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.
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 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.
Due to the fact that we're a bit short staffed, and it's been a busy weekend with the Alpha Member's/Board Meeting weekend, we will be posting the same log for all wolves. The video this week will be featured on the International Wolf Center's YouTube video channel, and will include a video on the factors we monitor when deciding a wolf needs to be retired, and a feeding program that we did without public viewing. Usually, when we feed, the public is on site with people at the windows. Shadow is a bit shy about feeding in front of people and cameras. On Tuesday night, September 8th, the Vermilion Community College Wolf/Deer Interaction class did a deer dissection, and Curator, Lori Schmidt fed the torso after everyone had left the site. Shadow was the actively feeding the entire time, and was very dominant on the carcass. All wolves are doing well, although this unexpected 80 degree weather in September has been keeping the wolves calm. They have grown in their winter coat, and are adapting to the heat by staying down for most of the day.
Maya has really become a clear leader of this pack, and Shadow has not shown any concern about the change. She is still very socially pair-bonded to Shadow, but she does take control of the yearlings more than Shadow does. Of course, Aidan is the main focus, but staff also observed her showing some posturing and intense threat displays towards Denali. This may be an important key to the male rank order and the future relationships within the pack.
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.