Maya has been very social with Shadow and Grizzer, even though the images you see in Grizzer’s log might indicate differently. This is a good time of year for the pack to interact, agreed, sometimes it’s tense, but there’s always action in the pack. It will be interesting to see how Maya interacts with the newest pack members, the pups we will be raising in 2008. She takes her role as dominant female very intensely, and she will likely take on a maternal role as well. We have data to support Shadow’s behavior as a paternal figure in a social pack. The Nanny Application deadline has passed, and Assistant Wolf Curator, Donna Prichard and I are meeting to organize teams. We will have the award letters mailed by February, 15th. The Behavioral Observation team has a few positions remaining, so, you will continue to see this program advertised
As we've stated in other logs, this is the breeding season for wolves. In our exhibit, we spay and neuter the pack to avoid breeding and to reduce aggression. Maya doesn't have another female to dominante, so her behaviors are more on the social side. One characteristic of wolves is to have strong associative behaviors between the dominant pair, in the Exhibit Pack, this is Maya and Shadow. In this week's image, you will see some of that pair bonding behavior as Maya greets Shadow with a full face lick. Maya also controls most of the food in the enclosure, as shown in her video.
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.
Whatever hormone surge Maya experienced in September, seems to be calmer this week. The stalking of Aidan has decreased, although Aidan still protects himself by laying near the greeting rocks, where he can back his way in and face her. She continues to be a strong defender of food, and during this morning's wolf check a dead raven was found. This is likely Maya's doing, but staff did notice Denali working very hard at stalking and chasing ravens this week.
Written by Nathalie and Kaela Hedberg: Maya is still chasing after Aidan, but there are other times when Aidan and Maya get along well, and are acting playful around each other. One of Maya’s chases with Aidan ended with Maya getting an injury on her left front leg. Maya also seems to spend a lot of her time looking around, observing, and acting very alert about what’s going on. Maya was reluctant when it came to getting on the scale to get weighed. She would stretch out as far as she could to grab the meatball on the fence, but she would grab it and quickly back up, away from the scale. So instead of using a meatball, wolf care staff lured Maya onto the scale by holding a slice of pizza through the fence. Maya would take little bits of the pizza and the back off, but eventually gave up, and stayed on the scale long enough to finish eating the slice of pizza. Maya’s current weight is now 94lbs.
As the whitetail deer season came to a close a few weeks ago, so did the extra scraps and ribcages that the wolves so enjoy. These items are fed upon by wolves and ravens alike, and webcam watchers may have viewed the flocks of ravens at the greeting rock in the past weeks. These ravens are usually faster than the wolves, but last week, 2 ravens were found dead in the enclosure. Maya continues to be a dominant member of this pack, and her excitement sends the entire pack in a rallying mode. One thing that the wolf care staff tries to be aware of is the relationship between individual wolves. This includes who’s resting in close proximity to one another and who initiates play behavior or spends the most time on the den site (the highest point in the enclosure, often a status area). Maya and Shadow take the lead on who gets the top spot.
Maya continues to show some very social behavior and has strong associative behavior towards Shadow. Her behavior has helped maintain Shadow's confidence and has eased the tension in the pack, during a situation that could have redefined the entire structure. It is early in the winter, and we certainly are aware of the potential for pack dynamic increases during the mid-winter season.
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.