One year ago, Siskiyou and Sequoia arrived at Oakland Zoo as one of eight native California species at the new California Trail. The Zoo hoped Sequoia and Siskiyou would bond and have a litter of pups; creating a pack is important to the emotional health of wolves. The addition of these four pups now constitute that ‘wolf pack’ and will remain at Oakland Zoo with their parents.
OAKLAND, CA - May 16, 2019… Just hours after the official end of Mother’s Day this past weekend, Siskiyou, Oakland Zoo’s female six-year old Gray wolf, became a first-time mother. Outside of public view, deep in one of the five dens she and her mate, Sequoia, dug recently inside their two-acre habitat, four newborn wolf pups are being diligently cared for by their new mother.
The pups will likely remain in the den for several weeks and not venture out to become publicly visible until sometime in mid-late June.
Parents, Siskiyou and Sequoia arrived at Oakland Zoo just over a year ago, in April 2018. Both born in captivity, the wolves relocated to the Zoo’sCalifornia Trail expansion as part of a multifaceted partnership with the Zoo and California Wolf Center (CWC), an organization dedicated to helping wild wolves return to California after being extirpated during government-run anti predator campaigns a century ago.
Shy, reclusive, and sensitive in nature, wolves, unlike dogs, commonly mate for life and therefore take time to develop relationships. Upon their arrival, zookeepers, volunteers and docents made every effort to ensure the wolves had an ideal environment and atmosphere to ensure their comfort and emotional well-being. When wolves feel comfortable, they are more likely to bond and have offspring.
“It is extremely important that mom and pups are comfortable. During this sensitive period over the next couple of weeks, the best thing we can do is allow mom to take care of her pups and watch her behavior to tell us what she needs,” said Darren E. Minier, Assistant Director, Animal Care,Conservation, and Research. “Creating a pack is important to the emotional health of wolves; Siskiyou and Sequoia’s pups will have a forever home atOakland Zoo with their parents.”
Oakland Zoo is communicating extensively with CWC regarding wolf breeding activities and whelping, seeking their guidance and expertise at every step of the process. The CWC has bred the Mexican Grey Wolf, an endangered species, for reintroduction for the last 30 years, and were instrumental in guiding the Zoo’s ‘wolf wellness’ program.
With Siskiyou considered an older wolf and being a first-time mother, the Zoo planned for contingencies and interventions for any potential complications. Keepers, Veterinary staff, and wolf attendants hired specifically for the sensitive whelping period, monitor the wolves’ behavior, appetite, and physical condition through live observation during the day and over remote cameras through the night.
The pups will stay in their den with Siskiyou, likely until the end ofJune. This is a crucial time for development and bonding, as the pups grow and mature. Their eyes and ears will open at about two weeks of age, and they will become more active inside the den before emerging in a little over 4 weeks, which will be the first time Zoo staff and the public will see them.
Breeding into a pack was a key component for the Zoo’s wolf wellness program. Having a family pack in a spacious natural environment also means guests can see natural wolf behavior, leading to actions to save this shy species. With the successful birthing of these pups, the Zoo does not plan to breed further.
With the story of this new wolf pack, the Zoo and CWC are working to engage the public’s support for the safe return of their wild counterparts to our state. By sharing the whole story of wild wolf recovery, including that of ranchers living with this predator, opportunities are created for people intaking action for wolves – such as buying ‘predator friendly beef’.
The partnership with CWC goes beyond the Zoo - to direct involvement in the conservation of wild wolves. Oakland Zoo is sponsoring the Wolf Center’sRange Steward program. Range Stewards are trained ranchers working to rekindle the ‘herd instinct’ in cattle, thus reducing the chance of wolf-livestock conflict. These actions increase connection and tolerance of ranchers, ensuring livestock are safe and wolves achieve long term recovery.
The wolf habitat at Oakland Zoo’s California Trail is 2-acres, complete with a pool, trees, dens, and plenty of cover for these elusive animals. Years of planning took place to ensure that wolves at Oakland Zoo would be housed in the most comfortable space possible.
ABOUT OAKLAND ZOO AND THE CONSERVATION SOCIETY OF CALIFORNIA:
Oakland Zoo, home to more than 750 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, theCSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.
ABOUT CALIFORNIA WOLF CENTER:
The California Wolf Center is dedicated to the recovery of wolves in the wild lands they once roamed. We envision a landscape where wolves thrive in healthy ecosystems and wolves and people successfully coexist. Our organization is at the forefront of creating a new model for long term wolf recovery through a scientifically based, socially acceptable approach that provides real and practical solutions to those sharing the landscape with wild wolves. We offer tours of our conservation center in Julian, CA with a reservation. Visitwww.californiawolfcenter.org or call 760-765-0030 for more information.