Each time I visit the White Wolf Sanctuary there are, naturally, changes in which wolves are residing here. In 2014 (when I was last here) we had ten wolves, and now we have 12. Sadly, two of the wolves I cared for in 2014 are no longer with us, and this visit I have been introduced to four more.
Queenie and Goliath are two of the ‘new’ wolves I have met for the first time. Goliath is our most senior citizen at 14 years of age. He was brought down from Washington to be enclosure-mate for our elderly girl Hope after her partner died. Goliath looked after Hope very well – he would stand over her in the rain, bring her blankets to shelter her face, carry food to her because her eyesight wasn’t so good, and escort her across to new enclosures when we were moving them around.
When Hope passed away, Queenie came here to be Goliath’s new enclosure-mate. She was actually form Goliath’s old home in Washington, so they already knew each other. Queenie is a relatively shy gal, and has only just started approaching the fence to sniff me when I come by. My relationship with Goliath began interestingly – he would come over to the fence for a scratch, then decide he was done with it and would snap around to nip me! He reminded me of a chimpanzee I used to work with at the Auckland Zoo, Janie, who would press her back against the bars for you to tickle her, then quickly reach around to try and grab your fingers, hooting with a cheeky glee. Sometimes I think I’d much rather have the animals enjoy my company without playing little games (we all know of a cat or two who only let you pat them so many times before they strike!), but they’re all wonderfully unique and actually it’s pretty special getting to know their different nuances. Goliath has now, after almost four weeks, has decided that we can be friends without the nipping, and it’s so nice to know that I’ve gained his trust.
Baker is another ‘new’ boy I’ve met on this trip. Last time I visited WWS we had two young sisters, Nukka and Malina, who were of an age where they could be housed together without too much sibling rivalry. In the wild, as wolves reach maturity they often go out to start their own packs. In captivity, however, because they are penned together with nowhere to venture, they can fight quite viciously. When Nukka and Malina matured more they began to fight with increasing aggression: it was time to separate them. Thus, Baker was found as an enclosure-mate for Malina. They get along very well – at the moment they are housed in the wolves’ favourite enclosure. It has tall, long grass to hide in, a pond under a copse of trees for cooling off, and hills to sit atop and watch the world from. It is a very large enclosure, and most days I hardly see this elusive pair.
Considering that Malina and I got along quite well during my 2014 visit I thought she would be more friendly with me, but thus far I just receive a good morning greeting of a quick sniff from her and Baker, and off they go. We’ve had a bit of cooler weather up the mountain lately which suits the wolves well, and instead of sleeping somewhere sheltered out of sight Malina and Baker have ben energetically playing around their enclosure, which is a real delight to watch.
Malina’s sister, Nukka, is now housed with Baker’s son, Everett. Everett was actually initially paired with shy Malina, but it was quickly observed that he was a bit too dominant over her and so they switched enclosure-mates. While Nukka shares her sister’s shyness of strangers, that’s where their similarities end. Nukka is an absolute love-bug, whereas Malina likes to watch you from a slight distance with her beautiful dark eyes. Nukka has no qualms about bowling into Everett when she wants attention, whilst Malina is much more polite with her mate. Everett and Nukka are a force to be reckoned with, and it is not unusual to hear them loudly snapping and growling warnings at each other if one is deemed to be invading the other’s space.
Everett is a real darling, and he and I have become fast pals – though that’s not saying much, because regal Everett turns into a whimpering affection-seeker with almost anyone he meets. Unfortunately for some men who visit the Sanctuary, if the wolves are going to be shy around anyone it’s usually new males. Everett, however, doesn’t possess this wariness of male strangers, and will shower almost anyone in wolfie loves. Occasionally he does tire of the limelight, and recently we had a group of small kids almost urinated on when he decided they were crowding him too much.
Dear Tamahawk and Archidamus have been so wonderful to be around again. Tamahawk, our littlest white wolf, was a relatively new resident when I first arrived in 2010. She is now over ten years old, but certainly hasn’t lost an ounce of her young wolfie spirit. Tamahawk has such an endearing, silly personality – you wouldn’t know she’d had a rough start to her life.
Poor Tamahawk had initially been kept as a pet in someone’s backyard. Wolves are very social animals who crave the company of their own kind, and she would often howl in search of friends. To stop her from doing this her muzzle was taped shut by her then-owners – of course this also prevented her from eating, drinking and breathing properly. Her growth was probably stunted by this, and you’ll find that she’s only about half the size of most of the other wolves.
After Tamahawk was finally surrendered to the authorities she was taken to a facility where they sadly did not introduce her properly to the two mature females already living there – she was attacked quite badly, and aside from her other injuries she had to have half of her tail amputated due to her wounds.
This doesn’t seem to stop her from shoving her tail into your face when she wants cuddles – she loves having her backside scratched, and her little tail will wiggle along while you’re patting her.
She and our sole timber wolf, Archidamus, make quite the pair. Archidamus also had quite a miserable start to life, and does not trust new men one bit. He is such a honey though, and once you gain his cautious trust he will enthusiastically offer himself for pats – he runs over to me more than miss Tamahawk does most days now! They both have quite big personalities, and when they each want your attention they are quite loud to voice their disapproval of the other as they try to shove each other out of the way. These two play together frequently, and are such an entertaining pair to observe.
Sakarri and Modoc – oh, how I missed these two. At ten years old now I also first met this pair in 2010 and bonded with them instantly. Sakarri, whose name means ‘sweet’ in Inuit, is the most stranger-social of our wolves, and as soon as she hears new voices she’ll start whimpering away with her little tail flicking from side-to-side until she’s had a chance to meet all of the visitors. She simply can’t sit still for very long, and her personality is like chalk and cheese compared to her brother Modoc’s, who is very gentle, and calm, and watchful. Modoc doesn’t tend to approach strangers, but would spend all day leaning against the fence for some one-on-one cuddles if he could. Modoc was the first wolf I ever went in an enclosure with, and I love him dearly. He has beautiful, deep, lemon-coloured eyes, and when he wanders over to you for a pat you can’t help but feel that you are special to this very gentle giant.
That brings us to Tehalin and Nike, the siblings of Sakarri and Modoc. These two also have such lovely, special personalities, and it’s Tehalin I find myself thinking about most of all when I’m back in New Zealand missing the wolves terribly. During my internship in 2010, Lois (WWS founder & director) and I would often go into Nike and Tehalin’s enclosures to clean – or at least attempt to, with the two whirlwinds of wolfie excitement gambolling around us. Now that I’m generally on my own during the work days I don’t go inside the enclosures when the wolves aren’t sleeping (you need at least two people for two of our wolves – they’re so strong, and it is very difficult to stay upright when both of them are slamming into you in excitement!) but we still share a lot of close time together on opposite sides of the fence. One bonus about interacting through the fence is that the wolves settle quite quickly – Tehalin (after he’s done licking your face) tends to sit down, leans right into you and lifts his chin for a good scratch. Like Modoc, he never tires of cuddles, and would stay all day with you if there wasn’t other work to be done. I’ve spent a lot of time with this dear boy.
Every time I visit the wolves at WWS I never know if it will be the last time I’ll see any of them. It’s a very sombre thought, so I just make the most of the time that I have with them. They are all such wonderful, unique animals, and I am so glad that they are able to live out their lives in safety, peace, and with lots of respect and affection here at the beautiful sanctuary.