Hands–Off Management Leads to Five New Wolves at Highland Park
A more wolf-friendly enclosure is, however, just one aspect of ensuring successful rearing of wolf pups.
Mr. Richardson noted that too much interference is often a problem when raising wolves in captivity.
The temptation to check on the dens too often and too keep things too clean often causes stress for the female, which can lead to loss of pups.
Once the adult wolves were observed to breed, human interference was minimized. The area was then closed to visitors and staff.
A small core of trained volunteers regularly monitored how often the female was visible. These volunteers dressed in street clothes rather than uniforms, as the wolves might interpret the presence of uniforms as an indicator that there would be people active in the enclosure.
The female was visible more often than Mr. Richardson would have liked, suggesting that she wasn’t taking good care of the pups, but the hands–off protocol was maintained.
As nail-biting as that time must have been, it was clearly the right decision, as evidenced on the day when the observers noticed a small dark lump moving on the female’s back. This was the first viewing of one of the new wolf pups.
The Highland Park Pack and Wolf Reintroduction
Given the historic aspect of the birth of this litter, Decoded Science asked Mr. Richardson about the potential for wolf reintroduction in Scotland. In addition to being extinct in the UK, populations of the gray wolf in Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, and the Western/Central Alps are listed as Endangered by the IUCN.Under the Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats)’s Action Plan for the Conservation of Wolves (Canis lupus) in Europe, Scotland is required to explore the possibility of reintroduction.
While acknowledging that there are many concerns to be addressed before any significant steps are made toward wolf reintroduction in the country, the park’s Animal Collection Manager expressed the hope that the birth of these pups would help trigger a new round of serious discussion on the subject. For now, however, Mr. Richardson is looking forward to the growth of the Highland Park pack, as these pups reach towards the age where they can help their parents rear the next litter.
Sherratt-Ayerst, A. The effects of the enclosure and management on the behaviour of captive wolves (Canis lupus). UK Wolf Conservation Trust. Accessed July 12, 2012.
Carlstead, K., Shepherdson, D. Effects of Environmental Enrichment on Reproduction. (1994). Zoo Biology. 13:447-458. Accessed July 12, 2012.
Decoding Science. One article at a time.