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.
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.
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.
Director of Animal Care
Wolf Haven International
Phone: 360.264.4695 x218