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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 continues to maintain order within the pack, often intervening when rank order issues become more intense especially during the winter season. Each wolf in the Exhibit and Retired Pack will have weekly updates posted to reveal their individual personalities and the dynamics of their respective packs, please check the individual logs for details.

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 – Rest May Be Coming To An End

November 9th, 2018

Aidan spent the first few months in retirement resting in the many dens and shaded spots throughout the retirement areas.  He earned this rest time after leading the Exhibit Pack for 7 of his 10 years of life.  But, as fall progresses into winter, his days of rest may be short-lived.  Fall is the season for wolves activity levels to increase.  Even though Aidan lives in retirement, his packmates still enjoy a good chase around the enclosures.  Luna has been the most likely to stimulate chases, displaying a “play bow” behavior where she springs down on her front legs and lunges away inviting the other wolves to chase.  If Aidan and Grizzer don’t follow through, she stabs at them with her foreleg and even grabs the scruff of their neck encouraging more interaction.  It’s still social interaction, but with a bit of a colder weather intensity.  Aidan wags his tail and joins in the chase, while Grizzer may watch from a safe distance. 

Aidan - reuniting with old companions

Aidan – A Positive Experience

August 9th, 2018

Aidan’s transition to retirement is much smoother than we anticipated.  This may be the best indication that he was ready for the change and ready to accept a lower ranking status.  The first wolf to welcome him into retirement was Grizzer.  The last time Grizzer and Aidan had been together was in 2011, when Aidan was experiencing a lot of dominance from Grizzer’s sister Maya. Based on the interaction we witnessed, Aidan appears to be responding in a subordinate behavior towards Grizzer.  This relationship may change when Aidan gets more acclimated to retirement, but for now, Aidan seems to defer to Grizzer showing no competition for food or space.  The next step in Aidan’s transition is to establish protocol for staff to interact with each individual wolf.  Aidan is still very needy seeking staff attention which can be a challenge for Grizzer to interact.  The design of our retirement facility allows staff to move wolves throughout the 3 specific areas we call retirement and make sure each wolf gets social interaction and a physical assessment on a daily basis. 

This is Shadow, our last Pack Leader with an expression of tolerance for his pack mate, Maya.

Aidan Day 2

July 26th, 2018

Day 2 Update

Aidan had a restful first night of retirement, but by dawn, as the Exhibit Pack started some social interactions, he started to show some anxiety, pawing at the gate towards the activity.  Grayson is coming to the fence line whining and that gets Aidan anxious.  Staff are able to calm Aidan down with distractions, but the challenge with social animals is they want to be social, regardless of the moments of tension that affected their confidence.  Aidan likes a thick layer of wood chips, so I placed a full bag on the den and for now, he is comfortable there. He has been swimming several times in the wading pool in the Pack Holding Area.  When in the Exhibit, he didn’t get much pond time because the stability of getting in and out of the pond made him vulnerable.  He also had a full meal of chicken with his morning meds, we know wolves like to rest after sleeping.  He will be going on a diet similar to Luna, but we won’t start that until he is comfortably settled with the new arrangements.  I am switching the webcams between the East Side Retirement of Luna and Grizzer and the pack holding area (we don’t have enough bandwidth in the lab to do 3 cameras).  If you watch the camera this morning, you may see him as he investigates the area, rests on the wood chips or focuses on the pack.  You may notice some shaved areas on Aidan; he had his belly shaved to get a clear view for the ultrasound, and the vets checked out some other residual growths and skin issues.  His hair will grow back before winter.  The next step in the transition plan is to share a fence line with Luna and Grizzer.  We need to do this carefully, if Aidan has too much anxiety, it can be viewed as a weakness and both Luna and Grizzer can take advantage of him.  The first initial try yesterday resulted in Aidan showing a tucked tail and running from Luna.  We will take this slow; forcing a situation could cause a negative circumstance that could affect a long-term relationship.

The rest of the pack is not focused on Aidan other than some limited activity at the fence line, but it is short-lived.  Denali has had no displays of interest in Aidan, but has been spending his time doing appeasement behavior (licking the sides of Axel’s face) and stimulating play bows and chase behaviors.  Boltz has had the most noticeable change in behaviors, without the tension between he and Aidan, he is socially interacting with the pack, feeding at will and thanks to a cold front, enjoying some cooler weather.  

Aidan’s Transition Into Retirement

July 25th, 2018

For those of you who have followed the pack dynamics of the Exhibit Pack at the International Wolf Center, we have reached a milestone today.  Aidan our pack leader for the last 7 years, was brought to the vet clinic for a complete health assessment this morning and will be transitioned into retirement when he recovers from the anesthesia.  He is currently recuperating in the wolf care kennel adjacent to the pack holding area and will be moved to the Pack Holding area later today as the anesthesia wears off.  Aidan became the pack leader in February 2011, when Maya, the dominant female at the time, chose Aidan over Denali and Grizzer to be the successor of our former pack leader, Shadow who was retired at 10 years of age due to health reasons.  This decision to retire Aidan was months in the making, there was no event today that made this change happen.  It was a series of interactions that affected his confidence and ultimately resulted in a pack that started to form around him.  The first sign of testing for status started with the maturation of the Axel and Grayson who began testing for rank last September and continued as they reached maturity between 18-24 months.  You may have watched the media coverage this spring about the change in dynamics or you may have witnessed dominance issues with Aidan while visiting the Center’s facility in Ely.  Many people had contacted me to ask why I didn’t pull him out  of the pack last winter when the tensions increased.  It is important to understand that Aidan needed time to accept a lower ranking position.  We want his transition to retirement to be comfortable and less stressful, if he thinks he still leads the pack, it’s been our experience that they will do what they can to get back to the pack.  Aidan needed to be ready to let go of leadership and in the last few weeks, we believe that time is right.  For those of you watching the cameras, YouTube and the Wolf Care Webinars, he still had social interactions with the pack, especially Grayson, but when it came to Boltz and Axel, the tension was there.  He let the others do the leading and he did the following, so in essence, the pack was starting to form a new leader.  Which wolf will take the lead is the next stage of this transition.  Aidan’s brother Denali is going to stay with the pack, at this time, he is an important member of the social group.  We will definitely watch this closely, Denali is 10 years old even though he acts like a 2-year old on occasion.    Staff will be on site 24-hours a day during this transition time and we will be testing some shared fence lines to see if Aidan wants to join Grizzer and Luna. 


Aidan – It Is Time

July 24th, 2018

On Wednesday, July 25th, the Center wolf care staff will implement a medical plan that involves a number of tests and exams to  get a good assessment on Aidan’s health.  Behavioral observations tell us that he still has a physical presence in the pack, but his leadership has been impacted over the past winter of seasonal activity and we need to know if that declining leadership has a medical reason.  While we are concerned about the testing for status of the remaining Exhibit Pack members, but we know that it is time for Aidan to transition into retirement.   This is the calmest time of the year on a wolf exhibit, so action now is appropriate.  Based on our experience, by mid-august, the seasonal hormones change and make for some challenging dynamics.  We are prepared to have at least a week of overnight observation after the move, but suspect there to be heightened activity in the Exhibit Pack for the upcoming season.   At this time, we will not retire Denali until we see behavioral issues that make that an appropriate move.  Check out our Youtube channel and our August 10th webinar, where we will include a view of Aidan’s circumstances.