July World of Wolves – Mexican pups get first health check

Six-week old Mexican wolf pup.

Six-week old Mexican wolf pup at first health check.

Mexican wolf parents M1360 (Kochi) and F1422 (Vida) had a litter of nine pups at Wolf Haven on April 30.

Surprise wolf pup at McCleery Ranch

Unexpected McCleery wolf pup

by Wendy Spencer,  Director of Operations, Wolf Haven International

We have some unexpected news to share from our McCleery Ranch in Montana.

One of the biggest challenges here at McCleery Ranch has been managing the aggression between the females in two large family groups As a reminder, we care for 34 wolves here and though several are in pairs,  there are two large family groups and both have multiple reproductively viable females,  who are far more prone to aggression during breeding season than males. Although at this time we have no plans to breed the McCleery wolves, they all still remain intact, which poses a definite challenge.

Wolves are seasonal breeders (winter), so prior to breeding season we made the decision to remove some of the females from the largest group which consisted of ten females and four males. In January, we were able to chemically immobilize via a remote drug delivery system (dart gun) four of the females from that group and move them to the one vacant enclosure that we had on site, reducing that group to six females and four males. And while there was still some aggression between them, it was much more reduced than what we saw our first year here.

Four members of a McCleery Ranch group.

Four members of a McCleery Ranch group.

During the breeding season, we were able to separate one of the family groups into same sex groups, but even though aggression levels were reduced, we were concerned about sealing all six females in a single enclosure (they currently have access to two enclosures with a corridor that connects them so they are able to move back and forth).  Based on their history and given the fact that when we did semen collection the year before the males had no viable sperm, we made the decision to leave the group together.

Surprise! Turns out one of the males was still reproductively viable – because we ended up with one little female pup. As a sanctuary, breeding does not align with our philosophy (with the exception of our participation in Mexican and red wolf Species Survival Plan programs {SSP}). Wolf Haven takes precautions to make sure that we are not intentionally breeding more wolves to spend their lives in captivity (where, of course, wolves do not belong). However, the pup is here, and we will do whatever we can to give her the best life possible, as we do with all our animals. She is about 8 weeks old now and the rest of the family dotes on her… she pretty much runs the show!

Mexican Wolf Pair Welcome Nine Pups

Furry pile of pups sleeping in their underground den.

Furry pile of pups sleeping in their underground den.

Mexican wolf parents M1360 (Kochi) and F1422 (Vida) had a litter of nine pups at Wolf Haven on April 30. Although Wolf Haven does not breed the rescued wolves who call our sanctuary home – we wouldn’t want to contribute to the tragedy of wild animals living in captivity – we occasionally have litters of species who have been designated as critically endangered: red wolves (Canis rufus) and Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi).

Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs are cooperative animal programs designed to oversee the population management of select species in captivity in order to enhance their conservation in the wild.

One of two collared wolves release into the wild in 2013.

One of two collared wolves release into the wild in 2013.

Mexican wolves were declared endangered in 1976. Since 1994, Wolf Haven has actively participated in their recovery, both as a captive breeding facility and one of only three pre-release sites in the US. Toward that end, there have been 10 litters of Mexican wolves born at Wolf Haven, the first one arriving in 1996. Three families from Wolf Haven have been released into the wild, with the Hawk’s Nest family group being among the first three packs of Mexican gray wolves released into the federally designated reintroduction area in Arizona’s Apache National Forest.

From our first “official” photo of Vida and Kochi’s litter, all in a furry pile in their den, to their first required health care check six weeks later, these five males and four females have certainly grown. They will receive their second round of inoculations, deworming and also get microchips later this month. In the meantime, the nine pups all appeared healthy and robust, as you can see at their first checkup.