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 https://shop.wolf.org/Ambassador_Wolf_Adoption_Kits_p/9809p.htm .

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.

Retired Pack Log November 20, 2019

We are in the process of wrapping up the construction on the retirement enclosures. One of the new things we are installing this year is an enclosed observation area for staff. This will allow staff to have a safe, covered area to stay in case we need outdoor overnight monitoring as Luna declines.

We have a vet check scheduled for Luna this week. Although she is still eating, mobile, and alert, we want to get an assessment of her pain response. She continually rolls over for staff to receive attention, so we know her tolerance for the growth is strong, but this tumor is expanding and we want to make sure we are doing what is best for her.

Grizzer is doing well, but he does have cataracts which make it a bit harder for him to navigate. To make things easier for both Grizzer and Luna, wolf care staff make sure all the retirement enclosures have clear pathways, hay covered resting areas, and roofs to protect them from inclement weather.

 

Wolf Log written by Assistant Curator, Leanne Martin.

Wolf care staff continue to monitor Luna closely.  She is currently on a combination of medications which have made a big difference in her mobility and overall attitude. She has been rolling over onto her back, welcoming staff interactions during the morning wolf care. Despite the growth of the tumor, she just seems more like herself. She is alert, eating well, and socially engaged with both staff and Grizzer. Recently, she was observed scent rolling on a vitamin left in the Pack Holding Area, appearing to have no issues with pressure on her neck.

Grizzer continues to be managing quite well, eagerly eating his daily food and greeting staff. On November 15, 2019, he will have reached the milestone of being the oldest wolf ever managed at the International Wolf Center. With only a couple days to go, it looks like Grizzer is going to break the record.

This log was written by Leanne Martin

Luna has been more receptive to body work as of late, she seems to be feeling better now that she is on anti-inflammatory medication. She is certainly mobile, eating well, and greeting wolf care staff daily. Staff continue to watch for decline, but as of now she continues to be stable.

You may notice some new balsam fir trees in the Pack Holding Area behind Luna… some of the dead trees/ large shrubs had to be removed for the construction project to happen. Instead of planting new trees and risking Grizzer and Luna digging them up, Staff created concrete bases with PVC pipes inside, and simply stuck some cut balsam in the pipes to secure them down. When the trees eventually lose their needles, they can easily be replaced with fresh ones. This will provide some good cover for the 2020 pups, as they will be spending a good deal of time in the Pack Holding Area when they are old enough to be outside.

This log was written by Leanne Martin

Improvements continue

The construction work to improve the life of the retired wolves, the 2020 pups and the humans who spend many nights caring for them all continues.

Luna and Grizzer are tolerating the temporary change of routine and enjoyed watching the Working for Wolves crew install some snow and wind breaks in the adjacent transition area.

Luna has taken to lying on top of the back-habitat den, watching her surroundings from the higher vantage point.  Despite her cancer, she is still very alert, wants to interact with the wolf care staff and has a good appetite. She is now on anti-inflammatory medication, which has improved her mobility and overall comfort.

Grizzer seems to have a bit of a spring in his step and has been observed running excited circles around the back den. While age may have slowed him down physically, age hasn’t slowed him down mentally. Grizzer will be turning 15 ½ on Nov. 5. He only has a few weeks to go before taking over the record of the oldest wolf managed at the International Wolf Center.  This honor was previously held by Lakota – April 28, 1993 – Nov. 7, 2008.

Luna’s challenges related to cancer are closely monitored

Management of the Retired Pack after Aidan’s loss is significantly different.  Aidan’s strong personality limited the number of handlers that interacted, impacting the dynamics of the social group.  Now, most handlers are interacting with Grizzer and Luna, giving them far more social time.  The time and staff are well needed as we manage Luna’s challenges from her cancer and try to monitor every nuance in Grizzer’s activity to identify any age-specific issues.  Luna is not only monitored by the Center’s surveillance cameras, we also have a ring camera that connects directly to the curator’s phone to assess how well she is resting in the transition area.  We are making some upgrades to retirement to protect the retired wolves from deep snow issues and improve overall monitoring opportunities for the upcoming winter.  With snow on the ground this weekend, improvements can’t come fast enough.