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A Wolf without a Pack – by Maria Ferguson
In the last quarter of 2018, the Wolf Howl Animal Preserve Pack lost 3 members to disease and age related issues. This left Woha, an 11 year old female Wolf the only surviving pack member. Her struggles dealing with this loss have been severe.
At first there was actual mourning. She did a mournful, distressful solo howl especially in the evening for hours. It was heartbreaking to listen to. We often had to go in the enclosure with her to get her to calm down. With her pro-estrus cycle (menses), the howling increased but became more distressed than mournful. This continued for about 6 weeks.
Now that she has gone through estrus (ovulation) the howling has stopped completely. We see now that she is nervous and fearful as a lone Wolf, even with us. She is better with caretaker Don than me. She only allows me to pet her briefly after I give her a treat. There are times when she won’t even take one from me so I leave it somewhere for her to find when I leave the enclosure. I have tried to play with her like we have in the past but she tucks her tail in fear and runs away. Most times Don can hand her a treat but she limits him as far as petting goes. When the treats are gone so is she.
This has made me realize how important the whole pack was to us being able to socialize with the individual Wolves. They felt safety in numbers. You would think that lovingly caring for a Wolf in a pack from the day she was born until the age of 11 would insure that she would continue to be playful and affectionate with you, but it simply does not. I took this personally at first and racked my brain trying to figure out how I could make her suddenly so fearful of me.
Thinking back it did start in September when I got a new pair of boots. I even posted a video of how freaked out she was about them. This I also saw with all of the Wolves to a degree but this seemed extreme. It took her about a month before she let me touch her again. Then Niko Akni became very ill. I needed to bring in supplies to care for him. She was curious about my bag and would often try to steal it. I had to shoo her away a few times as there was antibiotics and other things I couldn’t risk her ingesting. One particular time, I stood up quickly with the bag in my hand and fell into a hole. It startled her and she became fearful again. This lasted a week or so before things got back to normal with her.
On October 24th we made the difficult decision to help Niko Akni pass over the bridge as his cancer had spread and his health was failing rapidly. That left her and Wa-ta-chee as the only two Wolves left in the large enclosure. On November 2nd we found Wa-ta-chee had passed away peacefully in his sleep. She was now the only Wolf left in the main enclosure. Her Mother, whom Woha led a coup against many years before was in the enclosure next to her so she still felt like she was part of a pack. On December 29th, Ohoyo suffered the same fate as Wa-ta-chee. Woha was now alone and afraid.
So, it’s been a rough road for Woha and we must remain patient and sympathetic to her situation. It’s tough not to put human emotion into her very base instincts to survive as a lone Wolf. We both let her know we are there for her everyday and hope that as time goes by she will once again learn to comfortably socialize with us as she did before.