Pups with Personality

The pups have grown so much in the past month! At roughly 3 months old, they now live in an adult enclosure, with holes to hide in, logs to climb on, and plenty of foliage to romp through. They're eating a healthy diet of deer, geese, and chickens, with some raw dog food and high quality dry food mixed in for good measure. They spend their days tearing around their habitat, chewing on each other and searching for treasures left behind by the former "tenants." Read on for a more personal introduction for each of the 2016 pups!

Alaina is part of the youngest 2016 litter. Though a week behind the oldest pups, Alaina doesn't let her age slow her down. She's a bold pup that doesn't mind new people and eagerly investigates new things. Alaina is larger than either of her siblings (Cherri and Clay), allowing her to hold her own within the pup pack.

 

Bane is one of only four boys in the pup pack. He's a goofy guy, and he keeps his caretakers laughing. Bane can be cautious around strangers, but he enthusiastically greets the people he knows with a lot of licking, pawing, and whining. He seems to enjoy a good scratch, and he seeks out his pup nannies pretty regularly. Bane is part of the DC Villains litter. He's named after one of Batman's famous foes.

Banner is named after Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk, to reflect his large stature. He's part of the Marvel Heroes litter. From the first day of hand-raising, he has consistently been much larger than the rest of the 2016 pups. Banner isn't interested in new people, but he has closely bonded with his human pup nannies. He's one of the first to greet them, and he hangs out nearby throughout the day.

Cherri is a spitfire. She's the smallest of the 2016 pups, and one of the youngest.  Cherri has no "off switch" when it comes to food, and she'll fill her belly until it's stretched tight! She's a generalist, and doesn't shy away from interacting with new people, making her a favorite during our popular wolf pup experiences. She's named after Dr. Cheryl Asa, a long-time friend and collaborator with WSC.

Clay is the smallest, youngest male in the pup pack. He's one of the first pups to pop up when food appears. Like Cherri, he will gorge himself until his round belly becomes uncomfortable, and he can often be heard making the soft groans of a very full pup. Clay is another generalist, with no problems investigating new people to grab an extra scratch. He's a star player during our wolf pup experiences.

Courtney is the darkest of all the pups, making her instantly recognizable. She regularly takes control of any food being offered, and is sure to grab some of the most coveted bites. Courtney is a bold pup, and she'll eagerly check out new people if she's being bribed with food. She's extremely photogenic, becoming a favorite muse of many visiting photographers.

Ezra was named by the youngest participant of our very first pup experience. Though similar in features, she's not as dark as Courtney, and remains a bit more cautious around people. She seeks interaction with her caretakers on occasion, but seems just as happy to lay in the shade on her own or start a play session with another pup.

 

Harley is rather blonde, being one of the lightest colored pups. She resembles her brother, Bane, in color, size, and disposition, sometimes requiring a double-take! She's a silly girl, wiggling around and making soft pup whines. Harley seeks out her caretakers, but tends to be more reserved around those she doesn't know. As part of the DC Villains litter, she's named after Harley Quinn.

Ivy has a distinctive look, making her as photogenic as her namesake, Poison Ivy. She's part of the DC Villains litter. Ivy has grown from being a shyer pup to one that seeks out interactions, making her development a truly enjoyable one to witness. Ivy is determined, and will work at whatever she wants until she has it. She's also the instigator behind many pup play sessions and jaw spars!

Marlin is the most reserved of the 2016 pups. He will eat, rest, and play near people, but he's not interested in human interaction. Fortunately, Marlin is highly food-motivated, aiding his caretakers in any necessary handling. Marlin adores Oliver, a German shepherd that serves as one of his canine pup nannies. He follows Oliver relentlessly, and they make a very darling pair.

Renner is part of the Marvel Heroes litter. She's named after Jeremy Renner, the actor that plays "Hawkeye" in the Avengers movies. She keeps her distance from strangers, but gives some of the most lavish greetings to those she knows. With her caretakers, she's a goof-ball, endlessly wiggling on her back. Her tongue often hangs out of her mouth, giving her a happy-go-lucky appearance.

Selina is a quieter pup, and she enjoys spending subdued moments with her caretakers. Part of the DC Villains litter, she's named after Selina Kyle, the alter-ego of "Cat Woman." Selina actively follows around other pups as they explore, and she's quick to join in on a round of play. She's also one of the most enthusiastic howlers in the group.

 

Scarlett is eager to investigate new things. She's part of the Marvel Heroes litter. Her namesake, Scarlett Johansson, plays "Black Widow" in the Avengers movies. Scarlett is just as content hanging with her caretakers as she is playing with her siblings, and she's very good at keeping herself busy. She's sneaky, and can often be caught stealing play-things from other pups.

Skye shares many similarities with her sister, Scarlett. She's slightly darker, and has a few subtle facial markings that set her apart. Skye is part of the Marvel Heroes litter, named after "Quake" in Marvel's Agent's of Shield. She bravely confronts new situations, but hangs back when new people are around.  Skye seems to like a good scratch, and is often found napping out in the sun. 

Talia, like Ivy, went through a shy phase that she is just now overcoming. Though still hesitant, Talia has begun seeking out her caretakers and asking for more contact. It's been an extremely exciting development! Talia is named after Talia al Ghul, a nemesis of Batman's. She's part of the DC Villains litter. Talia has rounder eyes than her siblings, giving her a bit of a bewildered appearance. 

 

For just a few more weeks, you can meet the pups yourself! Wolf Pup Experiences will only be available until August 24th. Don't miss your chance to visit with these incredible wolf ambassadors!

All photos taken by Evan Whitby during our recent Wolf Pup Photography Workshop. Thank you Evan!

Wide Open Space

The wolf pups are finally taking advantage of the big pup yard! At two months old, they now have access to their indoor area, the shady alley that had served as their outdoor space previously, and a larger outdoor area. While they always have access to the indoors, they don't choose to spend much time there. Unless there are thunderstorms, the pups are typically outside. This is consistent with what we're seeing in our packs that our raising their own pups this summer. The pups are spending less time in the den, and more time exploring.

The pups were scared when we first allowed them into this large space. They had never been able to spread out so far from each other before, and not being able to see everything around them can be frightening. We used all of our canine pup nannies to put the little ones at ease. Once the dogs started romping about, the pups gained enough confidence to start exploring their new space. They quickly became big fans of the large, varied habitat! We are still bringing the pups in at night, but each morning they are camped out at the gate into the pup yard, ready to spend their day running, wrestling, and sleeping.

The pup yard has three distinct areas. The front of the yard is open with some tall grasses. There are a few dog houses for shade, but the pups primarily use this area to run and play. The center of the yard is thick with mulberry, providing shelter from the hot sun and from light rain. This is where the pups primarily take their naps. It's also their favorite place to settle down and chew on bones or branches! Finally, the back of the yard is wetter, with a small patch of mud. Naturally, the pups love to dig and get dirty there! This is also where we keep the pup pool. At first, the pups seemed to think the pool was a giant water dish, but pup nanny Sean is a big fan of pools, and after he took a couple of splashy dips in it, they enthusiastically jumped in. Whatever "dad" is doing must be good for pups too! They are thriving in this new environment, and that has allowed for many adorable moments. Make sure you're following our Facebook page to see videos of all the action in the big pup yard!

The Great Outdoors

The oldest pups are now 1-1/2 months old, and their daily routine has changed dramatically! Gone are the days of rolling around in their puppy pen and being bottle fed. The pups now have an entire room all their own, and are being fed three large meals a day. Their typical diet includes a mixture of high-quality dry dog food, raw dog food, and ground venison to ensure that they get all of the nutrients they need. Topped off with water, it turns into a delicious mush that the pups eagerly devour. 

The pups finally have all of their baby teeth, and they've become active chewers! Anything they can get their mouths around is fair game. Walls, bowls, buckets, siblings, and pup nannies have all been victims. To satiate the chewing, we've begun offering larger items for them to gnaw on. Elk antlers and beef bones have been a hit, but deer legs are their clear favorite. Even though the legs are provided on top of their regular diet, the pups happily pick them clean. It's amazing to see how efficient they are at such a young age. 

Another event in the pups lives has been spending time outside! Several of our packs are rearing their own pups, and we were waiting to introduce ours to the great outdoors until those pups began venturing outside the den on their own. All pups at WSC (hand-raised and not) are now enjoying some sunshine, and we are giving our charges as much supervised time outdoors as possible. They love running, digging, and chewing on vegetation. A little sprinkle of rain doesn't even slow them down!

Sean is a wonderful pup nanny. Cleaning the pups and keeping them busy are just a few of his many talents!

Sean is a wonderful pup nanny. Cleaning the pups and keeping them busy are just a few of his many talents!

Canine pup nannies Sean and Oliver have been instrumental in keeping outside time fun for the pups. At this age, they are extremely cautious, and the presence of dogs softens the blow of scary noises like planes flying over or volunteers filling water buckets. In the wild, this is critical for survival. Having adult dogs stay calm in the face of something scary reassures the pups and puts them at ease. The pups have a small outdoor run for now, and still spend their nights inside. At this age, even too much space can frighten the pups.  When they're a little older, they'll be introduced to a large yard with even more room to run and play!

Quail and Chicks and Rabbit, Oh My!

The wolf pups are growing and developing at an alarming rate! At only one month old, we're already seeing them exhibit essential wolf behaviors that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Being so young, the pups don't truly know why they do the things they do. Instinct consumes them, causing them to practice things that may be unnecessary now, but will be critical in adulthood. Some of the most interesting behaviors that we're seeing revolve around food. 

We are offering more and more meat to the pups in an attempt to mimic what their parents would be providing them. Fortunately, they're big fans of the stuff! Mixtures of venison, raw dog food, and chicken breast have all been met with rave reviews. We can hardly get the meat to them fast enough, and they gobble it down in only a minute or two.

One of the most exciting responses we've seen to these feedings is food caching. Adult wolves bury, or "cache" scraps of meat for later, to sustain them until the next successful hunt. We're already seeing this behavior in a few of the wolf pups, who are grabbing a chunk of meat, running along the sides of their habitat, and haphazardly burying it in the hay. While these pup caches are highly inefficient, it's a privilege to watch this instinctual behavior in action. At just over a month old, this is the earliest food caching has ever been observed at WSC. 

Recently, we received a large donation of quail. Any meat is generally cut into small, bite-sized chunks, but the little birds seemed like the perfect opportunity to offer the pups their very first whole prey item. They were as enthusiastic about the event as we were! The pups eagerly grabbed their quail and tottered off, but being used to items that are easily swallowed, they weren't quite sure how to approach the birds. Some of the older pups figured out how to tear off strips of meat, but many of the younger ones needed the helping hand of pup nannies. By holding the quail while the pup tugged, it was easier for them to rip off a mouth-full. The feeding was clumsy, but the eagerness of the pups confirmed that they were ready for whole prey items to be rotated into their diet.

Since the quail feeding, the pups have also been introduced to chicks and a rabbit. We are still topping them off with a bottle, but we want to give them a lot of variety. Not only does this ensure adequate nutrition, but it also allows them to have new experiences and try new skills. The chick feeding was fairly successful, but many of the pups still needed help breaking them into small pieces before they could consume them. The rabbit ended up being more of a toy than a meal, but it provided a great opportunity for the pups to practice biting and head-shaking. These actions will be critical as adults, when they need to tear apart an adult deer. We live-streamed the rabbit feeding, which you can watch below. 

It’s All in the… Mouth?

As the wolf pups grow, their bodies change rapidly. At almost a month old, it’s incredible how different the eldest pups look in comparison to their week-younger counterparts. At this age, not only do they get larger, but their ears stand up, their eye color begins to turn from blue to amber, and their body proportions even out so they aren’t so head-heavy. Of all these developments, some of the most important changes happening now are the hardest to see.

Wolves are extremely tactile, but without the gift of opposable thumbs, they rely on their mouths rather than their paws to get the most out of their sense of touch. In a single day, they can use their mouths to eat, drink, groom, play, howl, and even kill. Most of these uses will serve a wolf throughout its life, but one is only beneficial at a very young age.

Nursing requires an incredible ability to suck, and a wolf pup’s mouth is expertly outfitted to do the job. They are born without teeth, and their tongues are excessively wide, allowing them to create quite a bit of suction. To ensure that minimal milk is lost in the nursing process, pups are equipped with marginal papillae, a unique tool that assists in closing potential gaps in the pup's mouth while it nurses. These papillae are only visible up-close, resembling tiny, feather-like fringes on the edge of the tongue. As the pups shift from an all-liquid diet to one that is more meat-based, the papillae are no longer beneficial, and they disappear as part of the development process.

A change that's much easier to see (and feel!) is the eruption of teeth! Tiny milk incisors have been present for a while, but the rest of the baby teeth are now on their way. Canines and premolars are just starting to come in, making things far more interesting for our puppy nannies. Suckling on anything and everything is a comfort to the pups, and while this was a very sweet way to bond early on, it's becoming more painful every day! The pups will retain these teeth through their first whole prey item meals, until they loose them between four and six months old. It's rare to find pup teeth when they fall out, but every once in a while a stray tooth ends up in someone's clothing!

Hearing and Howling

It's a whole new world for the wolf pups! Wolves are born with their eyes and ears closed, relying on their sense of smell and the feel of their surroundings to navigate and explore. Their eyes open at 10 - 12 days old, but sound doesn't enter the picture until roughly a week later. The older pups are just now hearing for the first time, and their ears are finally starting to stand up. At three weeks old, the eldest pups are developmentally right on track, and with their auditory senses up and running, every experience is new again.

This is especially true of howling! These pups have been able to howl, at least a little bit, since their first day of hand-raising at 12 days old. Those howls were un-solicited and went un-answered, disappearing into the universe because no pup could hear the call. Now that their ears have opened, that's changed! Puppy nannies are able to howl to their charges, and get howls in response! This is critical for the pups' development, not only to learn about howling as a communication tool, but also as a method of bonding. When the pups are older, howling will be a catalyst for pack rallying, drawing the pups together with any adults (human or canine) that may be in their lives. It's a vital tool in a puppy nanny's tool box!

In addition to open and upright ears, some facial markings are starting to appear, making the pups look less like gophers and more like wolves. Still, at such a young age, the pups are difficult to differentiate between without a little help. To make sure we can keep track of each individual, we shave small patches of fur on each pup. Various locations used include both shoulders and hips, the base of the neck, the base of the tail, and mid-back. Unlike nail-polish, there's no risk of suddenly losing the mark through regular pup wear-and-tear as they eat and play. The shaved patches slowly regrow, giving the nannies plenty of time to re-fresh them. With each pup getting a unique shave mark, we're certain they all get equally handled and cared for.

The Second Wave

A look inside the large, elaborate den dug for the older litter.

A look inside the large, elaborate den dug for the older litter.

The Wildlife Science Center is very excited to welcome another round of wolf pups into our pack! We collected pups from two more litters on Wednesday, with birthdates on April 22nd and 23rd. Both mothers had large litters, and we left a few pups for them to care for while we hand-raise the rest. Both wolves are experienced mothers, and the two dens they dug could not have been more different! The slightly older litter were born in a deep, long den that had plenty of room for mom and pups to move around in. Clearly, some considerable time had gone into excavating it. The younger litter had a much shallower, simpler den, as if the mom had gotten to a certain point and finally considered it "good enough." Not suprisingly, gathering those pups was much easier! From the outside, the second den closely resembled one a wild wolf might dig, making for a cool photo op.

An outside look at the simpler den, dug for the younger litter.

An outside look at the simpler den, dug for the younger litter.

With two age classes, feeding time becomes very interesting! The first round of pups that began bottle feeding last week are now making a smooth transition over to meat. They are often consuming more vension or raw diet than milk, and most of them are to the point where they can eat it out of a bowl, without puppy nannies having to hand-feed it to them. In contrast, the newest litters are just learning about the bottle, and take much more time to feed. This streches out their feeding sessions to over an hour long, meaning that even though all pups have to be fed every four hours, by time they've finished eating the puppy nannies are ramping up for another feeding in three hours or less. A special thank-you shout-out to Meg, who has been pulling some killer night shifts to make sure every pup is cared for! 

While some of the newest pup's eyes are just opening, the older pups are beginning to hear for the first time. Pup ears generally open at about 21 days old, and it makes raising them a totally new experience. Nannies now have to be careful about startling pups, or waking them up from a nap. Gone are the days when a metal dish can be dropped without consequence! The last thing we want to do is trigger a fear response at such an impressionable age. Despite the challenges, there are now new opportunities to communicate. Nannies have been whimpering and howling to the pups all along, but now the older pups can hear and respond to those noises, allowing them to be far more reassuring. A new chapter is beginning for these little guys! Stay tuned.

Eating Like Wolves

The pups are growing quickly! As they develop, it's critical that they get a complete diet, full of all the nutrients they need. We are bottle-feeding the pups with Esbilac, a puppy milk replacer developed for dogs but commonly used for wolves. Even though it's been carefully developed, nothing can match mother's milk, and the pups are undoubtedly missing out on things that can never be condensed into a formula.

One of those things is regurgitated meat. Throughout the summer, wild pups stay behind while the rest of the pack hunts. Instead of bringing the pups to any kills that are made, the adults bring the meal to them by regurgitating whatever meat they're carrying in their stomachs. Think of it as wolf baby food. It's a vital part of the weaning process, and because lactation is so energetically expensive for the mother, it's wildly beneficial for pups to be weaned earlier, rather than later.

When we gathered these pups for hand-raising at 12 days old, their initial stools suggested that they may already have had their first taste of meat, suggesting that their mother had begun regurgitating for them. While it's still very early days in the hand-raising process, we want to continue that practice. Fortunately, we don't ask our puppy nannies to regurgitate for the pups! Instead, we've begun feeding them a raw diet.

We are incredibly excited to announce that Chuck and Don's is sponsoring this year's pups, and they are generously donating high quality raw dog food to help them through the weaning process! Raw dog food includes all of the nutrients found in organs and bones, just like a regurgitated wolf meal. These very important components would be missing if we only fed the pups venison meat. By feeding raw dog food, rather than just venison, we can rest easy knowing that the pups are getting all of the nutrients they need.

The little ones are loving this new addition, eagerly lapping it up and spreading it across their faces. Eating mush is messy work! We allow them to eat as much as they like before offering the bottle, "topping" them of. Naturally, some pups eat more of the raw than others, and all are still drinking various amounts of milk, but they are well on their way to adopting a carnivorous diet!

Poop. Eat. Sleep. Repeat!

There is a lot to do with new wolf pups! Each pup needs a file created for it, paperwork filled out, and a digital record. All pups are assigned a unique number, and have a small portion of fur cut short to aid in identification. They are then weighed to get a baseline on their health and to keep track of their growth. How do you weigh a wolf pup? With a WSC tote bag and a fish scale, of course!

The pups are fed every four hours, but before they can eat, they have to be stimulated to urinate and defecate. At such a young age, the pup don't have control of their bowels, and they are unable to relieve themselves without a little help. Mother wolves lick the pups in their groin area to get things moving, and actually consume the urine or feces to keep the den neat and tidy. Our puppy nannies don't go quite that far, but they do use cotton balls to get things moving for the pups. After they've been emptied out, an updated weight is taken. Finally, the pups get to eat!

Hand-raised wolf pups are fed Esbilac, a dog puppy milk replacement. It may look like mother's milk, but wolf pups are hard to fool, and they know that this stuff doesn't smell or taste like mom. The rubber nipples we use to feed them certainly don't feel like mom, either! All of these changes can make it difficult for pups to transition to bottle-feeding, and the first couple feedings can be stressful for pups and nannies alike. Eventually, the pups learn to associated the bottle with the comforting full feeling they get from drinking, and feedings begin to go much smoother.

Just like humans, wolves with full bellies like to snooze! It doesn't take long until the pups have climbed on top of one another, falling into a deep sleep. The pups whine, moan, and even howl while they dream, with everything from their tongues to their toes twitching to-and-fro. Intermittently, they get up and crawl around, napping until it's time to start the process all over again! 

The Wolf Pups Have Landed!

The moment we've all been waiting for is finally here! The year's first litter of wolf pups was born on April 15th, 2016. We typically wait 12 days before we collect any pups for hand-raising. This ensures that their immune systems gets as strong as possible, while still allowing us to bond with the pups within their critical socialization window. We are only hand-raising some of the pups; the rest will be left with their moms.

Some of the studies that we do to learn more about wolves have to do with cognition, behavior and social learning. Wolves that are not hand-raised are too fearful of humans to participate in these studies, which essentially look like games. We feel very strongly that we need to keep learning more about wolves in order to be able to encourage tolerance for their wild counterparts on the landscape. These hand-raised pups will help us in that effort. It's a big job, and they're up for the challenge!

We keep the impacts on the moms lower by taking some, but not all, of the pups off of her when they are very young. The remaining pups are guaranteed adequate milk supply and very intensive care by the parents. They also provide an incredible education opportunity, allowing our visitors to witness a wolf pack raise pups right before their eyes!

It is always exciting to meet the new faces that will teach thousands of children and adults critical lessons! Keep up with our blog, and get to know our newest wolf ambassadors!