and unfortunately for the songbirds, their stop in the wolf enclosure may be the end of their migration. Maya is very quick to stalk and spring on birds, and the daily scat collection has already revealed some evidence of this predatory behavior. Maya's video this week shows her consuming a beaver, the pack is still on a twice a week feeding to ensure that every wolf gets an adequate amount of food. Maya has no problem possessing, guarding, or marking food possessions.
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