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Wolfkeeper Notes
November 10th, 2006

One Big Un-Happy Family

As I mentioned in the July notes, at this year's SSP meeting, it was decided to try and introduce a group of females to our four males without the risk of pregnancy in the spring. The three females arrived in early October from the Wild Canid Center in Eureka, MO and were given their hormone implants to prevent pregnancy shortly after their arrival to Minnesota. They were all in excellent health and were introduced to the zoo's four males this morning after their 30-day quarantine at our Large Animal Holding space.

Zoo staff removed the four males from their enclosure and allowed the three females to get accustomed to the area and meet the four males that were separated by a gate in a nearby pen. Everyone in the two packs appeared to be very comfortable in the area and greeted each other in what appeared to be very positive ways (wolf language, anyway). We opened the pen gate this morning and things got very exciting in a very short time. The males came out of the holding pen very quickly and tried to greet the three females-two of the females immediately ran from them, but the males were able to surround one of the females very quickly. She immediately submitted, everyone sniffed everyone and then it was over.

What was of most concern to us was the aggression/chasing that went on by the four males towards the other two females though. The group of four males and one female immediately tried to chase/bite the other two females of the "new" group. This continued throughout the day, with the two females continuing to run tail tucked and receive a few bites to their hip areas. To some degree, this is normal wolf behavior with dominance/submission, but what had us most concerned was the intensity of the chasing by the males. It would not do us any good to "break up" these challenges every few minutes-this is what wolf life is like in a pack and they had to try and work it out on their own. Obviously, we need to ensure that no animal get seriously injured or killed, so the decision was made to close the viewing gazebo for a short period of time and continue to monitor the group.

We are hopeful that things will work themselves out-it may take days, weeks, or months, but we are going to do continual observations during daylight hours and make the management decision to leave or remove animals on what we observe on almost a daily basis. The building is closed due to the fact that human presence in the building is frightening to the newer females and they can become distracted by the public when they should be concentrating on the other pack members. We have experienced this type of dominance in the past-but it has been over 14 years...how soon we forget how wild animals behave to make things work in their world. We hope to have more information soon-crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.

Go to Minnesota Zoo Web site

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