by , Keeper
I have been working at the museum since 2003, and I feel fortunate to have a job where I can start my day with amazing animals surrounding me. I enjoy camping, hiking and rock climbing in my spare time when the weather is nice.
I work Tuesday through Saturday and spend a lot of time behind the scenes, but you might find me at a public program or feeding the farmyard animals in the afternoon.

Red wolf pups: it might happen!

April 7th, 2011

Anyone who knows me, or has been reading the blog for a while, knows that I have a great passion for red wolves.¬† After breeding season was over, I was sure that our female was pregnant. Being that we (the keepers) like to pick on each other and give one another a hard time about anything possible, I have withstood much teasing and joking from my co-workers… and as always I have appreciated their humor!

Despite the fact that most people did not think she was pregnant, we have still kept close watch for different behaviors from both the male and female. Some of the things we noticed in the last month were the female starting to bury food (which is not an abnormal behavior for red wolves, but is a new behavior that we have witnessed for her), the male paying more attention and being more nurturing towards the female, the female being hungrier in the morning, a couple of times she was found in one of the man-made dens (again, a new behavior for her that we have witnessed), and the female has also been digging large holes in the side of the exhibit’s cliff (this would be an indication of digging a shallow den).

The latest behavior that has occurred in the past three days is the fact that she has now pulled out her belly hair. According to Sherry, this is usually a good indicator that she will be having pups soon because she is making her nipples more accessible for suckling. This most recent behavior seems to have swayed most people towards the fact that she actually is pregnant, but it is still not definite. There is always the possibility of a pseudo-pregnancy, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed that this will be the real thing!

In preparation for this event, I decided to take a poll from everyone to see when they think she will have the pups, how many she will have, and the sexes of the pups. The tally is below. The numbers that you see are going to be “zoo lingo”, and the first number is the number of males and the second number is the number of females. There can also be a third number, which would be of unknown sex (some animals are more difficult to sex than others. It’s not always obvious depending on the species). So for example, “3.2″ would be 3 males and 2 females, for a total of 5 pups. Feel free to chime in your own guess in the comment section! Mikey and I also got some good pictures of one of the potential dens that the female seems to have concentrated on the most and has made impressively large and deep. Take a look!

Mikey- April 10th- 2.1

Kimberly- April 11th- 0.3

Jill- April 9th- 1.2

Aaron- April 10th- 4.3

Sarah- April 10th- 0.2

Marilyn- April 7th- 3.1

Annie  (volunteer)- April 9th- 2.3

Karyn (volunteer/ blogger)- April 8th- 1.2

Sherry- April 12th- 2.1

Greg (Explore the Wild ranger)- April 9th- 3.3

Katy- April 12th- 2.3

Kent- April 17th- 0.1

Kristen- April 10th- 3.2

Erin- she’s not pregnant

This is the "potential den" that the female wolf has dug out the most. As you can see, it's pretty deep.!

This is a closer look at the same den so that you can see the depth. Being that she is digging on the side of a cliff, she ran into a lot of large rocks.

This is a good look deep inside the den, and you can see the remnance of large roots that she chewed and pulled away to make space. Pretty impressive!

This is a long root that we found just outside the den that looked to have been ripped away by the female. I was amazed!

This is one of the ends of that same long root, and it has clearly been ripped out. The other end looked similar, so it seems as though this may have been caused by a wolf.

This is what the den looks like from a distance. It can be seen easily from the exhibit overlook.

This is another hole she started on the side of the cliff, but as you can see she ran into a lot of rocks.

This is the first hole we found over three weeks ago.

Join the conversation:

  1. What do we get for winning?? By the way, it looks like you’re saying I’m not pregnant, not that I think that the wolf’s not pregnant. But I’m not pregnant either.

    Posted by Erin Brown
  2. I think Sherry & Kent have an advantage since they were here last time the Museum had pups. And, it seems they BOTH have predicted a much longer wait than anyone else. Do they know something?

    Posted by Karyn
  3. Based on the fact that wolf pups seem to come at the most disadvantageous times, I’m going to say she’ll give birth the morning of Robot Rumble (April 16). :-)

    Posted by Leslie
  4. Director Comment :

    Leslie- that’s what I am thinking now- pups on the 16th. http://www.ncmls.org/visit/events/robot-rumble

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  5. @ Erin: The prize for winning is a pat on the back and acknowledgement in the follow-up blog post. And true, it does sound that way! haha! I should have put the “she’s not pregnant” in quotation marks, but now it’s funny to read it that way so I’m not going to change it.;)

    @ Karyn: Yes, Sherry and Kent have more experience, but they don’t know anything more than the rest of us. Sherry has filled all the keepers in on her knowledge of red wolf pregnancies, and Kent doesn’t really think she looks big enough to be carrying pups, so I still don’t think he’s convinced.

    @Leslie: We actually all joked about that at lunch today… that the pups will come on Robot Rumble day!

    Posted by Marilyn
  6. Oooh, I hope she does! I have no idea on pup numbers, but I’ll guess April 24th, because it’s my son’s birthday and he’d love to have baby wolves born then (he’ll be 3).

    Posted by Libby
  7. what a great post with awesome pictures, marilyn. how exciting for you guys, either way! i’ve got my mind on april 14th 3.1.

    Posted by Leiana
  8. If she does deliver pups, will they stay in the den she made? We also need to have a “baby puppy shower” for her!!!!!

    Posted by DJ
  9. Keeper Comment :

    @ Libby and Leiana: Thanks for your guesses! And Leiana, I said 3.1 as well, but was clearly wrong about the date or she would have had them yesterday!

    @ DJ: Thanks for your question! We can’t be sure where she is going to decide to have her pups, or nurse them once they are born. There are two different man-made dens in the exhibit that are set up for her to use if she so desires, but she may decide that this large den she made will be better. There is always a chance that she could give birth to her puppies in one den, and then move them to another den. This would be a natural behavior for a mama wolf in the wild to move her pups to a new location if she felt it would be safer for them elsewhere.

    And yes, a baby puppy shower sounds fabulous to me!:)

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson
  10. Hey Marilyn, after considerable thought, I’d like to change my prediction (guess) to “sometime within the next few weeks” and “some of each?”

    Posted by Ranger Greg
  11. I’m guessing April 13th – 1.3 :)

    Posted by Colet
  12. April 18th 1:2, not that I have a clue and Sarah hasn’t provided me with any insight

    Posted by Hans
  13. I’ll be my usual pessimistic self and vote 0.0

    Posted by LarryB
  14. Keeper Comment :

    @ Colet, Hans, and Larry: thanks for your guesses! Larry, I hope your pessimistic self is wrong!

    @ Ranger Greg: if you had changed your guess to something REASONABLE, I would have accepted it. However, the guess of “at some point” and “some of each” is not a valid guess! In fact, some may even call it cheating!;)

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson
  15. Keeper Comment :

    At this point I dont care anymore, I am just so excited.

    Posted by Jill Brown
  16. Any pup news? I keep checking the blog and Facebook. Waiting with bated breath!

    Posted by Jamie
  17. Keeper Comment :

    Hi Jamie,

    Unfortunately nothing yet. But we are still checking daily to see if there are any pups to report. Keep your fingers crossed, and I assure you we will post something on the blog as soon as anything changes!

    Posted by Marilyn Johnson

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