We are very aware of the impact Malik’s loss may have on Shadow.  Nancy Gibson, the Center’s co-founder and board member who bottle fed Shadow and Malik, has been here since Monday spending time with Shadow to help him through any separation anxiety.  We know his howling has increased and he has been very quick to howl when staff leave the enclosure (quicker than usual).  We are seeing an improvement every day and his play is back in his step.  Several people have asked if Grizzer can join Shadow.  We have to take this day by day.  We know we won’t do anything while we have all of this snow and ice.  The reunion will likely include some excited running and chasing and we can’t afford a 14 or 10 year old to slip and injury a disc.   We also know that colder weather and winter conditions make for heightened behavior which is why we will definitely wait.  We also have to make sure that Shadow is in a good physical and psychological frame of mind to deal with a younger and stronger pack member.    This type of reintroduction is done carefully and in stages with all wolf care staff’s perspectives discussed.  We also know that Shadow has some stronger relationships with certain wolf care staff than others, so we will favor Shadow’s relationships to make him as confident as possible in the upcoming weeks and if and when we decided to reunite the former packmates.

Shadow has been having some really good days.  He’s always alert, but since the last of the subzero weather, he’s been doing a lot of snowplows and facewipes in the snow followed by a race around the enclosure.  He might be picking up a few points from Grizzer.  When Shadow feels good, he also spends some time posturing over Malik, which might be why Malik is acting a bit subdued.

Of all the wolves I have met in my time as the Wolf Curator, I can honestly say Shadow is the most complex, the most social, the most alert and both he and Malik are the most agile retirees the Center has ever managed.  As we approach the spring, we will be celebrating the birth of each wolf and giving us time to pause at the events that have occurred in each wolves life.  Shadow will require a long pause, he has been instrumental in the formation of the multi-aged Exhibit Pack and continues to be a presence for every wolf on site.

As many of you may observe on the webcams, Shadow has the most intense greeting of all the wolves on site, and at 14 years of age, he is my greatest concern.  No doubt, being a pack leader for 8 years can have an influence on how a wolf ages.  It’s been our experience in captivity that we start to see health declines by this age.  We call it the age of concern, at 14 years old, many a systemic issue can occur.  We are thankful that we have a surveillance system that allows us to observe and record the wolves in retirement, but we know despite good genetics (mom lived to be 21).. we need to cherish every day we spend with the retirees.

February is the peak of wolf hormones and we notice an increase in dominance in the Exhibit Pack, but we also notice a bit more excitement in retirement.  Shadow has been showing some posturing behavior towards some of the staff, even at this age, status is important.

Shadow has focus similar to Malik’s, but it’s not about which staff member is wearing a hat with strings, Shadow’s focus is on the sounds of dominance and interactions from the Exhibit Pack.  Shadow was the pack leader for 8 years in the Exhibit Pack and he didn’t lose his status, but was retired for his own health reasons.  This means that Shadow kept the pack leadership role in his attitude and focus of any wolf sounds in the wolf yard. 

Shadow’s greetings are great, but when it’s -40 degrees below zero, it makes wolf care a challenge. He is the only wolf that has so much exuberance that it can be painful on a cold morning. Some sacrifices are important, we certainly don’t want to curb his enthusiasm. Every wolf has a different personality and we can honestly say there is no other wolf like Shadow.

This log written by Wolf Care Staff volunteer, Cameron Feaster. The effects of winter still seem to occupy Shadow. This is particularly noticeable when Shadow greets wolf care staff, where he briefly turns into what seems like an excitable 90-pound pup. In this week’s youtube video, you can see Shadow performing more snow-plowing behavior right after greeting wolf care staff, and right before going into a howling session with the other wolves on sight.