The Weekly Wolf
I spent six years living with the wolves of
Each Monday, this page will feature a new photograph and story of these wolves.
November 30, 2009
Born in 1995, Lily Fleur (French for “Wild Flower”), had a bright white coat and a soft, pink nose. As the only female in a litter of five, it didn’t take Lily long to learn she had to be tougher and stronger than her brothers in order to keep up. Later in life, Lily’s formidable personality earned her the nicknames “Power Flower” and “Fire Flower.”
At nine weeks of age Lily and her brother, Gizmo, became weak and lethargic due to a mineral deficiency. They were given vitamin D to help the imbalance, but the treatments left them weak in comparison to their brothers. Despite this setback, Lily recovered and spent the whole of her adult life as the alpha female of her pack. Even though she was a high strung, wild thing, Lily bossed her brothers, Gizmo and Polar Bear, and another young female named Kestrel around for years. During breeding season each year, Lily would focus all of her attention on Kestrel. She saw Kestrel as a potential threat to her alpha position, and by their third birthdays, Kestrel had to be moved to an enclosure next door. For the rest of her life, Lily stalked Kestrel through the fence and always made sure Kestrel knew that Lily was still in charge.
Lily is, perhaps, best remembered for her inner fire and her inquisitive mind. Whenever her brothers become too scared of a stranger or weird noise, they would go running to Lily for reassurance. She’d then boss them around, let off high-pitched howls in their ears, and go to investigate the source of their fear. Whenever staff worked on Lily’s fence, whether adding more upper mesh or installing a guillotine gate, Lily ran over and watched closely, tilting her head back and forth. It was almost like she was trying to learn how to do it too.
No one expected little Lily to make it very far in life when she came down sick as a pup. In the end, our Power Flower surprised everyone by living to be 12 years old. She passed away on October 14, 2007 in much the same way she came into this world – strong, confident and sure she could conquer anything. We will always miss Lily, but we also like to think that she is finally running free with Gizmo and Polar Bear at her side.
November 23, 2009
I try to feature a new wolf each time for the Weekly Wolf, but I felt that Mowgli's memory needed to be honored today. At nearly 15 years old, twice the average age of a wild wolf, Mowgli passed away on Saturday. His commanding presence and peircing gaze will be greatly missed. More than any other wolf I've ever met, Mowgli had a way of looking through you that always made you feel as if he new everything about you. His lion's mane, bright yellow eyes and quicky mind made him seem magnanimous and intimidating at the same time. Mowgli was always gracious when asked to wait in his back enclosure while we went in to visit Spirit, his wolf-dog mate. There are very few beings out there who are as confident, self-possessed and regal as was Mowgli - King of the Forest.
November 16, 2009
Aspen was one of the largest male wolves at Mission:Wolf, weighing well over 100 pounds. For the first five years of his life, Aspen lived with a large, older, alpha male wolf named Zephyr and a female his age named Whisper. Whisper paired with Zephyr and together they picked on Aspen, making him the scapegoat of the pack. As breeding season approached in 1999, Aspen suddenly, and without warning, challenged Zephyr and took over leadership of the pack. They both ended up with several minor wounds but Aspen came out on top holding his tail high. Zephyr was relocated to a new enclosure and Aspen was given the chance to be the alpha male. Aspen and Whisper grew to be very close, often lying in the shade of their aspen grove together and shyly slipping away if any visitors came too close.
Aspen always had a very loving and gentle nature, except when male staff came down to check on him during breeding season. He would then rush up to the fence growling to scare the men away from his mate. Whisper would do the same thing to any female staff that came down during breeding season. Consequently, Aspen and Whisper spent much of each winter enjoying their privacy while we tried to watch from afar.
When Whisper passed away in July of 2006, Aspen was left alone for the first time in his life. After much consideration, we introduced a little female wolf named Kestrel to him. They spent two happy years together, howling in unison and enjoying life before Kestrel also passed away. Even when left alone, Aspen remained a gentle and loving soul. He sought out affection from the Mission:Wolf staff and even started sticking around when visitors helped with his daily feeding. Sadly, after nearly 16 years of life, Aspen passed away in January of 2009.
November 9, 2009
Mission:Wolf first heard about little Soleil (French for “sun”) in July 2005… a blonde wolf puppy living on a 30 foot chain in someone’s West Virginia back yard. She originally came from an exotic animal breeder in Ohio who was selling wolves and bears as family pets to passers-by. Soleil’s owner bought her because he was fascinated with wolves, was convinced she could be turned into a great pet, and to be bred with a malamute to produce more puppies to sell in the future. However, after months of watching her run to the end of her chain if anyone approached, her owner brought in a professional dog trainer for help. The dog trainer took one look at Soleil and told her owner that this was a bad idea. With the encouragement of a friend, the owner was soon convinced that Soleil needed to find a new home. The friend emailed Mission:Wolf, looking for help.
After much planning and worry, a volunteer pilot with an organization called Flying Paws picked Soleil up in West Virginia and flew her half way across the country. Flying Paws is an amazing group of big hearted pilots that spend their time flying homeless animals to their forever homes. The pilot met a Mission:Wolf staff members in Illinois and handed over Soleil. From there, Soleil made the long 18 hour drive back to the refuge by car.
As Soleil took her first timid steps around the vet building, everyone fell in love with her. Soleil’s mile-long legs quickly earned her the nickname “Stilts” and her boisterous personality was contagious. It was apparent that she really wanted to make friends with the staff, but couldn’t quite bring herself to trust humans yet.
One month later, Mission:Wolf took in another wolf puppy named Orion. It didn’t take long for the two pups to bond with each other and start rough-housing in the vet building. As they spent time together Soleil and Orion came out of their shells. They started to trust the staff and greet visitors in their enclosure. The staff even had the grand ambition of turning them into traveling Ambassador Wolves. Soleil and Orion had a different idea.
As they matured, they became more independent and kicked Kona, their surrogate dog mother, out of the pack. The staff tried to separate them and introduce them to older wolves for guidance, but they wouldn’t hear of it. Both Soleil and Orion took on their mentors and challenged the older wolves for leadership while still less than a year old - something that had never been seen before. In short order, Soleil and Orion were back together and raising themselves.
Now middle aged, Soleil and Orion rule the roost from their hill-top enclosure. Soleil spends her days showing off to other female wolves through the fence, occasionally sniffing a visitor’s hand, and romping with Orion.
November 2, 2009
Maggie and Raven
Maggie and Raven are wolf sisters who were born in April 2002. Their father was a full British Columbian gray wolf and their mother was half British Columbian gray wolf and half arctic wolf. Although Maggie and Raven are believed to be pure wolves, their ancestors were sold as 98% wolf-dog crosses. Since the federal government does not regulate wolf-dog crosses, Maggie and Raven were transported across state lines without wildlife permits. Their litter was bred specifically to be used in a new movie version of “Julia of the Wolves.” Their two brothers are now in Utah being considered as possible filming candidates. However, the trainer in charge of the movie refused to work with female wolves, so Raven and Maggie ended up in the care of a private person in South Carolina who owned 34 other exotic animals.
After selling off most of his menagerie, Maggie and Raven’s new owner soon realized just how difficult it is to keep wolves in captivity. The sisters were housed in a very small pen on an open plot of land many miles from the owner’s house. He would visit them every couple of days to feed them, but quickly recognized that he could not handle the task of caring for two wolf pups as they matured. He called Mission: Wolf to ask if we could care for them. After much consideration, we agreed to take in the two sisters.
Everyone fell in love with Maggie and Raven as soon as they arrived at the refuge. We soon introduced them to Ambassador Wolf Rami, in the hopes that she would adopt them. Rami quickly accepted the sisters and taught them to be outgoing and friendly around people. Over the last seven years, Maggie has grown into a confident Ambassador who loves climbing on the Wolf Bus each spring and fall to travel the country, where she has met hundreds of thousands of people. Raven accompanied her sister for a few years, but soon gave it up for a quieter life back at the refuge with her mate Fenris.
This photo of the sisters was taken on the Fall 2003 Ambassador Wolf Tour at the Mohonk Mountain House in New York. While out on the road, we take the wolves out for leashed runs to give them exercise. Here Maggie and Raven got so excited about trying to catch the lily pads that they pulled their handler into the lake.