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wcs-12_21_12aidanfaceAidan and Denali were born on April 27, 2008 and joined the Exhibit Pack on August 4th, 2008. The 2008 pup introduction was very unique for the Center as it was the first time that our Exhibit pack contained three subspecies of the gray wolf and three age groups-the arctic wolves (Canis lupus arctos) born in 2000, Great Plains wolves (Canis lupus nubilus) born in 2004 and Rocky Mountain wolves (Canis lupus occidentalis) born in 2008. Aidan was clearly the more submissive of the two pups during the first few years of his life, and was considered a lower ranking wolf. He was often forced to submit by Maya, the dominant female of the Exhibit Pack from 2005 – 2011. After Maya’s death, Aidan took on a higher ranking role and was the leader of the pack for the 2012 and 2016 pup introductions.  Aidan remained the pack leader until being deposed primarily by Axel and Boltz during the winter of 2017-2018.  On July 25th, 2018, we moved Aidan from the Exhibit Pack and he joined Grizzer and Luna in retirement. He resumed his social relationship with both pack members; Luna was his “co-pack leader” and Grizzer was a social companion that adopted Aidan back in 2008.  Now that Grizzer was advancing in age, Aidan seemed to return the favor, being a source of comfort and familiarity for Grizzer as his vision began to decrease.  Being a pack leader can be tough, and over the years, Aidan had issues with auto-immune disorders.  Since 2017, he battled mast cell tumors that would emerge around the time pack dynamics changed. He lost the battle to these mast cell tumors and passed away on August 14th, 2019.  He is sorely missed by humans and wolf alike. 

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 Aidan:

Aidan – 4/27/08 – 8/14/2019

August 19th, 2019

We acquired Aidan and Denali from the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake Minnesota as 12 day old pups and began the process of socialization that allowed us to experience one of the most incredible and complex individuals in my 30+ year captive wolf career.   Aidan passed away on Wednesday, August 14th at 11 am.  We are still awaiting the necropsy report and hope to learn more about his condition to help us understand what happened and to evaluate all of his medical history and various medical decisions made on his behalf.  The more we can learn, the better we can manage the remaining ambassador wolves, especially Aidan’s brother Denali.  This photo was of the first night in Ely after returning from the Science Center.  He spent the night on our Assistant Wolf Curator’s carhart coat. 



Seeking comfort in the elderberry

Aidan – Immune Overload

August 7th, 2019

For years, we have known that Aidan has a sensitive immune system.  After Maya died, he lost all the pigmentation in his nose and a tissue biopsy revealed he had discoid lupus.  As he overcame the loss of Maya and welcomed Luna and Boltz to the social group, his symptoms subsided and he attempted to pair-bond with Luna.  Due to Luna’s circumstances, that was challenging at times, but still provided a socially functioning pack.  After the introduction of the 2016 pups and Luna’s behavioral aggression, Aidan had another pack change.  Luna was retired and Aidan bonded with the pups and led the pack on his own. He did a great job, but without the support of the dominant female, stress was noticeable.  By 2017, mast cell tumors formed on Aidan that required 3 surgeries for removal including one in February 2019.  Based on our vet’s experience with dogs, reformation of these growths can be random.  For some they keep coming back until they become a systemic issue, for other cases, 3 surgeries for removal and they don’t reappear.  We didn’t know how Aidan’s growths would progress, but we had a great spring, until Luna’s issue occurred.  On July 6th, Luna and Aidan’s worlds changed.  Luna’s was identified with a possible abscess, so we moved her into her own enclosure while we treated with antibiotics. After limited success with the antibiotics, we scheduled her for surgery on the 17th of July and discovered the more serious diagnosis of cancer.  The decision to separate coincided with a return of Aidan’s mast cell growth.  Just because there was a correlation doesn’t mean causation, but based on his history with auto immune issues after pack changing events, we are working on treating him medically as well as psychologically. After Luna’s incision heals, we plan to reunite the retired pack and give them the social interactions that can keep them distracted as they try to heal their respective issues. 

Growths Being Managed With Medication For Aidan

July 15th, 2019

Aidan is being closely monitored for any changes or re-growth of mass cell tumors.  He is on medication to help minimize these growths, but so far, he hasn’t shown any sign of irritation such as licking.  Wolf Care Intern, Mandi Bendel created a body profile binder for staff to document the location and any subtle changes that occur with these masses.  Aidan is a willing participant with the staff brushing sessions and shows this tolerance with a nice summer pelage. 

Aidan showing a relaxed, but focused posture

Aidan – Another Surgery

March 13th, 2019

If you have been following our Ambassador Wolf Aidan’s logs, you will see that he has had some auto-immune issues throughout his entire life.  He was diagnosed with Discoid lupus in 2011, had two surgeries to remove mass cell tumors in 2017.  He was deposed as Exhibit Pack leader in 2018 and joined retirement, so we thought some of the stress of being a pack leader may have been reduced, but he had a resurgence of mass cell tumors with an extraction surgery performed on February 5th, 2019.    The assessment of these tumors in 2017 was estimated to be low-grade, with complete tumor extraction.  The prognosis was not as good in February, when complete extraction was not possible as the growth had adhered to the muscle.  Research on these types of growths is limited and in some cases, 3 or 4 removals and the growths stop, in other cases, removal doesn’t impact the outcome.  In Aidan’s case, after the 3rd extraction, the veterinary recommendation is to employ some immune suppressants to slow the growth of these mass cells.  We are waiting for his incision to completely heal before implementing this, as immune suppressants can also alter healing efforts.  There were some notable differences in the 2019 surgery as a retired pack member compared to his immobilization in 2017 when he was a pack leader. As a pack leader, Aidan seemed to resist the drugging and had high anxiety just being separated from the pack to complete the drugging.  This often lead to increased doses and in one case, a failed immobilization.  As a retired wolf, Aidan readily came into the Wolf Care Center at 7 am, was hand injected within 2 minutes, asleep and on his way to the clinic in 15 minutes and calmly recovered with the wolf care staff with no anxiety.  The Retired Pack is less concerned about rank, so Aidan was able to join Luna and Grizzer by 2 pm that afternoon and had a restful evening.  Even though we know exams like these can be done with more ease in retirement, we are also mindful that the older an animal gets, the more risk can occur.  Wolves are not dogs, where a trip to the clinic is as easy as hopping in the car and getting a treat to sit on an exam table.  These exams are done with a heightened level of concern for the wolf’s respiration, heart rate, gastrointestinal response and ability to control body temperature.  A common instruction for a surgical procedure is to hold food after midnight prior to a surgery, as wolf care staff, we diligently look for food caches. but there is never 100% guarantee that they won’t pull something out of a snowbank.   Mass cells are histamine based cells, so they may cause an itching sensation.  This was the most problematic issue for Aidan resulting in constant licking and irritation.  While we are waiting for him to heal for his next medical step, he is taking antihistamines daily to help keep the irritation under control and welcomes wolf care staff daily inspections. 

Aidan – Been Here Before

February 6th, 2019

If you have been following the Exhibit Pack dynamics over the last few years, you know that Aidan had some history with mass cell tumors on his left leg.  He had two previous surgeries to remove a low grade tumor and seemed to be managing well on a treatment of anti-histamines to control its’ return.  Unfortunately, the tumor came back and a second growth a bit higher on shoulder developed quite quickly prompting the Center’s wolf care team to develop and implement a surgical plan.  The photo in this log was taken on January 22nd, and you see only a slight discoloration at the site of the growth.  Approximately one week, later, the growths tripled in size and caused such aggravation that Aidan began obsessively licking them.   Increasing anti-histamines didn’t have an impact, so surgery was scheduled and executed on February 5th.  Aidan did extremely well under immobilization and after a 5-hour recovery time and despite the fact that he had options to access the heated building. he chose to rejoin his Retired Pack outdoors,     The report from the clinic is that the both masses had attached to the muscle meaning complete extraction wasn’t possible and regrowth may occur, although mass cell’s have been known to have a wide array of traits making it difficult to predict.  After Aidan’s sutures heal,  he has been prescribed some immune suppressants to possibly reduce cell growth.  Since stress can impact the immune system, staff are reviewing the signals of canine stress and making every effort possible to reduce any anxiety for Aidan.  We plan to produce a Youtube in the next few days showing some behavioral video that staff interpret when making management decisions.