Steven Gotz Zootography
The story begins when two wolves, a male named Sequoia and a female named Siskiyou met at the California Wolf Center near Julian California in November of 2017. He was born there and she had come from the McCleery Buffalo Wolf Foundation at Bridger, Montana. Both were born in May of 2013.
In December of 2017, they arrived at the Oakland Zoo to be a part of the brand new California Trail which eventually opened on July 12th, 2018. Wolves had been gone from the wilds of California for many years, but they used to be a large part of our environment. Having them at the Oakland Zoo provides people an opportunity to connect with them.
He is taller and has a thinner coat than she does. The zookeepers kid that he walks around on stilts. Here is one of my favorite photos of him. The zoo uses this photo quite often. It makes me wonder how the story of the "Big Bad Wolf" ever got started.
This next photo of Siskiyou is one of the first I was able to capture of her during the acclimation sessions, where we would go up on boardwalk in front of their habitat for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, just to get them used to having people around. She would stand on the rock and wait for us to leave.
The mating season for Gray Wolves runs from about the middle of February to the middle of April. Valentines Day to Tax Day. But in 2018 they had not been together long enough. He was still being selfish with his food and she was still pretty skittish.
But over the course of the next year, they could be found near each other quite often.
We kept our fingers crossed that they would successfully mate, and she could carry them to term, and that they would be healthy. It is not that we need more wolves as much as it is that to be a psychologically healthy wolf, you must be part of a pack. We could not just throw a bunch of wolves together to make a pack. We had to have them breed their own. We kept hoping, speculating, sharing our feelings on the subject of puppies!
Until the day finally came in March 2019 and they began to mate. Frequently, and in front of everyone.
Step one in our plan for puppies!
Knotting: Stuck together after copulation
Our prayers were answered and on May 13th, 2019 the zookeepers saw that she had given birth to what would turn out to be four healthy wolf pups. The following photos are from Sunday, June 23rd.
Puppies having their lunch
There is always one that eats slower than the others
Tasting a sibling? Or what?
Learning to tell a rock from food will likely come in a later lesson
Five days later, they were out with the folks, exploring their surroundings. By this time they had been given their first vaccinations and it was discovered that there were two boys and two girls, One girl was shaved a bit on her front left shoulder, the other on the left hip. One boy was shaved on the right shoulder and the other on the right hip,
Family Outing (Mom in Front)
Walking under Dad could be problematic. She'll learn.
I like seeing them walk around with their mother, but I truly love watching them with their father even more. I figure that Mom is useful, but Dad is just for fun at this stage of their development.
She does not yet have the concept of personal space
When I saw everyone with their tongues out I naturally assumed they were headed for the water trough. But no, they trotted right past it.
But later, a few of the puppies decided it was time for a drink. Notice that there are steps to help them reach the water, and there are blocks in the water to enable them to get out in the event someone gets too energetic and falls in.
It is Dad's job to bring home the bacon as in the case of the next photo. They received an entire pig, cut up into large pieces. He went for the head first and took it from the upper to the lower part of the habitat. He tried this piece of the body next, gave up, took the tail end down, and then eventually came back for this. It took him a while to crush it down to fit into his mouth.
Then there are days when it is just a hassle trying to drag the meal down to the wife and kids. He had to keep setting this relatively huge side of some animal down, resting, then going another 20 feet or so before resting again. This would happen in the wild, so the zookeepers figure it is good for him.
So, this is the story of the Oakland Zoo Wolf Pack. I hope you enjoyed reading about it and looking at the photos.