It’s been a rough couple of months for the Wolves and caretakers at WHAP. If you haven’t read the last two newsletters reading these two articles first will bring you up to speed and you will be able to follow what is happening with our Wolf pack. Power Struggle at Wolf Howl Animal Preserve and For the Betterment of the Pack
Chito and Nita were almost continually harassing their Mother and former Alpha Female, Ohoyo. If she drew any attention to herself at all, she would be made to submit and they would administer bites to her neck and body even though she was behaving, as she should as an omega. This was disturbing to me and the rest of the staff. Woha was in isolation and she constantly watched Ohoyo. If Ohoyo neared the fence she would try and bite her through it. Eventually Ohoyo stopped going near that end of the enclosure. I was concerned about her ability to move around the enclosure freely. We decided it was in her best interest to remove her from the pack and put Woha back in. Chito and Nita were keeping Ohoyo held up in the underground den so we set up fencing and a crate near the area. When the opportunity arose we trapped her in the den. We did manage to get her in the crate that we leave in the enclosure all the time. We do this so that the Wolves are used to being around a crate. It is not used for transport. It has been negatively effected by the outside elements and she managed to escape it just before we closed the door to the first airlock in the isolation area. We were so frustrated as we knew it would be awhile before we had the chance to do this again. Wolves do learn from their experiences. We repositioned the crate and fencing and hoped for another chance at this. If not we would have to put her out to move her and since there is always a risk in putting an animal out, we hoped we could find another way. We decided that if the opportunity arose again we would wire the crate around all the areas that showed any weakness.
Wolf Awareness Week (WAW) and all the visitors gave Ohoyo a reprieve from the harassment her daughters were giving her. They were too concerned about the human visitors to continually pick on her. There were a few times that they did but for the most part, Ohoyo had free reign to once again move about as she pleased. We were shocked by how friendly she had become to visitors. She was usually the Wolf who chuffed and distress howled at them. Now she understood that they were allowing her to experience freedom again. I was happy for this respite for Mama Wolf. WAW ended Saturday and by Sunday the troubles for Ohoyo once again prevailed. When I went in to feed the Wolves early Sunday evening she was once again held up in the underground den. We were getting a second chance that we would not blow this time. I immediately put the crate over the den and secured the fencing around it. I ran to get Don and told him to take his time get everything he needed to secure the crate. I stood over the crate and held the fencing together as he gathered the supplies needed. My heart was skipping beats at the anticipation of it all. I knew this would most likely be our last chance at this. We couldn’t screw it up. She was getting nervous down in the den but luckily didn’t try to enter the crate as Don was securing the spots with wire that had weaknesses. It seemed to take forever but we couldn’t risk any errors this time. Don devised a long hook with wire that he would hold the door open with on the crate until she was in. Once she was all the way in the crate this would be released and I would be able to lock the door. Now the most important thing was to make her think she would be able to escape the crate and get away. What she couldn’t see was that we were holding a makeshift fence around the back and sides of the crate, which also had a top on it. In effect it was a three-sided larger crate. Its weakness was at the open side and bottom. We had to keep these secure with our feet and hands until she was inside the wire crate. It was time to rock and roll. We both took a deep breath and I let Don call the shots. He instructed me when to tip the crate back and she took that as her opportunity to escape. She came bounding out of the underground den trying to get out at either side of the crate. We held the make-shirt fence securely around the sides and top of the crate. When she realized she couldn’t escape because of the fencing she entered the crate. He let the hook drop and she was in. I set the lock on the door and moved in position to hold the door closed while he wired it shut. I sang to her to try and keep her calm while he secured the door. It only helped for a short while before she began to struggle. All this time we are also trying to keep the other Wolves at bay. With the door of the crate secure it was time to move her. We needed to push her over hills, tree roots and generally rough terrain. With all three of our hearts pounding we began moving the crate. This whole time she was fighting to get out and biting at the wire on the crate. When we got to the door (airlock) of the main enclosure where she escaped last time we attempted this; she really stepped up her game by biting down as hard as she could on the wire of the crate. We were watching where we put our fingers and hands. We slid her into the first airlock and Don closed the gate. At that point I felt cold air on my leg and when I looked down I realized a piece of my Jeans were tattered and hanging open. I was afraid to look down at my leg. She must have accidentally grabbed my Jeans while she was biting at the wire on the crate. Luckily she only managed to grab the material. We pushed her into the second airlock, secured the gate and I let Woha out of the isolation area back into the main pack. At that very point, Ohoyo laid down in the crate a relaxed Wolf. We then both realized that Ohoyo thought we were bringing her into the isolation area with Woha and she knew she most likely couldn’t have survived that encounter. Once she realized we were putting her in isolation she settled down. She remained calm as Don undid the wires holding the crate door closed. We opened the door to the crate and she willingly and calmly walked into the isolation area. Don and I let out a sigh of relief, high-fived and gave each other a well-deserved hug. It was over and our beautiful Mama Wolf would be safe from the harassment she had been experiencing.
The sound of ferocious growls brought us once again back to reality as Chito and Woha began to fight. They were standing on their back legs and Don made the comment that they both looked like bears. They are so powerful. Waya and Nita came to Chito’s defense and quickly Woha was driven into the underground den. It didn’t last too long and we stood watch that night. There were a few more incidents noisy but with no wounds administered. Each ended with Woha retreating to the underground den. It’s been a week today and there is still unrest. Woha is moving freely about the enclosure though. There will be a power struggle between the two until one of them concedes. Somedays it appears that it is Chito who is prevailing and then other days Woha. It’s still up in the air. Here is a short video clip of a Wolf Power Struggle between them. This was video taped from outside the main enclosure by Kristi Kirk, our employee when I was bringing out the pumpkins for the Wolves. This particular video shows Woha on top but I have witnessed it the other way around as well. Here is another short video clip of Chito asserting her authority over Nita before Woha was reintroduced into the pack, dominance display. Can you see the difference?
For those of you thinking it would be cool to have a Wolf or high content Wolfdog as a pet read this, watch the videos and think again, please. Would you be able to handle these situations correctly or at all? I do want everyone to understand that what these Wolves are going through is a normal thing. A Wolf pack has a hierarchy for a reason and that is so they can work together to hunt and survive. The best animals must be in control. When the pack senses a weakness in a member in a high position, that position will be challenged and eventually taken over. Sometimes Wolves will just leave their natal pack to hopefully start their own. Our animals are captive and unfortunately can not leave so that is why we as guardians must intervene. Wolf Packs love puppies and that is because they know they are their future, their survival. As these pups grow into mature adults, leadership qualities emerge and pack positions are often challenged. We as caretakers must also work to insure safety and strength for the pack. In a perfect world there would be no reason for animals in captivity but as you well know, this world is far from that. Animals in captivity serve as ambassadors for their kind in the wild. They inspire people to fight for their rights and place in our world. Their lives in captivity are generally easier than if they would have been born into the wild. We at WHAP do try to make their lives here as safe, comfortable and enriched as possible.
Now, on a lighter note, pumpkin day at WHAP was enjoyed by all. See Wolf video. The Pumpkins are stuffed with all kinds of good treats, sweet potato wrapped chicken pieces, pig ears, large bones, chicken jerky and more. Our Wolves anticipate this annual enrichment event. When we start moving the pumpkins their way, they can barely contain their excitement. They are getting too smart about getting the tops off, though. I remember the first year we did this in 2005, it took them awhile to figure it out, now it’s a piece of pumpkin pie for them! We will have to think of a new twist to make this event a bit more of a challenge in the future. Chito and Woha made us laugh. They were both scent marking all the pumpkins and tops with urine. Luckily all of the treats were already out of them. Each one would then go inspect the piece that the other marked. Another Wolfie way of trying to say who the boss is. We gave them their pumpkins 3 days ago and I still witnessed Chito scent marking right into a pumpkin this morning.