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November and December 2018's updates are available here.
For updates from September and October, click here.
A summer's day
22nd June 2019
A bright, sunny day awaited us at the wolf centre on Saturday. The Beenhams were the first out and we started the walk by going into the bottom field, then via the gap between the Arctic and Mosi/Torak enclosures. This is always eventful for the handlers, as the wolves are very keen to get close to each other: there are fences in the way, of course, but we don't want them getting entangled in those!
We passed through without much drama, then headed into the top field. It was all rather uneventful until we reached the farthest point of the walk, around the Ridge's Belt copse. A senior handler always goes ahead of the wolves at the blind corners, to make sure there aren't any members of the public about. This time there was - and they came with a terrier, off-lead. Much yapping ensued as the lady tried to recall the dog, but it took quite a while! The wolves, for their part, were eager to get to where the dog was. We didn't let them. Eventually the dog was put on a lead and walked past, although as we moved on the wolves were distracted by another dog in the distance and they didn't notice that the terrier was now off its lead again.
The second dog-walker did the sensible thing of waiting until we went past. The farmer who owns the land has put signs up saying "wolf exercise area", but I suspect most people regard those as "fake news"... they proved their worth this time.
The rest of the walk went by without issue, although Tala decided she wanted to roll in something extremely smelly. You didn't need to spot her to know where she was! A howling session took place in the "log field", immediately adjacent to the Trust, and as ever it was great to see the wolves communicating back and forth. We also stopped to pull out more of the loose fur; the moulting season is coming to an end but there was still a fair amount pulled out.
We put the wolves back, had our lunch and fed the wolves (and tortoises) their standard weekend menu. While this was going on one of the volunteers got the strimmer out and cleared the holding pen for Mai and Motomo; for obvious reasons we can't go in the main enclosure with him.
All that remained was to go in with the Beenhams. Tala rubbed her smelly stuff over the handlers, Tundra did her usual neck-rubbing and Nuka came over to say hello, then wandered off to his favourite corner. The two girls had even more fur pulled out, it really is remarkable just how much they shed each year.
We said our goodbyes and headed for home, another good day for wolves and handlers alike.
Photos by Cammie, Eve and Darren. Howling video by Cammie.
Mosi and Torak
Beenhams howling, Motomo, Massak and the tortoises
Grass cutting day!
16th June 2019
Thankfully the torrential downpours ceased for us today. We had a busy day so got going quickly with taking the Arctics out first. While we were out with them, the tractor was brought into their enclosure to cut down the now very tall grass and weeds. We can’t see the wolves and they can’t see us anymore.
Massak, Sikko and Pukak were keen to get out and about. They do enjoy their walks these days, ready to roll in anything remotely smelly and keen to flush out any wildlife. We came across Roe deer and pheasants today, all hiding in the wheat fields and long grass. I’m happy to report that all wildlife continued with their day unscathed.
Once they were back in their enclosure, Torak and Mosi were taken out for a brief walk so we could get then into their holding area. Sarah decided to clean the observation room window and the tractor went into their main enclosure to cut down all the long grass in there. I went to investigate Mosi’s new den she has been guarding up on the small hill in the enclosure. She has been growling at Torak and stashing food, meaning she still thinks she has pups. Her hormone levels should reduce over the next couple of weeks, giving Torak some peace at last!
We decided to do our own grass cutting, so food was prepared, tortoises were brought out to roam around and munch on clover and we were let loose with shears and Craig took control of the strimmer. Mai and Motomo were interested in what we were doing. Mai decided she wanted the cut grass. I put a tuft through the fence, and we had a game of tug with it. She won straight away. After some hard work and when backs started aching, we downed tools and had a quick break.
We took the Beenhams out and the tractor went in to their enclosure to clear the grass in there as well. We tried to encourage all 3 wolves to cross the new bridge, but they are still highly suspicious of it. We walked up past the other wolves to go out into the fields through another gate. This gives the other wolves the opportunity to get all excited and jump about. Interestingly Nuka took absolutely no notice of them!
We came across another couple of Roe deer on the walk who shot off. One stayed hiding in the tall grass, which was quite amusing as all you could see were a pair or ears and horns. We had a few stops along the way and the wolves enjoyed us pulling more fur out of them! Their tails now resemble bottle brushes, but they are still holding onto a lot of fur around their sides, necks and shoulders.
All the wolves spent some time trotting around the enclosure sniffing about and wondering where all the grass had gone! We then fed them all and after went into the Beenhams’ enclosure. After the usual greetings and rubbing of heads on our heads, we all set about removing more fur that is still coming out in fistfuls! The wolves appear to be quite itchy around their necks in particular, so of course we obliged! They didn’t really want us to leave them today. Usually it is them that wander away from us, but not today. We must have been doing a good job with their fur.
I put the tortoises away with Nikki and hand fed one of them with tomato. They have remarkably big mouths when open and you have to be very careful your fingers don’t get in the way of their front ‘tooth’!
Reluctantly we all said our goodbyes after having another great day with the wolves and each other.
Update written by Eve, pictures by Tsa and Eve
Mosi and Torak's enclosure
8th June 2019
Summer is here, although it felt distinctly autumnal as the volunteers arrived on Saturday - overcast with a strong and gusty wind. We had our usual pre-walk briefing and both Torak and Mosi trotted past several times, keeping an eye on us all. As usual, the Beenhams were the first out and it was decided to let them explore the new bridge, as mentioned in last week's update. While they were interested in sniffing it, they weren't comfortable enough to test it out; we ended up going past it and into the bottom field, something which usually comes at the end of the walk. The wolves weren't bothered by the change in route and had a great time exploring.
We went past Torak and Mosi's enclosure, but with Torak and Mosi unable to get into their holding enclosure it wasn't as hectic a passage as it can be! We then went to the top field and the walk resumed its normal route. There was nothing out of the ordinary this time, although we cut through the copse that was planted a few years ago in the top field. It was perfect weather for a wolf walk by now, with the sun shining and the breeze blowing. As the walk went on the wolves stopped a few times, scratching away at their loose underfur. The handlers were only too happy to help the wolves get rid of the fur and there were several places on the route where dozens of tufts of discarded fur were left behind.
We finished the walk in the bottom field again, by the stream, then took the wolves back to their enclosure (with one last look at the bridge before they went back in - they still weren't tempted to cross it!)
A swift lunch followed, then it was time to see if Mai wanted to come out. Motomo started howling before she even came out, mixing his howls with a few soft "wuff" barks. We didn't even get into the top field this time, as Mai turned on a sixpence and went back once we reached the driveway. Even though the walk was a short one, she enjoyed herself and seemed to relish the chance to get out and about, if only for a few minutes.
Food preparation for the wolves (and the tortoises) followed, with other volunteers filling up water troughs, strimming the weeds and pulling loose fur from the Arctics. Filling the troughs gives a great opportunity for some fun with the wolves: while Mai snapped mouthfuls of water from the jet from the hose, Motomo treated it as a game. The Arctics had their share of fun with the water too.
Before feeding the wolves, we went in with the Beenhams. I stayed outside initially, taking some photos as both Tala and Tundra trotted over to the platform to greet the other volunteers. They did their usual rubbing, then stood there happily as they were made a fuss of. After a short while I went in, at which point Nuka (who'd been in the corner of the enclosure, watching the Arctics) came into play. He bounded over, following me, then went around greeting everyone. He varies his greeting depending on the person: it can just be a sniff, a bat with a paw, a few licks, all the way up to soliciting play. In my case it was the latter, and the game was "grab the hand". While he enjoys it, it's not the best game to play - so he ended up being distracted by having some loose fur pulled out.
He soon went away again, greeting the volunteers who were waiting outside. The girls, however, stayed for a long while, seemingly enjoying having that itchy old fur pulled out. Eventually, though, both ran off to join Nuka by that corner. We started to leave, but the wolves decided they'd not finished with us yet. Tala came over to intercept us, leading to a last-minute fuss for her and Tundra. Nuka, meanwhile, came over to me and went into full play mode, with another few rounds of his "Jack in the box" game. That's the one he came up with several months ago, where you're allowed to stroke his belly but after a random amount of time he'll spring up and try to "bop" you with his muzzle. He really seems to enjoy these sessions and it's hard to remember he is, in fact, a fully mature male wolf! Once the game and fussing ended, the wolves sauntered off and we were free to leave.
The wolves had their food, the usual weekend mix of paunch, beef and chicken, then it was time to tidy up, say our goodbyes and head for home. It was, as ever, a wonderful day.
Mai and Motomo
Mosi and Torak
2nd June 2019
Thankfully the morning was not too warm which makes for a much more comfortable day walking the wolves, not just for us but for the wolves too.
First out were the tortoises, while everyone was getting ready. We let them roam around in the grass where they happily munched away on the abundant clover. We transferred them to their outside enclosure for the day and went off to take the Arctics out first. Due to an old bridge not being fit for purpose anymore, a new one has been put built leading out into what we all refer to as the stump field. It is where there is a huge tree trunk laying down. We used to have the wolves jump up on there for photo opportunities on our members' walks. It was decided to not try and take the Arctics over it as it is so new. They are particularly flighty over anything new.
Pukak decided he didn't like going through the other gate that he usually goes through so this wound them all up a bit. He came through after a while and we finally all got going. All 3 settled down and once again we left a trail of fluffy white fur behind us. All 3 of them are looking very funny with tufts of fur hanging off them. Once we got back to their enclosure they refused to leave the hard standing. Usually once they are uncollared they rush back into their enclosure to go over and tease Mai and Motomo. We quickly realised they wanted a fur removal session. The hard standing was covered in fur by the time they had been well and truly plucked. It must be a very itchy time of year for them and they realise us humans have our uses! See a video that Veda took of the fun and games here.
We had a bit of a break and then off to get the Beenhams out for their walk. This time we did try and take them over the new bridge as they tend to be a bit more robust when it comes to new objects. However there were totally not impressed and refused to go anywhere near it. They grumbled at each other for a while and then we took them out via the gate further up that we had used for the Arctic walk. Linda and I then decided to go and cut down a lot of nettles and weeds by the new bridge and by the other gate. Maybe that will help them on the next walks as they will have a more open view ahead of them.
Linda and I caught up later in the walk and enjoyed scratching and pulling out a load of their fur too. They all looked at us depending where we were pulling out fur as if to say 'please don't stop!'
After all 3 were back in their enclosure, I was let loose with the pressure hose to clean out the water trough in Torak and Mosi's holding enclosure. We do clean them out regularly but not when the wolves are in there! Craig got the strimmer out and cut down some of the long grass in the holding enclosure so we can actually see them when they are in there now! Both Torak and Mosi emerged to see what was going on. Mosi did not greet us this morning due to being at the back of her enclosure in her den. We believe she thinks she has babies. Both Mosi and Mai exhibit denning behaviour at this time of year which matches dates that wolves have litters in the wild.
The wolves were then fed and we went into the Beenham enclosure for more time with Nuka, Tala and Tundra. There was a funny moment when we were all standing by the platform – without any wolves! Finally they did all appear and the girls got into their usual head and neck rubbing – especially with the men with shall we say, less hair! We were not allowed to leave without scratching and plucking even more fur from all 3. Needless to say we do it willingly!
The tortoises were put inside with lots of fresh food and we noted that their preferred dish of the day was tomato. Reluctantly we all went home having had, once again, a thoroughly enjoyable day. Update written and photos taken by Eve and Rachel, except Tala photo by Veda
Mai and Motomo, Arctics
25th May 2019
Saturday dawned bright and sunny in Kent, and it seemed like half the population of the South East was out and about on the roads. I arrived at the wolf centre with only a couple of minutes to spare, to the usual greeting from Mosi and Torak. Both wolves were keen to see the volunteers arrive, with Mosi performing her usual mix of whimpers and howls. The wolves milled around expectantly and this time their wish came true - there were enough of us to take them out and before long we were collaring them up. Both wolves were keen to come out and we set off around the top field, with the strong sunshine making it feel a lot warmer than it actually was!
Mosi and Torak had a leisurely (for them) walk around the field, frequently stopping to sniff, scratch and scent. We went around Ridge's Belt and Torak seemed eager to head along the footpath towards Holly Copse. That was distinctly out of bounds, though, and we headed back onto the Trust's land, heading through the new copse that was planted a few years ago. We then completed our circuit of the field and let the wolves back into their enclosure - both wolves and handlers were feeling pretty warm by now! There wasn't much time to rest, though, as the Beenhams' walk was next. After a slow start (involving using a different gate to normal), the wolves soon picked up speed, following Mosi and Torak's trail in reverse. As the sun's strength continued to grow, it was decided to take the wolves up and down the shady side of Ridge's Belt rather than the usual up one side and down the other. The wolves aren't daft and when it's warm they seek the shade. Indeed, one such session in the top field provided an ideal rest spot for them (and the handlers); I've a feeling the wolves would have happily stayed there for a long time! We went past Torak and Mosi's enclosure in order to get to the back field and that provided a spot of excitement for the handlers: Tala seems to have a score to settle with Mosi and the feeling is reciprocated. The result is the handlers have to keep a short lead on the wolves, while much tail-waving and posturing goes on from both sides.
We ended up in the back field and the wolves decided to take the long way around; I suspect it was as much wanting to keep an eye on Torak and Mosi as anything! At the other end of the field, down the hill, lies The Bourne and the wolves enjoyed the cooler surroundings there. The handlers enjoyed it, too, as the wolves wanted a fuss made of them. Nuka did his trademark "flop", Tala went around sniffing everyone and Tundra solicited some strokes and scratches from the handlers. After a while, with time ticking on, we took the wolves back. Mai came out for a very brief walk (just around the corner of the top field) and she thoroughly enjoyed it. It didn't take long, though, for Motomo's howls to call her back.
We then popped Mai back in her enclosure and had our lunch. The wolves' lunch followed, the usual mix of paunch, chicken and beef. I helped feed the Beenhams and all three wolves were very keen for their food - Nuka practically inhaled his, while keeping his eyes fixed on the bucket for the next tasty morsel of meat.
With the feeding completed, it was time for the traditional "going in with the wolves". Nuka was full of mischief and he had a grand game of "grab the hand", before zooming off to his corner. The two girls stayed around for much longer and had a great deal of fuss from everyone. They then zoomed off to join Nuka, our cue to leave. As we left, great tufts of fur littered the enclosure - the wolves are in full moult. Although a lot's been shed, there's still plenty more to go!
After saying our goodbyes, we headed off in our various directions; it'd been a busy and warm day, as enjoyable as ever.
Blue Tit, Arctics
Walking with the Beenhams
19th May 2019
Although rain was forecast we thankfully had none which was good as we had 3 walks to fit in today. One of our handlers Linda was late due to a problem on the M4, but we quickly got going with the Arctic wolves, Massak, Pukak and Sikko, once she arrived. They decided they wanted quite a long walk today and who are we to disagree! The walk was lovely and calm with no pheasant capture this time, although 2 flew out of the long grass in front of Massak and Sikko, but the wolves were too far from them to make any effort to catch them. We spent some time 'plucking' all 3 of them as they are rapidly losing their winter coats now. We all love to pull it out! After we left a trail through all the fields of their fur.
After the obligatory tea break, we took out the Beenhams, Nuka, Tala and Tundra. In contrast to the Arctics we set off at a furious pace! I was handling Nuka who was in a big rush to get somewhere... After a while they slowed down and of course Nuka just had to roll around in something very smelly we suspect had belonged to a fox. We did have a lovely calm walk with them all until Tundra just decided to jump on Tala's back and growl at her while she was drinking from one of the many water troughs in the fields. We just walked them away from each other and in an instant the tiff was forgotten. We also spent some time 'plucking' all 3!
Once they were back in their enclosure, Torak and Mosi were taken out and the rest of us stayed behind to prep the food and also mix up some enrichment treats in the shape of melons scooped out and filled with a mix of mackerel and meat. We then all spent a while in the Beenhams' enclosure having our heads rubbed by the girls and sloppy licks from Nuka, while removing yet more fur from them! After feeding them we threw over the melons and enjoyed watching them interact with each other. Of course they all wanted the melon the other one had and there was some great lip curling going on!
We made sure the tortoises were given fresh food and left with the usual smiles on our faces.
Update written by Eve
Mosi and Torak
Massak and Sikko, Tala, Tundra
11th May 2019
Saturday started off in the usual way - the volunteers arrived and Mosi greeted them as they arrived. Torak hovered in the background, ever-hopeful of there being enough to take him out for a walk. Unfortunately for him, there weren't quite enough on this particular day.
The Beenhams were, as ever, keen to come out for their weekly walk. They had a great time, sniffing, scraping, rolling, although this time there were no members of the public out and about, so no dogs for Nuka to stare at! They were in an affectionate mood and we stopped several times to give them some fuss and attention. The tensions of earlier in the year have eased and it's now safe to make a fuss of Tala even if Tundra is close by.
The walk was slower than usual, with the wolves revelling in their surroundings; they were determined, it seemed, to make the most of their time out of the enclosure. However, all good things come to an end and they returned back in the early afternoon.
After a lunch break, we said hello to the Arctics and Mosi and Torak through the fence. Both sets of wolves were happy to see us and Torak did something unusual: he squeezed up against the fence, asking for a scratch. He got it, too, and it was a reminder of his European ancestry - unlike the softer fur of the Arctics and North American wolves, his coat is coarser and more wiry to the touch, much more like our old European wolves' fur.
It was then time for a special treat for Motomo: it's his birthday soon, so I'd brought in some sardines in sunflower oil. Of course, Mai joined in and both wolves, after a quick lick, gobbled them down quickly. Mai especially seemed to enjoy them and it's likely she'll have more in the future.
We then prepared the wolves' usual food, but before feeding them we went in with the Beenhams. Tundra came over and was up to her usual rubbing antics, before being joined by Tala. Nuka, meanwhile, eventually came over, performed a lightning-quick greeting to everyone, then went back to the corner to watch the Arctics. He did, however, return briefly just as we were leaving the enclosure - he was looking for a bit of fun, and found it in the buttercup I'd been carrying (not something I'd usually do, but it was an especially large one). It was a reminder of how quick the wolves can be, as it was gone in a flash! Of course, having got his prize he lost interest in it and wandered off... for a wolf, the fun is in grabbing something, the thrill of the chase.
We then fed the wolves and as usual they were generally keen for their food - it was the typical mix of beef, chicken and paunch, although none of the latter for Torak as he can't stand it! After saying our goodbyes, we headed off; it had been another successful day for both wolves and handlers.