April 01, 2018 10:50 PM
In the spring of 2016, KSTP helped bring two rare Arctic wolf pups from Canada to the International Wolf Center in Ely. Those little wolves have grown up and are now giving educators a rare opportunity to witness a shift in pack hierarchy.
The circle of life is playing out in the center's Ambassador Pack.
"This is definitely a nerve-racking time for our staff," said Rob Schultz, executive director of the International Wolf Center. "A lot of time people never get to see this in the wild."
Shultz is referring to the challenge by the young pups to longtime alpha wolf Aidan. The two youngest Arctic wolves, Axel and Grayson, are stirring the pot; they aren't little anymore.
"They're anything but little," Schultz said. "Those are some big, big wolves. Axel is a lot more ... he's more aggressive. He's out there wanting to challenge. Grayson is more subdued."
Aidan is on his way out as alpha male, as was foreshadowed when the pack started behaving differently last fall. Schultz says having a strong leader is crucial.
"It's important that the pack is unified," he said. "They're a family unit. They have to work together as a team to hunt and to survive and to maintain their territory."
Rarely does one get to witness the replacement of an alpha wolf, and the process can take months or even a year.
"This is something that very few people have seen or been able to research," Schultz said. "It's so hard to see wolves in any kind of a wild area. So when we can see in kind of a controlled environment like this, what's happening and how those dynamics change every day, it helps us to understand how things play out in the wild."
A change of leadership in a wolf pack is serious business – Schultz says it can get violent.
"It can and it has," he said. "But yet we know it's a part of nature, it has to work, they have to work this out themselves. The alpha has to be a caretaker of everyone."
Nature has a way of taking and giving back, as is playing out currently in the changing of roles in the Ambassador Pack.
Things have calmed down for Aidan and he is still part of the pack. When the time comes, he will be moved to a retirement pack in a separate enclosure at the International Wolf Center.
RELATED: 2 Arctic Wolf Pups Meet the Pack at International Wolf Center in Ely
Click here to watch the Ambassador Pack or the retired pack.
Tickets are still available for the International Wolf Center's "Howl at the Moon Gala" on April 19. The Keynote Speaker is Dr. Rolf Peterson, the leader of the Isle Royale wolf and moose project since the early 1970s.
The picture used with this story was taken by Wildlife Photographer Heidi Pinkerton of Root River Photography. She is an expert in photographing Minnesota's wildlife, nature and the night sky.
Updated: April 01, 2018 10:50 PM
Created: March 30, 2018 01:56 PM
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