What It’s Like to Work With Wolves (part 5 of a 5-part series) by Wolf Haven International

So Why Work with Wolves? by Brennan Stoelb, Animal Care Specialist

When it comes to getting messy, it’s part of the job. I obviously shop at Goodwill. I know that the animals are getting a great variety of food and that care and thought is used to ensure that they remain healthy. It’s also great to know that the road kill is being used for a great cause.

Smiling through the rain.

Smiling through the rain.

So at this point, we’ve learned that 1) animal care doesn’t play with wolves 2) it can be pretty unpleasant to work in inclement weather and 3) animal care staff not only deal with wolves, but can also be terrorized by the local wildlife (snakes and hornets, for example) and 4) it can be a pretty stinky job. That hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it?

Snake decides to take a shortcut through our offices.

This snake decided to take a shortcut through our office.

So why do I it? Well, when an animal wants nothing to do with me, doesn’t seek my attention, as in the case of wolves, they are simply doing what they should be doing. It means they are acting as a wild animal. We all want to be wanted and needed, but all they need is to be is left alone. Our residents always arrive at Wolf Haven with varying degrees of human sociability, due to their unique circumstances, and that’s ok. As long as they are comfortable with my presence as I go about my day, performing tasks to allow them a good life, I’m content with that.

Sitka rolls in bear poop donated from Woodland Park Zoo.

Sitka rolls in bear poop donated from Woodland Park Zoo. Ahh, the fragrance!

As for the weather, very rarely do I look at the forecast. I simply assume that every day the weather will be awful and then I’m never let down. I get to be outside, and I’ll never argue with that.

As for the local wildlife……there is nothing redeeming about snakes and hornets.

Brennan & volunteer Larry Oggs do another animal care glamour job - paint

Brennan & volunteer Larry Ogg hard at work on another animal care glamour job – painting.

THE END

What It’s Like to Work With Wolves (part 4 of a 5-part series) by Wolf Haven International

Ruby and Tala, red wolves

Ruby and Tala, red wolves

What’s that smell? by Brennan Stoelb, Animal Care Specialist

Bagging wolf scat

Bagging wolf scat

Even if our clothes stay dry, they are not out of the woods yet. Our clothes are constantly subjected to the various aromas we encounter on a daily basis. I’ll use today as an example. For our Species Survival Plan (SSP) enclosures, we do fecal clean-ups every other day. It was decided that fecals would be done at the same time that we did rounds (when everyone gets fed). So, this morning Pamela and I did routine fence line work in Ruby and Tala’s (two red wolves) enclosure. We set the barrel full of woodchips down for a second and then continued towards are work area, where I dumped a pile of chips to spread. I began to notice that something didn’t smell right. My hand was muddy, but mud doesn’t smell like this. I then looked at my pant leg and found some more unsettling news. Apparently when we set the barrel down, we set it on a pile of excrement, which was conveniently placed by the bottom handle so I could grab it and then rub it against my leg. For one last bit of information, consistency

Meghan doing the glamorous food prep needed before feeding the wolves.

Meghan doing the glamorous food prep needed before feeding the wolves.

changes depending how much raw meat an animal consumes……we’ll leave it at that.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog (“Barrel O’ Fun” posted Oct 2, 2013) about the meat donations from a local retailer through the Sustainable Solutions through Quest Recycling program. Basically, this is a donation of a variety of unsold meat, so imagine what those meats smell like. Other sources of meat include fresh road

Company that manages Sustainability program

Company that manages Sustainability program

kill. Yes, that’s right. We only feed road kill that is relatively fresh, no maggots or other predatory evidence being present, to our SSP residents. We often freeze the deer when they arrive to kill off any ticks or other parasites that may be present. We then thaw the animal and divide it up. This includes legs and carcass often going to different enclosures. I will leave it at that. After a couple of days, the remnants are then removed from the enclosures.

Wendy assists Brennan suit up in trash bags before he cuts up a deer

Wendy assists Brennan suit up in trash bags before he cuts up a deer.

This also goes for salmon, pumpkins etc. Wolves will often cache things and you can imagine what a salmon smells and looks like after basking in the sun, partially buried.

Brennan makes a meat loaf.

Brennan makes a meat loaf.

Bottom line, sanitizer is our friend. (to be continued…)

Up Next:  Why Work with Wolves?  – the final installment of the series

What It's Like to Work With Wolves (part 3 of a 5-part series)

One animal (besides wolves) that Brennan approves of on the property.

One animal (besides wolves) that Brennan approves of on the property.

Working “with” Other Creatures by Brennan Stoelb, Animal Care Specialist

Since Animal Care staff doesn’t go into enclosures for unnecessary reasons, and we take the highest precautions when we do go in, my biggest fear at Wolf Haven isn’t the animals – at least not the resident animals. I am afraid of snakes.

Garter snake seeking chorus frogs (or possibly Brennan)

Garter snake seeking chorus frogs (or possibly Brennan)

There, I said it. I was astonished by the amount of Garter Snakes that were on this property in the summer (and those are just the ones that I can see!) One sneaky snake gave me a heart attack after he maneuvered himself to the top off cedar fence, just soaking up the sun. I walked past him at least twice before I saw his beady little eyes staring into mine.

As a side note, should a snake have the

Carosal is a female coyote at Wolf Haven.

Carosal is a female coyote at Wolf Haven.

misfortune of being in an enclosure, they may be used as a toy. Carosal the coyote is a great snake catcher. Not that I want to see snakes die, mind you.

Since we’re talking about non-resident creatures, I want to mention the bees and hornets. While weed whacking in the back part of the sanctuary, wearing my protective face mask and weed whacker vest with attached weed whacker, I must have stumbled upon a nest. I was immediately stung four times on my right shoulder and once on my hand, as I was running and stripping off my gear. (to be continued…..)

Hornet and nest

Hornet and nest

Up Next:  What’s That Smell?

What It's Like to Work With Wolves (part 2 of a 5-part series)

Brennan Stoelb, Animal Care Specialist/Wolf Haven International

Working with Weather

A volunteer (Ron Bond) "enjoys" pulling Scotch broom in the rain.

A Wolf Haven volunteer (Ron Bond) “enjoys” pulling Scotch broom in the rain.

The weather can make daily work life challenging. Since it is the Pacific Northwest, rain is not surprising, so be prepared to be wet. As I write this blog entry, my pants, flannel shirt, and undershirt are soaked from pressure-washing log feeders (carved logs that we put

Oak feeder for dry kibble - standard diet for our Species Survival Plan wolves

Oak feeder for dry kibble – standard diet for our Species Survival Plan wolves

kibble in for our Species Survival animals, the red wolves and Mexican gray wolves).

The howling wind doesn’t help either. When the wind gets to blowing at 30 knots, Wolf Haven closes the sanctuary, not only for visits but for staff as well. We do this for a couple of reasons. First off, we have trees in enclosures and the limbs can break off and fall into enclosures

Downed branches "decorate" Eve's enclosure following storm.

Downed branches “decorate” Eve’s enclosure following storm.

or come flying towards an unsuspecting visit group. Secondly, blowing wind with swaying branches can be a source of stress for the wolves and we don’t want to add to a stressful situation. A visit can come back at another time. Whatever the task, it can wait.

Ladyhawk enjoying a shrimpsicle on a hot summer day.

Ladyhawk enjoying a shrimpsicle on a hot summer day.

This summer we also had some very hot weeks. As much as we like to bask in the sun when it’s around, we limit our time in the sanctuary during the heat spells. Just as during high winds, we don’t want to stress animals out and cause them to run. Running and heat don’t mix for humans, or animals. On an afternoon in the summer, it’s probably not the best time to see wolves anyway. They are lying in the tall grass, under a shady branch, just as they should be.

Word of advice, come in the cool of the morning! (to be continued)

next up: Working “with” Other Creatures

What It’s Like to Work With Wolves (part 2 of a 5-part series)

Brennan Stoelb, Animal Care Specialist/Wolf Haven International

Working with Weather

A volunteer (Ron Bond) "enjoys" pulling Scotch broom in the rain.

A Wolf Haven volunteer (Ron Bond) “enjoys” pulling Scotch broom in the rain.

The weather can make daily work life challenging. Since it is the Pacific Northwest, rain is not surprising, so be prepared to be wet. As I write this blog entry, my pants, flannel shirt, and undershirt are soaked from pressure-washing log feeders (carved logs that we put

Oak feeder for dry kibble - standard diet for our Species Survival Plan wolves

Oak feeder for dry kibble – standard diet for our Species Survival Plan wolves

kibble in for our Species Survival animals, the red wolves and Mexican gray wolves).

The howling wind doesn’t help either. When the wind gets to blowing at 30 knots, Wolf Haven closes the sanctuary, not only for tours but for staff as well. We do this for a couple of reasons. First off, we have trees in enclosures and the limbs can break off and fall into enclosures

Downed branches "decorate" Eve's enclosure following storm.

Downed branches “decorate” Eve’s enclosure following storm.

or come flying towards an unsuspecting tour group. Secondly, blowing wind with swaying branches can be a source of stress for the wolves and we don’t want to add to a stressful situation. A tour can come back at another time. Whatever the task, it can wait.

Ladyhawk enjoying a shrimpsicle on a hot summer day.

Ladyhawk enjoying a shrimpsicle on a hot summer day.

This summer we also had some very hot weeks. As much as we like to bask in the sun when it’s around, we limit our time in the sanctuary during the heat spells. Just as during high winds, we don’t want to stress animals out and cause them to run. Running and heat don’t mix for humans, or animals. On an afternoon in the summer, it’s probably not the best time to see wolves anyway. They are lying in the tall grass, under a shady branch, just as they should be.

Word of advice, come in the cool of the morning! (to be continued)

next up: Working “with” Other Creatures

What it's Like to Work with Wolves (a 5-part series)

by Brennan Stoelb, Animal Care Specialist/Wolf Haven International

Juno yawns.

Juno yawns.

So You Think You Want to Work with Wolves

First off, why would someone want to work in animal care? Usually people will say that it’s because they love wolves, which I believe, (as someone who has been fascinated with wolves for as long as I can remember), is a totally valid reason! However, I think there is a misconception about what the job entails. Often, after telling someone I work at Wolf Haven and in the Animal Care department, the question “so you get to play with wolves all day, huh?” is asked.

The answer is No. Neither I, nor any member of Wolf Haven’s staff plays with wolves all,

Juno walks through the gate between double enclosure she shares with Shadow (seen drinking).

Juno walks through the gate between double enclosure she shares with Shadow (seen drinking).

part, or even some of the day. Wolf Haven actually takes a more “hands off” approach when managing the resident wolves. Animal Care staff goes into enclosures rather infrequently. When an enclosure is in need of repair or routine maintenance, two or more people will enter it while someone keeps an eye on the animals at all times. The ideal system would allow the wolves to move to a vacant enclosure, completely sealed off from the one we are entering. Wolf Haven is currently very close to having this system in the lower portion of the sanctuary! So as you can see, as far as caretaker/resident interaction, there really isn’t much.

Brennan is being encased in plastic trash bags as he prepares to process sheep for the wolves.

Brennan is being encased in plastic trash bags as he prepares to process sheep for the wolves.

I stand 6’3,” so I can be an intimidating individual to some of our shyer wolves. Out of the 51 animals at Wolf Haven, four present for scratches at the fence, a behavior that we indulge only if the animal wants that interaction. The rest want their food tossed in a timely manner and that’s about it. For a feeling of love and acceptance, I go home to my dogs….and some days my fiancé.   (to be continued…)

Next Up: Working with Weather

What it’s Like to Work with Wolves (a 5-part series)

by Brennan Stoelb, Animal Care Specialist/Wolf Haven International

Juno yawns.

Juno yawns.

So You Think You Want to Work with Wolves

First off, why would someone want to work in animal care? Usually people will say that it’s because they love wolves, which I believe, (as someone who has been fascinated with wolves for as long as I can remember), is a totally valid reason! However, I think there is a misconception about what the job entails. Often, after telling someone I work at Wolf Haven and in the Animal Care department, the question “so you get to play with wolves all day, huh?” is asked.

The answer is No. Neither I, nor any member of Wolf Haven’s staff plays with wolves all,

Juno walks through the gate between double enclosure she shares with Shadow (seen drinking).

Juno walks through the gate between double enclosure she shares with Shadow (seen drinking).

part, or even some of the day. Wolf Haven actually takes a more “hands off” approach when managing the resident wolves. Animal Care staff goes into enclosures rather infrequently. When an enclosure is in need of repair or routine maintenance, two or more people will enter it while someone keeps an eye on the animals at all times. The ideal system would allow the wolves to move to a vacant enclosure, completely sealed off from the one we are entering. Wolf Haven is currently very close to having this system in the lower portion of the sanctuary! So as you can see, as far as caretaker/resident interaction, there really isn’t much.

Brennan is being encased in plastic trash bags as he prepares to process sheep for the wolves.

Brennan is being encased in plastic trash bags as he prepares to process sheep for the wolves.

I stand 6’3,” so I can be an intimidating individual to some of our shyer wolves. Out of the 51 animals at Wolf Haven, four present for scratches at the fence, a behavior that we indulge only if the animal wants that interaction. The rest want their food tossed in a timely manner and that’s about it. For a feeling of love and acceptance, I go home to my dogs….and some days my fiancé.   (to be continued…)

Next Up: Working with Weather

The Gift of the Christmas Goose

Jessie plucks the feathers first.

Jessie plucks the feathers first.

by Wendy Spencer, Director of Animal Care
Wolf Haven International

While many of us are eating Christmas dinner with family and friends, the wolves at the sanctuary enjoy a holiday feast of their own- a fully feathered Christmas goose! It started a few years ago when we received a call from a USDA Wildlife Services agent who had taken our Wildlife Handling course. His agency culled hundreds of Canadian geese in the Seattle area and wanted to know if we would be interested in some for the wolves.

We had never given the wolves geese before. They did, though, have experience with fully feathered chickens so we thought that surely they would enjoy the geese as well.  And boy were we right! As a result, for the past several years, Wildlife Services brings us enough geese for each animal (approx. 50), and this has become the traditional Christmas dinner.

Siri rolls on her goose.

Siri rolls on her goose.

Because the wolves only get a goose once a year, it remains a novelty to them, so each Christmas it is like they are getting it for the first time. It often takes them a while to figure out what to do with their goose. For some, there is no hesitation- they get right down to business and set about plucking feathers in order to get to the breast meat. Others are in such a rush that they have not time for plucking, they just start eating, even if it means a mouthful of feathers. A few of the wolves will lick their goose from head to toe, like a giant waterfowl-flavored Popsicle, and others cache theirs, perhaps while they try and figure out what to do with it.

See (and hear) the Video of Riley & Siri with their geese HERE.

The most common reaction that we see is rolling. Almost all the wolves will initially roll on their goose- and not just once, but over and over and over until they are covered in “eau de goose.” A few of our more dominant wolves – Jaque in particular- prefer to let their geese marinate, so they will urinate on it. She will go so far as to steal her mate Spruce’s goose and pee on it as well before letting him have it back (but only AFTER she is done with it). Riley seems to think his is a giant stuffy, so he will often toss his around in the air and bat it around with his big clown feet.

Mehina and her goose.

Mehina and her goose.

This year we had several wolves enjoying their first Christmas with us, and reactions to the geese ran the gamut. But by far, Samantha was the most comical. She pretty much did all of the above, but in addition, for days following the feast, she had goose guts stuck to her scruff and all down the length of her body from rolling so much. Being one of our most food motivated wolves, she is usually front and center whenever Animal Care staff is present (lest she miss out on food), but after the goose feeding, there she stood, in her pile of feathers guarding her precious remains, not willing to risk losing any part of her Christmas dinner to enclosure mate, Bart.

We are now into the second week of January and Animal Care is still cleaning goose feathers out of the enclosures- a sign that indeed, the wolves enjoyed their Christmas geese.

Wendy Spencer

Director of Animal Care
Wolf Haven International
Phone: 360.264.4695 x218
Email: wendy@wolfhaven.org