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Photo by: Saranda Oestreicher

Photo by: Saranda Oestreicher

Grayson, along with his littermate Axel, are arctic subspecies of the gray wolf species (Canis lupus) born in captivity at a facility in Canada.  Grayson may be distinguished by his darker coloration specifically in the mid-back or shoulder region. Grayson appears to have a broader skeletal structure. As young adults, it may be difficult to distinguish specific characteristics until they reach maturity at 18 – 24 months of age. Arctic wolves’ native habitat is found in the northern regions of North America as well as along the eastern and northern shores of Greenland. There are several large islands that occupy this region including Ellsemere and Axel Hieberg islands. This region is typically snow covered for most of the year, but a mid-June to mid-August thaw supports enough plant material to feed the arctic wolf’s prey: musk-ox, caribou and arctic hares.

For more information on our ambassador wolves, watch extended wolf videos on the International Wolf Center’s YouTube Channel or enjoy a close-up of wolf behavior on our Wolf Watch Cams.

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Recent Logs for Grayson:

Grayson allowed to approach Aidan

Grayson – Tail Tells It All

June 7th, 2018

As you can see by this photo, Aidan is back in the mix, although his confidence is still impacted.  He’s less likely to be in a leadership role, but he can still control the carcass.  There is a clear difference between Grayson and Axel’s relationship with Aidan and the tail postures in this photo tells it all.  Axel on the right side of Aidan, has his tail tucked in what we term a T-4 tail posture (thanks to Wolf Park’s Ethogram for these terms), which is much more of a fear response.  Grayson who is approaching Aidan from the left, has his tail in a T=3.5 response, which means, it is relaxed, but touching the haunches in a bit more intimidation. The tolerance shown in the tails is representative of the social bond that is strong between Grayson and Aidan.  Grayson is frequently observed resting with Aidan and clearly still has respect for Aidan, even though he displays very few dominant behaviors other than during food possession.  Another Grayson behavior is his tendency to howl when there’s a bit of unstable energy in the pack structure.  Wolf care always know when there’s been some overnight strife, Grayson does a low-throated, lone howl to the wolf care staff at the gate.  Grayson does not d0 well with conflict and definitely seeks out Aidan for comfort.  We also had some tree damage in a recent storm, calling in a tree felling service that needed to climb and drop trees to avoid fence damage.  Grayson was the only pack member to bark a threat display to the chainsaw operator; that used to be Aidan’s job and before that, Shadow’s job.  One of our colleague’s recently commented…”It feels to me that he has been “interning” with Aidan.  

We recently reviewed a publication entitled The influence of social relationship on food tolerance, in wolves and dogs.  This research was conducted at the Wolf Science Center,  in Vienna, Austria and was published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (2017) 71:107.  Authors, Rachel Dale,  Friederike Range, Laura Stott , Kurt Kotrschal and Sarah Marshall-Pescini summarized that …”It is logical that animals should choose to co-feed with partners who are most likely to show tolerance, than a less close affiliate, who may challenge you or incite conflict… but it seems that their decision about whether or not to share at all was based on the affiliative relationship, as those with a higher affiliation score were more likely to peacefully share.” This is a pattern we see with the Center’s Exhibit Pack. 

Weight: 90

Grayson after feeding on a carcass

Grayson – Carcass Time

May 16th, 2018

As I wrote in Denali’s log, Grayson has to wait to eat on some Saturday night feedings due to Denali’s tendency to guard and possess food.  Staff always document the time spent on the carcass by each wolf and an overall assessment of food consumption is best identified by the size and coloration of the scat on the days post-feeding, not to mention a full belly of a species that has stomach receptors allowing for a gorging of up to 20% of their body weight.  Although, for the white wolves, a look at their face can reveal at least a presence on the carcass as shown by Grayson’s picture.   Grayson is a special case for us, he seems to have a different immune system than Axel.  In his short two years, we have had several reoccurring issues of parasites that have been a challenge to treat.  We are glad to report that have 3 negative fecals in the last month and we will continue to check for the next month to make sure he stays parasite free.   With Grayson’s parasite issues and the behavioral challenges with Denali, monitoring weight is a big issue.  Typically wolves lose weight over the winter, but combine that with the competition of parasites and it becomes more concerning.  We are happy to report that Grayson is back on track and aided by additional feedings of chicken and beef that is part of Luna and Grizzer’s daily routine.

Date Wolf Weight in Pounds Change in weights Age
10/2/2017 Grayson 94.8 4.4 17 months
11/2/2017 Grayson 89.8 -5 18 months
12/2/2017 Grayson 87 -2.8 19 months
12/31/2017 Grayson 84.6 -2.4 20 months
2/2/2018 Grayson 82 -2.6 21 Months
3/2/2018 Grayson 84 2 22 Months
4/2/2018 Grayson 86.3 2.3 23 Months 
4/30/2018 Grayson 89.4 3.1 24 months

Weight: 89.4

Grayson and Denali watching the students

Grayson- Standing Tall

April 29th, 2018

We have had a lot of opportunity to photograph and videotape Grayson “standing tall” in the last few weeks.  There seems to be a pattern of his confidence increasing and his desire to gain some height.  In this week’s photo, he is in the East Side Retirement area with Denali waiting for the Vermilion College Natural Resource students to finish cleaning hay out of the Exhibit Pack area.  Wolf care staff have witnessed Grayson taking the opportunity to display some dominance  over Denali when he rolls over for the wolf care staff.  Although dominance doesn’t equate to food possession.  Grayson is still timid around feeding, especially when Denali takes possession of a carcass.   Grayson and Axel will be two years old on Wednesday, May 2nd.  Please consider a donation to the Wolf Care Fund in honor of Axel and Grayson as they find their way into the pack. 

Grayson has an intensity in most interactions, social, predatory and now in defensive howling.

Grayson – What Does It Mean?

April 15th, 2018

To summarize Grizzer’s log, we have a recurring issue where Grizzer bark howls in a threat display towards our Veterinarian.  This is due to an incident that occurred over 10 years ago.  In a recent Vet visit for Aidan, when Grizzer started barkhowling, the only member of the Exhibit Pack to respond was Grayson, and not just respond as in a juvenile following along.  Grayson intensely howled towards Grizzer and moved towards the threat while Axel, Denali and Boltz continued to feed on a carcass.  Aidan was watching Grayson, but did not participate in the howling.  I posted the video on last week’s YouTube if you would like to view it.  What does it mean?  For anyone who has been associated with our ambassador wolves over the years, you may recall the power of the bark howl that has primarily come from our pack leaders.  Shadow, the dominant male of the Exhibit Pack from 2002-2010, was the most intense whenever any unfamiliar person was in the yard.  Earlier this winter we filmed Aidan in an intense bark howl when we separated the pack to do some snow removal.  As the dominant male since 2011, Aidan was the one who would respond to the threats in the wolf yard.  Is the pack telling us there is a new wolf on watch?  Is it just Grayson’s more overall personality to be more wary or is there more to it.  We don’t have an answer for that, but will see how the year progresses and no doubt, the addition of the 2020 pups will be an influence.  For now we watch and record data.  Another interesting observation is the fact that Grayson continues to use bark howling to address wolf like situations.  The other day, Luna and Grizzer’s wrestling and growling vocalization started to increase.  Grayson immediately ran to the fence line and let out a series of quick half barks and a bark howl which typically serves as a warning.  Luna and Grizzer immediately stopped and ran to the fenceline to see who just dispensed some boundaries.  Grizzer looked with a bit of a social gaze, Luna a bit more stern in her gaze. Could a maturing juvenile have influence over Luna?

Weight: 86.3

Grayson – The Observer

March 27th, 2018

From the earliest moments that Grayson arrived at the Center we noticed that he seemed to be always watching and taking in all activities around him. This continues to be the behavior he exhibits most. In the past week, Grayson has spent time observing Axel, following and testing Denali, then watching Aidan observing Axel and Denali. He continues to vocalize quite a bit as tensions increased between Axel, Denali, and Boltz.  The most important observation staff have recorded is that he continues to rest with Aidan, and seems to still see Aidan as his pack leader.  The reality is that Aidan, while not asserting leadership, has a mere presence that implies leadership in the mind of Grayson, Denali and even in Aidan’s own actions.  It is critical that we acknowledge the psychological impact of retiring a pack leader.