Friday, August 10, 2012

Wolf pup settles into new home

‘Boise’ adjusting to new ‘pack’ at Busch Gardens

Express Staff Writer

Boise the wolf pup, originally found alone on Warm Springs Road north of Ketchum, enjoys his new digs at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. Boise is living with two other pups of similar age, and could soon be introduced to an adult pack. Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens

The Ketchum wolf pup named Boise has found a new home and is slowly being introduced to his new family in Virginia.

Jay Tacey, zoological manager for Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., said that Boise was named in honor of the zoological team at Zoo Boise, which was the wolf's temporary home for a short while in June.

"They did such a great job with turning him around, from a health perspective," Tacey said. "A lot of people had a lot of emotions tied up in that pup."

Boise was found wandering near Frenchman's Bend on Warm Springs Road north of Ketchum on Memorial Day weekend. Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologist Regan Berkley said last month that a pair of out-of-town campers spotted what they thought was an abandoned domestic dog and called the Ketchum Police Department.

The couple was advised to take him to a local vet's office, where staff realized the "lost puppy" was more than likely a wolf. DNA test results confirmed the pup's wild heritage last month.

Defenders of Wildlife spokeswoman Suzanne Stone said that when field crews from the Wood River Wolf Project went out to find the wolf's pack in hopes of reuniting them, they found no wolves, but tracks seemed to tell the story of how the pup was lost.

"There was an adult wolf walking along one edge of the road," she said. "She or he had little paw prints around it, so there were a lot of small paw prints there, which indicated there were additional pups."

Boise was split from the pack when a car approached—the pack went one way and he went another, causing the separation.

But Tacey said that Boise is adjusting to his new home—and new family, currently composed of two wolf pups from Montana named Beo and Kaya, as well as a German shorthaired pointer named Mia who serves as the pups' surrogate mother.

Tacey said that Boise lit up when he saw the other two pups, running right up to them and starting to play.

"When that little guy first laid eyes on the other pups, it was the first time that we saw signs that he thought, 'Whoa, I know exactly what these are,'" Tacey said.

Pups form their own pack hierarchies at a very young age, Tacey said, and the three pups are no exception. Tacey said that Boise and Beo seem to be about equal in terms of dominance, but Kaya is the clear alpha of their tiny pack.

"She definitely rules the roost over those two," he said with a laugh.

All of the pups remain submissive to Mia, however, whose job is to keep the pups respectful of adult canids before they are introduced into one of the park's existing three packs.

Tacey said that introducing pups into a pack of adult wolves can be tricky, and sometimes leads to conflict.

"When you introduce adults to pups, you never know how it's going to go," he said. "Wolves, unlike domestic dogs, becomes very territorial with each other at a young age."

Mia's job is to maintain good manners in the pups until they fully meet the entire pack.

Tacey said that each pup will meet each adult wolf individually, and then will be allowed to mingle in different groups until the staff feels certain the pups will be safe.

"Wolves are kind of pre-programmed to be accepting of pups under most circumstances," Tacey said, but added that if the adults get aggressive towards the pups, the three may have to form their own pack in a separate habitat.

Boise, Beo and Kaya are starting to be introduced to the public exhibits, such as the Wolf Valley display and public stage where wolves and trainers help teach park guests about wolves, dispel myths and teach about conservation efforts.

"Unfortunately, people on this side of the county don't get the chance to see wolves, even from a distance," Tacey said, adding that the park provides them an opportunity to get close to the animals.

Boise, Beo and Kaya will be introduced to an adult pack in the upcoming weeks.

Kate Wutz:

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