Saturday, May 20, 2006

Wisconsin wolf pups get new mom and second chance in Minnesota

By Scott Goldberg, KARE 11 News

Nobody knows how their mother died, only that she did. Tribal biologists found them – four tiny, furry wolf puppies – on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, on May 5, after finding their mother’s body. Now, scientists in Minnesota hope to trick the male pups into thinking another mother is their real mother, so the puppies can be re-introduced into the wild after a brief stint in captivity.

Five days after the pups were discovered, they were transported to the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minnesota. "It's very exciting," said Peggy Callahan, the center’s executive director. "(This is) the first litter that was born in 75 years on the reservation."

Callahan said it is important for the four pups, which range from about 3 to 4 pounds in weight, to live in the wild, because a new litter is so rare. "The folks on the reservation are really committed to having wolves there, so, this is a really -- an experimental effort to try to get these puppies back into the wild," she said.

At the Wildlife Science Center, the pups were given antibiotics, and microchips were inserted between their shoulder blades, so they can be tracked. "I know," Callahan said to one of the pups, as she injected the microchip under its skin. "No fun." Fortunately for the puppies, Callahan said, a wolf in captivity at the science center had just given birth to three puppies of her own. Callahan and her staff are trying to trick the wolf into thinking the wild puppies are hers, too. "We're hoping that the next step will be, mom will come in and adopt the additional four males, with her three males," she said.

Callahan let the seven puppies play with each other, so their scents would spread and make it harder for the mother to distinguish the wild puppies from her own. Then, all seven puppies went into the same den. Within two days, all seven were weaning off the same wolf.

Sadly, one of the wild pups developed a fever and died after not responding to treatment. Callahan said the key, for the remaining three, is avoiding human contact, so the pups don’t get used to being around people.

She said she hopes the wild pups will be ready to go back into the Wisconsin woods by late June. "We'll see what happens," she said. The pups’ father is still alive, and the plan is to reunite him and the three puppies, once they’re big enough to survive on their own.

  • KARE-11-TV