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Wolfkeeper Notes
February 20, 2007

Change is in the Air—Again!

Image of Ulie

Image of Sombra and Soccorro
In January I reported that things seemed to be improving with getting our seven wolves to tolerate one another. Well, best laid plans often don't work out the way you think they will.

Things DID seem to be improving with the group of seven-there was less dominance by the males towards the two subordinate female through the month of January and the early part of February. Then hormones in the pack began to escalate (February-March are breeding months in Minnesota for Mexican gray wolves) and everything went into high gear.

Our first indication of a possible increase in aggression came when one of the females started showing signs of entering the breeding season. We had hoped that the implant we gave them in October would prevent their hormones from increasing to levels that would allow for breeding. We were wrong, but this is all part of a new reproductive study done in Mexican gray wolves and we have a lot to learn.

The breeding status didn't go un-noticed by our four young males and the dominance and aggression significantly escalated. Last Thursday, we started to notice more dominant behavior between two of the males-Frisco (the current dominant male) and Tano (the third ranked male) — there was quite a bit of posturing and changes in tail position, chasing, and the usual minor stuff that we see. However, by the next day, things had seemed to "explode" according to one of the zoo volunteers, who quickly called me on the radio. I was there in a few minutes and saw more serious evidence of what wolves are capable of doing to one another when they feel the need to do so. Actually, the injuries looked more serious to us than they actually were-lots of lacerations to the face and hind leg area, but nothing very serious and it all started to heal very quickly. One of the zoo veterinarian's came down immediately to evaluate the situation and agreed that things needed to be watched closely but nothing was broken or severely damaged.

What is to come for this pack? We are evaluating the situation very closely and will be taking it hour by hour and day by day for right now. Any decision we make to separate out a wolf is generally a permanent one, and we need to watch all of the wolves and how they behave with the entire pack before making such a decision. As of today, it appears that Tano is maintaining his new #1 position in the male hierarchy and Frisco is at the bottom. Things are still fairly unstable and can change quite a bit. Who is to say what will eventually be the ranking of these males. Stay tuned...

Go to Minnesota Zoo Web site

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