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.