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Luna

LunaWe acquired Luna in April of 2012 as a 20 day old pup.  Shortly after her arrival, we noticed that she had some mobility issues.  After she suffered an injury from what should have been an non-event for a healthy pup, we discovered that she had a bone density issue that may be related to a vitamin D deficiency. She had surgery to repair her injury at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital at a month of age and started nutritional supplements specially designed for her needs.  To this day, she takes daily supplements for this deficiency.

Luna is representative of the Great Plains subspecies and is a black color phase, which is believed to be found in less than 5% of the population in Minnesota. Luna was introduced to the Exhibit Pack in July of 2012 and spent 4 years as the dominant (and only) female in the Exhibit Pack.  She had an intensity that was heightened during the weekly carcass feedings, but also when she showed vulnerability within the pack.  When the 2016 pups were adopted, we noticed Luna’s intensity increase and were concerned about potential defensive behavior towards the pups.  After consultation with the Center’s veterinarian, it was decided to transition Luna out of the Exhibit pack giving time to  assess Luna’s physical limitations and determine if there may be underlying issues causing her defensive behavior.  She is currently receiving additional care and feeding protocols in retirement and just recently joined our other retired wolf, Grizzer.  They both have access to the 3 enclosures including the “East Side Retirement”, the “Back Habitat” and the “Pack Holding Area”.  There is a webcam currently focused on the Pack Holding Area that closest to the wolf yard and the center of activity on site.

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 Luna:

Luna – Afternoon Rest

July 2nd, 2018

Luna and Grizzer have been reaping the benefits of a summer adjacent to the upgraded misting system installed in the Exhibit Pack during the Spring Working for Wolves program.  Luna has selected the den site (a fall Working for Wolves program in the pack holding area as her main resting spot on a hot, humid day.  Unfortunately for Northern Minnesota, heat and humidity seems to be the common theme this summer.  The younger the age and the lighter the coloration of the guard hairs, the less problem with the heat, which means, Axel and Grayson are chasing and wrestling with each other while the rest of the ambassadors are taking it easy.  The age and coloration criteria are noticeable when observing Luna; her dark coat is often hot to the touch when she lies in the sun and six is about the age when wolves start displaying a more contemplative look before displaying an action, especially one that requires expending energy.  A recent red squirrel visit to the pack holding area was a great demonstration of this age specific phenomena.   A red squirrel scaled down the fence into the pack holding area after an active pursuit by Axel and Grayson; Luna watched the approach with intent ears, but the body did not go into motion until the squirrel hit the ground running.  As predicted, the squirrel just went back up another tree, habitat is important for all species at the Center.  Understanding the dynamics of interspecific interactions (actions between species) is part of our educational mission at the Center.  One way we accomplish our mission is through our Wolf Care Webinar Series.  Our next webinar in the series is on Friday the 13th.  To some people, this day conjures up images of horror movies, unexplained events, and a belief of bad luck.  Like Friday the 13th, Center staff hear many superstitious beliefs about wolves that have been perpetuated throughout history.  It is our goal to help educate people about the facts about wolf behavior.  To join us for this one-hour webinar, register at http://www.wolf.org/programs/webinars/ where we will broadcast from the retirement areas with Luna and Grizzer in retirement and explore those beliefs and try to uncover the possible wolf behavior that may have contributed to the myth.  The program starts at 7 pm Central Daylight Time. 

Weight: 105.5

Luna sniffing Grizzer - check out Grizzer's log next

Luna – Nose To Nose Making Grizzer Uncomfortable

June 7th, 2018

Luna has been very receptive to body work lately and you may see staff on the webcam trying a variety of techniques.  She has her favorites and you may see her present her right leg extended for the staff to reach.  We are very pleased with her behavioral progress since her last medical exam.  Staff report good interactions compared to a period of time when she responded with grab bites to staff whenever they tried to interact.  Grizzer can attest to Luna’s improvements as well with more face to face contact. In this week’s photo, you may notice Luna in submissive ears, greeting Grizzer with a “Nose-to-Nose” greeting; Grizzer’s not quite sure if he can trust the submissive interaction.  He displays an ear posture called “Ear’s Pricked and Turned Sideways” or EPTS in our ethogram.  This posture indicates interest (ears are pricked), but a bit of uncertainly (turned sideways).  The Veterinarian would like some follow-up bloodwork on Luna, but we will need to reduce her excess winter coat to reduce any overheating issues while under sedation.  We have identified a pattern when Luna has more discomfort.  Days with high humidity and low barometric pressure seems to be more uncomfortable on her joints, especially just before a storm. If you would like to get a chance to learn more about Luna and Grizzer and see their interactions, the wolf care department has started a Behind the Scenes tour at the Center in Ely, every Friday morning at 9 am.  Registration is limited to 20 people, so call the Wolf Den Store to reserve a spot. 

Weight: 109

Luna resting after a medical exam

Luna – Medical Update

May 16th, 2018

Luna’s medical exam occurred on May 2nd.  As we suspected, there is an increased degenerative condition on her right leg.  The vet report stated: 

“On physical exam, the right hip has significantly decreased range of motion, which is consistent with radiographs. The neck of the femur continues to be blunted/misshapen which is likely leading to a mechanical bone – on – bone articulation as she moves. Ultimately it does not appear that removing the plate would be beneficial as the area of concern is in the joint itself.”

We also tested her thyroid because she has been having some issues with skin irritation, but her thyroid levels were normal.  So, the irritation may likely be an allergen as she has responded well to short-term use of antihistamines.  Since she’s been a pup, she has had issues with maintaining vitamin D levels without supplements, but the latest blood work has shown some progress with this condition.  A medical exam is challenging because it involves chemical immobilization for the trip to the clinic.  It took Luna a few days of rest after the exam to get back to increased mobility, no doubt manipulation for x-rays created some soreness.  While Luna has always been on nutritional supplements, she has now been prescribed an NSAID to reduced inflammation and staff continue to try to provide some hands-on care to provide her relief. 

Luna displays a different intensity when physically uncomfortable

Luna- Working On A Vet Assessment Plan

April 29th, 2018

In last week’s log, we talked about some training plans for staff when interacting with Luna. We’ve had some good success, but because of Luna’s history, we have decided to schedule a complete medical exam of x-rays and blood work.  It has been two years since her last complete veterinary exam and the focus will be on any degenerative bone issues, vitamin D and ionized calcium levels.  We will also test her thyroid as part of the diagnostic work that may help determine her skin irritation that has caused an increase scratch reflex documented by the wolf care staff during interactions. 

Luna with the intensity that seems to drive every interaction,

Luna – Working On A Training Plan

April 15th, 2018

Luna has been bringing on some additional challenges and training for wolf care staff. If you have followed Luna’s story, she has some medical reasons behind her history of obsessive behavior often viewed by fellow pack members as unstable energy.  There’s  been a lot of medical, physical and behavioral assessments over the last 6 years trying to help Luna.  This behavior had calmed significantly when she was transitioned into retirement where she didn’t have to be on the defensive with more active packmates.  But lately, we are seeing some return to some intense possession beyond her normal gregarious behavior.  A few weeks ago, it was the new scat bucket and a staff member’s boots, earlier this week it was a rock and some cover hay that made her lunge in defense.  There’s something to be said about being dominant, but this seems to be something more.  Lately, she has become obsessed with certain staff people’s hands.  It’s not all staff, just certain staff, it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s gloves or bare hands, she tries to grab them.  The pattern we have seen in the past seems to correlate with her pain response on her back right leg.  She has been willing to seek body work from certain people, but we need to be extremely gentle in handling.  As the weather warms, we will look for correlations with temperature, ice conditions or activity levels to see if there’s a pattern. Until then, you may see staff members in training to learn some techniques.   Luna has also been on a diet, we know extra weight can be an issue for her leg.  We have limited her diet, but with outdoor enclosures, we can’t always be certain of her consumption.  We have reported ravens dropping food in her enclosure and thanks to the diligent eye of one of our viewers, we can also report that Luna chased and caught one of two snowshoe hares that made it into the Retired Pack.  I will post the surveillance video of that event on YouTube on Friday.  To those who think Luna should be back with the pack, I just ask people to respect Luna’s issues and the incredible ability of wolves to identify weaknesses, not only in the prey they catch, but within the pack dynamics in which they live.  We would never risk Luna’s safety by preemptively changing her pack status, nor blame other wolves for displaying their natural behavior.  Please, if anyone has concerns about Luna or any of the other wolves care, feel free to email me directly at curator@wolf.org.