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Wolf Howl Wolves in May of 2013 by Maria Ferguson


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May 1st we opened for the Season and have met some very nice people from all over the US.  I think this is a good distraction for the Wolves.  They seem to be playing more in the morning and evening.  They have always been pretty lazy this time of year in the afternoons.  The leaves on the trees are very heavy and they have plenty of shade, in fact too much for picture taking purposes.  The other morning I brought my video camera in because they were really romping around.  Unfortunately, when they run in the shaded area of the enclosure, you can barely make them out, but I thought you’d enjoy seeing them frolic anyway.

woha_snakebite.jpgOn the afternoon of May 9th, I was cleaning the gift shop and happened to look out the window.  I noticed that Waya looked punk and was sitting up strangely in a corner of the enclosure that he usually doesn’t go to.  I went outside to check it out and saw that his face was swollen.  I started to look for the other Wolves.  The second one I noticed was Chito, her face and throat were also swollen and her breathing seemed to be labored.  I knew right away what the problem was, venomous snakebites.  I called Don to meet me at the enclosure, as we would have to make sure that everyone was okay and dress the wounds at the very least.  We also wanted to find the snake.  While I was attending to Waya and Chito, I noticed Don trying to pick Woha up off of the stone den.  She was pretty limp.  I just panicked as it reminded me of how Nita was when she became ill.  Even though we couldn’t immediately see her wound, we knew it was somewhere on her leg as her paw was starting to really swell.  When I knew she was going to be okay, I walked over to where Niko Akni was laying and he tried to get up but couldn’t put pressure on his front leg, he had been bitten as well.  Four of them had been bitten.  This was Waya’s first time, Chito and Woha’s second and Niko Akni’s third.  When will they learn to quit messing with them?  I’m sure what happens is that one Wolf spots the snake and while he or she is grabbing it the other’s notice and try to get it from the Wolf who has it, thus no one is paying close attention to where the snake’s head is.  We didn’t find this snake.  I imagine it was a Copperhead, though.  It is the most prevalent venomous snake in our area.  Waya is going to have a scar.  He must have been the first one bitten and received more of the venom.  Also, our Vet tells us that the more they are bit, they start to build up immunity to the venom.  This obviously is true as Niko Akni was fine a few hours later and he’s been bit the most.  I was really hoping they learned their lesson this time.  I doubt it though.  I few days ago, I found a non-venomous snake, a Black Racer just shredded and beheaded in their enclosure.

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Waya before snakebite Waya after snakebite, notice muzzle swelling.

After a couple of days everyone seemed to be on the mend.  I was starting to breathe easy again when the phone rang at around 10:00am.  The call was from our local Sheriff’s department.  The officer identified himself and proceeded to tell me that 2 or 3 of our Wolves were out and attacking a neighbor’s animals and that they were on their way out here.  I had just finished my morning rounds about ½ hour previous to this and all was well so I doubted it.  He insisted it was true though.  My heart started racing and pounding as I looked out my office window.  Horrible thoughts were pushing their way into my head even though I could see Woha lying there enjoying the morning sun.  I told him what I observed and that if any of the Wolves were out she sure wouldn’t just be lying there.  I told him to hang with me while I went to do a count.  Never did the space between my office and the Wolf enclosure feel as far away.  At this point, I was practically hyperventilating.  The thought of Wolves getting loose is a caretaker’s worse and I mean worse nightmare.  Now, you could see how shady it is in the morning in the enclosure so I didn’t immediately see all of the Wolves but they were all accounted for and peaceful as could be.  I also noticed that there wasn’t a sound in our area, no barking dogs or noises of any kind so I doubted anything was going on anywhere near us.  I invited the officer to come out anyway and see for himself but he never did come.  I’m telling you that for the rest of the day, I had chest pains and just felt spent.  I imagine that the Sheriff's department either received a crank call or that someone saw something else like a pack of wild dogs.  Thankfully, the rest of this month has been peaceful.

I do have a funny story about Chito.  I came in to visit one afternoon and she was whining more than usual.  She was sitting up on the wooden platform and I could see her roll on her side and lick something on the platform under her belly.  As I approached she got more excited and gave me a glimpse of her prize.  It was a baby squirrel.  The squirrels build nests in the trees in the Wolf enclosure.  I think they do it on purpose to keep other predators away.  They could have their pick of trees away from the Wolves as we are surrounded by woods for as far as you can see.  So that is the only reason I could see them picking the Wolf enclosure.  Unfortunately, the babies aren’t as good at climbing and jumping from tree to tree.  Sometimes they fall out of the nest.  Most of them do make it but we have had some casualties as well.  So back to Chito, I didn’t know how I was gonna help this little squirrel.  She seemed to be mothering it, licking and nudging.  I tried to coax her away but the other Wolves approached and she became really anxious and plopped down on the squirrel again, this time really rolling into it.  It just completely disappeared under her.  I went to get some liver treats, I knew those would work to get at least the other Wolves away.  When I came back, I could tell it was too late.  Chito was off of the platform, only the lifeless body of the baby squirrel remained.  Chito came up to me whining and chirping, she led me back to the platform where I scooped the baby up and got him out of the enclosure.  I really think she wanted to keep it.  I know she would make a good Mama Wolf, she loves babies and treats her Christmas plush toys like pups while the other Wolves tear theirs up.

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