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Power Struggle at Wolf Howl Animal Preserve – by Maria Ferguson


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The cooler temperatures we’ve been experiencing this past week have brought on some sudden changes in the behavior of the WHAP Wolf Pack. This past Sunday when I went to check on the Wolves and bring them their morning treats, I noticed that Ohoyo didn’t come to get one. Usually she is the first to demand one. She is the Alpha Female of the pack. I started calling her and I heard whimpering coming from the stone den. As I walked there I saw that Chito was very nervous about me going there and Woha followed close behind me. When I rounded the corner to the entrance of the den, Ohoyo stuck her head out and growled one of the fiercest growls I’ve ever heard her make. It took me aback until I quickly realized it wasn’t directed at me but Woha who had followed me there. I chased Woha away and knelt at the entrance of the den. Ohoyo was chirping to me like a baby bird. I knew she was extremely stressed. I sat and talked to her and tried to coax her out but she wouldn’t come. Every time another Wolf approached she growled fiercely at them and they scurried away except for one and that was Woha. She seemed to be guarding the den so Ohoyo couldn’t leave.

I have long suspected that someday Woha would try to take her Mother’s position in the pack as Alpha Female. They are cut out of the same cloth and almost carbon copies of one another. I decided to give it some time and see if she would come out on her own. I wanted to make sure she was physically all right and she was. What I suspected was that Woha had gained an ally in Chito who is a very large and strong female Wolf. She then decided to challenge her Mother with the aid of Chito. I also know that once a Wolf is being picked on the other Wolves will usually jump in as well. It is natural for them to capitalize on what they see as weakness.

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chito_ally.jpgLater in the day I brought Ohoyo some food which she took from my hand. She brought it deep into the den to eat. I then brought her a bucket of water and sat it right inside the entrance to the den. She started drinking and Woha took that as her opportunity to enter the den. A noisy fight immediately ensued between them and Chito came to Woha’s defense. I created a distraction by banging a shovel loudly on their wooden platform. It seemed to give Ohoyo enough time to get away. She managed to make it to the underground den to avoid the conflict. I decided that Woha would have to be put in isolation so Ohoyo could come out and reestablish her position with the other members of the pack. It wasn’t hard to get her to go in but she wasn’t happy when I locked the gate and she couldn’t go in and out of the main enclosure. Ohoyo still wouldn’t come out and I knew from observing the behaviors that she was also concerned about Chito. I decided that if Ohoyo didn’t come out by morning, I would move Chito into the isolation, too.

After an all night vigil, Ohoyo still remained holed up in the underground den growling fiercely at any Wolf that approached even though Nita was submitting and begging her to come out. I led Chito to the isolation area and she was quite willing to go see her Sister Woha who immediately pounced on her as I let her in. She was just reestablishing her position over Chito and it was over quickly with neither Wolf being hurt. I then went back to Ohoyo in the underground den but she still wouldn’t come out. I gave it most of the day and I let Chito back in during the afternoon since her leaving didn’t make a difference. I then forced the issue with Ohoyo and put my shovel down into the den to make her come out. She came out trembling but immediately knew what she had to do. She ran over to Chito and stood over her while Chito reluctantly submitted to her. The more Chito cowed, the more confidence Ohoyo gained and within a few minutes was once again acting the Alpha Female of the Pack. It was interesting to observe that during this Wa-ta-chee, being the wise old Alpha Male that he is, decided to reaffirm his position with the two subordinate male Wolves, Niko Akni and Waya. Both Wolves submitted instantly while whining like pups and groveling before him. It was over almost as quickly as it began. Male Wolves have an easier time saying "Uncle" then female Wolves.

Today, all was quiet in the Wolf enclosure and Woha seemed really subdued in isolation. I knew if I wanted to get her back it with the pack, I’d have to do it now. Ohoyo once again had control over the females who were with her and there was one more test she had to perform. She kept walking over to the fence that separated her and Woha. She was chirping to me like let her out; she has some explaining to do. I brought another caretaker in with me and we were armed with noisemakers to create a distraction if a fight broke out, but there was no need. The minute Woha entered the main enclosure she squatted and peed. She was walking as close to the ground as she possibly could with her head down and ears pressed firmly against her head. This was good; she was showing that she respected her Mother as Alpha Female. Ohoyo starting approaching her tail raised high in the air and Woha immediately rolled on her back to submit to her. The dance that ensued then was so interesting so much body language that I wished I could have video taped it for everyone to see and learn from. I didn’t do that because I needed to be alert and pay attention to what was going on with the Wolves. I’m happy to say that all is well with the Wolf Howl Wolves for now. We will have to stay ever vigilant of the situation, do what we can without interfering with pack structure and most importantly remember that it is the way of the Wolf.

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