Grizzer is managing well as a sixteen year old wolf in some excessive heat (at least for Northern Minnesota).  We have a good cover of vegetation for shade, he has a staff hose down the retired areas to cool off the ground.  We leave the Wolf Care Center door open allowing him to come in and rest on the cool concrete or is new orthopedic bed donated by wolf care support Kim Wheeler.  He still has a bit more hair to shed, and thankfully is willing to allow staff the chance to pull lose strands of undercoat.  He has had an added bonus of getting a deer leg during the summer time Behind the Scenes program.  He certainly enjoys that.  Staff are closely monitoring his weight for signs of any decline, but a recent blood sample indicated that he is in good health and he weighed in at 110 pounds.

We did two special things today during our Free Friday Webinar broadcast this morning.  We opened up the gate between the Pack Holding Area and the Exhibit to give Grizzer some stimuli with the Exhibit Pack.  Grizzer was very relaxed, but it did get Grayson and Axel a little excited, and Grayson did some excited lunging and he and Axel redirected some dominance to Boltz.  We will continue to allow these opportunities, expecting the more frequent the experience, the less intense the response.  This is the area that the pups and the Exhibit Pack members will interact, so we don’t want to create a negative conditioning to the area.

The second special thing we did for Grizzer is to get his weights.  He currently weighs 118 pounds, which is a nice weight for a nearly 16 year old wolf.  Here is the pattern of his last few years to see that they lose weight during the heat of the summer, gain weight over the winter and start to reduce again as spring approaches.

3/2/2018 Grizzer 118 13 years 10 months
4/18/2018 Grizzer 114.6 13 years 11 months
6/1/2018 Grizzer 115 14 years 1 month
7/2/2018 Grizzer 112 14 years 2 month
8/23/2018 Grizzer 120 14 years 4 months
6/28/2019 Grizzer 121 15 years 2 months
8/12/2019 Grizzer 118 15 years 3 months
12/9/2019 Grizzer 125 15 years 7 Months

Temperatures have been rising in Ely, and that means snow is starting to melt. If you watch the IWC webcams, you may have noticed the Pack Holding Den looks a little shorter than usual. Wolf care staff took advantage of a warm, nearly 50-degree day, and were able to remove most of the compacted snow and hay on top of the den. Grizzer watched curiously as a wheelbarrow was brought in to aid in the removal of the old hay. Contractors have been on site this week, working on adding additional roofing to the Pack Holding Area. This is the area that the new pups will utilize when they are old enough to spend time outside.  You may notice that we use a lot of dark wood around the fence-lines.  This darker color helps absorb heat, creating a quicker snow melt for walking paths.  The roofing will provide additional protection from the elements, for both the older wolves and the new pups.

Wolf Log written by Assistant Curator: Leanne Martin

One question you may be wondering is “where does Grizzer sleep?” The answer is: the Transition Area of Retirement. We are extremely grateful to the Working for Wolves crews over the past three years, who have worked hard to make this area a comfortable, protected place for an old wolf to sleep. The Transition Area connects all three Retirement areas and it features a roofline/wood paneling on the gates, which provide protection from snow and wind. Wolf care staff provide plenty of hay in this area, which Grizzer uses as a bed.  There is a Ring camera installed in the Transition Area, so that staff can keep an eye on him.

Wolf Log written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin

In Retirement, the activity from the Exhibit Pack gives Grizzer some focus. He will often climb on top of the den in the Back Habitat, where he has a great view of the Exhibit. He can hear, see, and smell them, and when the Exhibit Pack is ramped up and running around, Grizzer usually gets excited and will run around his enclosures as well.  Although he has some vision and hearing loss due to his age, he continues to have great focus.  He will be 16 years of age in May, and staff are very pleased to see how clear his cognitive function continues to be. We are grateful to Kelly Godfrey, Ann Rasberry and Melonie Shipman who have all contributed to Grizzer’s fond desire for pork roasts.   At his age, we are not restricting his diet with the exception that his aging teeth make it hard to eat any bone, so traditional deer and beaver diets are limited.  Grizzer has a rotating diet of boneless chicken, bonedust, beef and pork roasts, all fed in small quantities to avoid having food taken by scavenging ravens.  We don’t mind feeding ravens in the main pack, but with Grizzer’s declining vision, having large birds swoop from the sky can be intimidating.

Grizzer carrying a pork roast from the pack holding area

Wolf Log written by Assistant curator, Leanne Martin

Ely has had some fresh snowfall this week, which Grizzer enjoys. He has been seen excitedly rolling over in the snow, near the East Side den. Grizzer’s undercoat is quite thick and dense, which provides him with ample protection from the cold.  Despite the fact that we have five heated water sources throughout the two enclosures, You may see the wolves on the webcam eating snow.  The warm, wet snow has moisture and can meet their needs.  Grizzer also likes to do a face-wipe in the snow after his morning breakfast, a method of cleaning his face.

Whenever there is significant snowfall, staff shovel out pathways for Grizzer throughout all the retirement enclosures. The paths help Grizzer navigate his surroundings easier. Staff also make sure there is extra hay placed on the back sides of the dens. This hay provides extra traction for Grizzer as he climbs up onto the dens, keeping him active to maintain joint health.

Written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin

Grizzer enjoys his daily interactions with wolf care staff. While greeting staff, he will play bow and then excitedly run around the Pack Holding Area. For a 15-and-a-half-year-old wolf, he is very mobile and active. Staff continue to open the Pack Holding Area for the Exhibit Pack to come in and greet Grizzer when feasible. Although staff aren’t always able to do this daily, a few times a week seems to work well for Grizzer.

The combination of staff interactions and fence line greetings with the Exhibit Pack provides Grizzer with the social stimulation he needs. Grizzer also utilizes the tops of the dens in the Back Habitat and Pack Holding Area to watch the Exhibit Pack. Just being able to hear and smell them from afar gives Grizzer additional engagement with his surroundings.

Logs written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin

Recently, staff have noticed Grizzer engaging in what is known as caching behavior. Caching is when a wolf takes an object (usually food), and buries it under snow, soil, leaves, or other material, for later retrieval. He will cache small chunks of meat, using his nose to bury them in the snow. Now that he is the only wolf in retirement, he can retrieve his caches without having them taken by another wolf.

Grizzer is currently on a diet of 3 pounds of meat a day. We alternate between pork, beef, and other meat, to provide variety in his diet. Staff have been encouraging him to come into the Pack Holding Area vestibule to eat, to help him build a positive association in that space. Previously, that space had been where Luna came in to eat. Having that positive association was important for her on her last day, as she willingly came into the vestibule with minimal stress response.

We have limited numbers of Luna adoption kits left in our online store. Once they have sold out we will not be restocking, so if you would like to purchase an adoption kit in memory of Luna, visit .

After Luna’s passing, staff are motivated to keep Grizzer stimulated.  One method is to open up the Pack Holding Area during morning wolf care, which allows the Exhibit Pack to come in and greet Grizzer through the fence. During these sessions, Grizzer is locked out of the Pack Holding Area, but has full access to the East Side and Back Habitat. Grizzer has not displayed any aggression towards the other wolves, in fact, he seems eager to engage with them. Although he could leave the fence line at any time, he chooses to stay and greet the others, often face to face. Once the Exhibit Pack is back in the main enclosure, Grizzer is let back out into the Pack Holding Area, and he gets to investigate the areas that the other wolves marked. This helps keep his cognitive ability stimulated.

Grizzer was weighed last week, and his current weight is 125 lbs. This is a great weight for him, especially going into winter.

Wolf logs written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin

It is with great sadness that we share the news of Luna’s euthanasia on Tuesday afternoon, November 26th, 2019.  I know for some watching the webcams (and even our wolf log last week) she seemed to be doing good by greeting and eating (two parameters that I said were the ones I was watching for a decline). The fact is, Luna was incredibly tolerant of pain, we knew that from the time she was a pup, throughout the many issues in her life, we saw that tolerance over and over again.  As the curator, I assess the surveillance video on a daily basis.  Wolves tend to mask pain in the presence of packmates (wolves and humans alike), likely a survival mechanism to avoid showing weakness.  The video I saw on Tuesday and the look in her eyes while I did a physical assessment made me decide that she had enough.

In my mind, there was no other choice than to treat her with the respect she deserved and end the decline from this aggressive spindle cell sarcoma.  She had been strong in the fight of this cancer which was first identified in March, 2019.  The March surgery removed a mass on her left neck area. The biopsy report at that time was inconclusive, but the return of the growth in July led to a second biopsy with a diagnosis of an aggressive spindle cell sarcoma.  Complete extraction was not possible in July due to several deep masses embedded in the muscle behind her shoulder blade.  Staff prepared to manage Luna to the best quality of life possible and that also meant having a plan to make the difficult decision and reduce painful suffering.  It was a hard, day in wolf care.

We continue to monitor Grizzer and while his first night without Luna was a challenge, he is settling into a routine and the December wolf care calendar will include some increased staffing to give Grizzer the attention he needs.  He has no health issues at this time and the addition of some much needed snow roofs is keeping him dry and with safe footing as he travels throughout the retired areas.