Further photos and updates are available on the "UKWCT Friends" Facebook group. (Please note: the group is not an official UKWCT site; opinions and views posted there may differ from those of the UKWCT.)
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, updates will be few and far between. Rest assured that the wolves are still receiving excellent care from our volunteers, there are just fewer of them on site.
17th May 2020
We arrived at the Trust excited to see the wolves and also to be out of the house. Lockdown is altering the wolves’ behaviour slightly as they are seeing less people and being social wolves they do like contact with humans. Torak who is normally very aloof came to the fence at least 3 times to get a fuss and a stroke. Mosi gets very jealous of any attention he is receiving and barges him out of the way.
Mai and Motomo greeted us enthusiastically although of course Motomo does not get a stroke as he is unsocialized. Part of the stroking that we do is also to try and remove as much of the moulting undercoat that they are shedding at this time of the year. This helps to cool them off in the warm weather and makes it less itchy for them. Motomo seems to understand he is different as when the other wolves are at the fence he rubs himself along the adjoining fence between the enclosures pulling as much of his coat out himself. He pulls the same face as the other wolves as if he is enjoying his own little massage. The Arctics were extremely excited and Sikko in particular was hilarious. Rather than just wagging her tail when she is excited her whole back end goes and she wiggles about. The Beenhams were very keen for a fuss although with them is was quite short lived and then they ran off to play. As with us during lockdown we are trying to think of new ideas to keep them engaged and stop them being bored. Items that they can continue to play with once we have left are ideal. They have had something different each week and games have included stuffed coconuts, stuffed hessian sacks, food trials and chasing water from the hose pipe. Ella the volunteer who was working today holds the title of Enrichment Co Ordinator in her paid profession, so she was ideally placed to come up with something new. They had sacks stuffed with a combination of straw from Racoons, sand from Meercats, and feathers from Bengal Eagle Owls. This was topped off with fresh rosemary, bay leaves and Lavender. They also had some perfumed water put onto the holding areas so they had something different to smell and roll in. Part of the fun was making the sacks up with Mai and Motomo watching eagerly to see what their treat was.
Mosi played for ages with hers but allowed Torak to have a play when she had finished. Mai also took control of the sack and allowed Motomo to just have a feather to start with. He got hold of the sack when she wasn't looking. Massak got hold of the sack and was not letting any of the others get near it. It was really interesting to watch how the others worked together to try and remove it from him but he stood his ground, gave a wonderful demonstration of jaw snapping and carried on. Tala managed to get the Beenhams’ sack and disappeared into the trees with the other two chasing her. We didn't see them again until feed time.
The rest of the day was spent cleaning and preparing food. All wolves part from Motomo are fed through the fence however his is thrown over. The red kites who live on site seem to remember this and as you get closer to his feed time they are flying overhead and sitting in the tree waiting. They are getting bolder. Not sure why this is but it could be a number of reasons. They may have got lucky before, been fed by other volunteers in the same place, have less road kill at the moment and are hungry or it may be there are fewer people around. As I got ready to throw a large piece of beef the bird dive bombed me and snatched it from the air. Luckily it was too large so it dropped it but it did get two other pieces. It appears Red Kites don't like paunch. End of another great day and cant wait until it is my turn to look after them again. Update by Cammie
9th May 2020
Due to the current restrictions, only two volunteers can feed the wolves at weekends – at a safe social distance, of course! I was one of the lucky ones drawn out of the hat for this weekend and was thrilled, as I hadn't seen the wolves for over two months. The senior for the day was Sarah who was just as excited to be there too.
We were lucky as it was a gorgeous day and we made the most of it so we could spend as much time with the wolves as possible and do some chores. Mosi and Torak greeted us as we drove into the carpark – I'm sure they were hoping to be taken on a walk as it's been a while. Obviously with only two people and no way to distance ourselves on the leads, that's impossible, but as elderly wolves with plenty of space in the enclosure, walks can wait until restrictions are lifted.
First thing to do was check all wolves were present, correct and well. They ticked those boxes and were obviously excited to see us. We provide good enrichment just being on site! All the wolves are starting to moult and none more so than the Arctics – greeting them through the fence means you come away covered in fluffy undercoat. Wolves moult from the feet up which makes for some interesting coat designs as the undercoat comes away. Motomo looked like he'd fallen foul of an isolation haircut!
We let the tortoises out on the grass for some supervised sun and dandelion snacks before giving their indoor hutch a deep clean. We'd brought them some strawberries – one of their favourite treats. They have an outdoor pen to roam in but after some sunbathing they hide away until it's time to go inside and bask under their heat lamp.
The Beenhams' water trough was looking rather green so we let them into their holding area so we could have access to the enclosure to clean it. The grass in the holding area has grown and was hiding all sorts of small creatures – Tala immediately went on the prowl and was successful in catching a vole. Cue gruesome crunching and one satisfied wolf. Under the watchful eyes of the Beenhams Sarah and I managed to tip the enclosure trough over to get rid of the green water and underneath was a beautiful black toad. With that safely out of the way we had a great time cleaning the trough and getting soaked. Perfect on a hot day! Once it was clean we spent the time while it was refilling inspecting the Beenhams' enclosure and discovered they had been busy at the top of their mound digging a network of dens. They are certainly impressive constructions. Trough finally full, we let the Beenhams back into the enclosure where they immediately inspected our handiwork and gave it their approval by jumping into the trough and kicking out half the water. We then had some fun time trying to refill the trough through the fence with the hose and spraying water around the Beenhams for them to chase.
After a break for lunch we took some time inspecting all the wolves' kennels, cleaning and sorting out their bedding where it was needed and refilling water buckets and troughs. We then prepared all the food and fed the wolves. They all had good appetites! Mosi has developed a taste for boiled eggs and as she's an old lady now, we indulge her. Sometimes feeding three wolves with only two handlers is a challenge (particularly the Arctics who always eat incredibly quickly) but they all behaved themselves and there were no squabbles. Once fed, all the wolves dozed off in the sun.
And sadly, that was our cue to leave. Once we'd cleaned the food shed and secured the tortoises it was time to go. It was a wrench not knowing when I'd be down again – hopefully it won't be too long. Rest assured the wolves are getting the best of treatment whatever is going on in the world outside and are very content. Stay well and stay safe everyone. Update and photos by Nikki
Mai and Motomo, the Beenhams
Mosi and a toad
Arctics and tortoise
19th April 2020
It was my turn to go to the trust today. Names are going into a hat as only one handler is allowed to go and feed the wolves. I have missed going very much so was so happy to come out of the hat today.
The weather was fantastic and I met Sue, the Senior handler of the day at 10 am sharp, keen to make the most of the day. We spent quite a while going to each of the enclosures and spending time with them all. I took a lot of video which tells the story of the day much better than I can put into words!
As we can’t walk the wolves, we walked the two tortoises who enjoyed the sunshine.
There was some old food in one of the fridges which we took down to our bottom field and threw out for the Kites. We sat and watched and after a while were rewarded with 14 of them swooping down one after another to grab a piece of food.
We spent time checking all the bedding areas in the enclosures and replaced all the water in their buckets. The Arctics were splashing around in one of the troughs and after you could see their coats are started slowly to come out as there was a lot of fur floating on the water. We hauled out the hoses and topped up a lot of the troughs today and generally cleaned up everywhere.
We fed them all which is quite a feat as there was only 2 of us. You need to have a strategy with 2 packs of 3 wolves! Pukak who is so food driven was fed by Sue and I fed Massak and Sikko. Both hands need to be synchronised as you need to ensure they both get a mouthful at the same time.
All the wolves had good appetites today. Once we had finished all our work for the day, we served up ice lollies, which are a mixture of fish, eggs and meat with a lot of frozen fish and/or meat juices. It was very rewarding to see them all enjoying. Of course Massak and Pukak had to squabble over one small piece, even though two big pieces were only a foot away... We both lingered in the sunshine watching the wolves, now all flaked out sunbathing with full bellies.
It was awful leaving there today. Depending on how long lockdown will last, I don’t know when I will get there again. It made us appreciate our time with them even more than usual. Update and photos by Eve
Mosi, Torak and Motomo
Mai, the Arctics and a video of the Trust
22nd March 2020
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and Government recommendations, it has been decided we will not take the wolves out for walks to avoid close contact between the handlers. Instead we will still attend as usual, keeping our distance from each other and maintaining a high level of hygiene. Our updates will therefore not be as lengthy but rest assured we are still taking full care of the wolves and giving them regular enrichment, which of course we thoroughly enjoy!
Today we all cleaned out their bedding areas again and swept down the hard standings. Once the weather really does start to improve we will pressure hose all the concrete hard standings. We ran some food trails into the Beenhams' enclosure and then let them out from their holding area to go and find the food. This is a good thing to do with their food sometimes, instead of feeding them through the fence. They do then have to actually go and find it!
The intention was to get the Arctics onto their hard standing to give them a check over... not to be... they seemed to become very playful and stop each other going in. One in and two out, then two in and one out! Mai and Motomo were watching the game going on and were keen to get the Arctics back near them so they could fence run.
Today was lovely and sunny, so sitting apart all around the Trust, we enjoyed the sun’s warm rays before heading off home. Update and photos by Eve
Mosi, Torak and Motomo
14th March 2020
Our first and only walk of the day was with the Beenhams. Since we closed to the public Tundra has been much more confident. She is normally at the front of the wolves rather than trailing far at the back like she used to on public walks. We do sometimes come across people on the public footpaths but as the wolves are kept a reasonable distance away she is not bothered. Today, however, we came across a family who were very keen on the wolves and wanted to watch them go by from a safe distance. As they had stopped and were looking at the wolves Tundra immediately reverted to her previous behaviour and was not happy until they were out of sight.
The recent high winds have blown quite a lot of rubbish onto the field especially near the houses in the village. Nuka managed to find a plastic bottle in the long grass and decided it was fun to chew on. Luckily handlers are trained to deal with issues like this and the situation was soon resolved without him swallowing anything that may harm him.
After the walk it was time to clean out their sleeping areas which they have been using during the recent bad weather. It is not only the wolves that use the straw for shelter but other small forms of wildlife. Deb went to pick up what she thought was a piece of toilet only to find it had legs and moved. It was a toad which would have been a snack if the wolves had seen it. It was moved over to the willow wolves where it could stay dry and warm but safe.
Nuka the comedian then showed us how daft he can be. In the middle of feed time he threw his head back into a howl and the piece of chicken and beef that was in his mouth fell out onto the floor. With Tala on one side and Tundra on the other the meat was devoured before he put his head down. When he did look down he looked totally confused as to where it had gone.
It is unusual to howl during feed time but this was probably prompted by the fact the local hunt were nearby. The wolves always pick up the sound and smell of the hounds long before we do. The Arctics were howling and Nuka ran towards them and then ran onto the top of the mound for a better all round view. Satisfied all was OK he returned back to us and finished his food.
All the wolves were fed and water buckets checked before we set off home. Another great walk.Update by Cammie, photos by Eve
Mai, Torak and a toad!
8th March 2020
We all arrived at the trust after driving through more flooded roads! The wind had subsided overnight and we had the makings of a promising day.
After putting the Beenhams into their holding area, the Senior handlers collared up the very muddy Arctics, who were keen to come out. Sikko enjoyed giving Cammie a muddy kiss and Pukak was sporting a David Bowie style Ziggy Stardust mud arrangement on his face. We came to the pond that Matt one of the handlers has made a few years ago and hoped all 3 wolves would go in and clean themselves off. They are two tone currently - white on top and dark brown at the bottom... We also wondered if they would get the handlers following them there, but we all moved on without any watery incidents. The other wolves were very vocal while we were out and unusually Pukak howled back! Surprisingly Massak did not tell him off. They still displayed, at times, some hormonal behaviour as the breeding season draws to a close. We saw some growling and tail in the air from Massak, which is always impressive to observe this behaviour. At times he sounds like a lion. Sikko seemed to enjoy walking around trees a few times, maybe trying to make her handlers dizzy. They commented it was like going round a maypole. As we headed back, the heavens opened, so we had our lunch before the next walk with the Beenhams. It was decided to leave walking Mosi and Torak for another week as Torak is still parading around his enclosure, while Mosi looks on serenely.
As we walked down the to take the Beenhams out, it started raining hard again, but as we are so lucky to be walking wolves, we really don't mind! All 3 were straight on to the hard standing and collared up swiftly. We then made out way though the fields, squelching away in the mud and thankfully all staying upright. The rain eased and we had an uneventful walk with them.
After preparing all the food and feeding them we had a bit of fun with all the kites circling around. Mosi had refused a piece of paunch (looks and smells like old dishcloth, but the wolves love it) so we waved it around. There were 7 kites all having a look and eventually we threw it up for them to retrieve once we had all moved away. They often swoop down into the enclosures very close to the wolves to grab anything they are slow in eating, much to the wolves' consternation!
The skies cleared of course, as we said our goodbyes for another week. Some handlers come down in the week to look after them but most of us have to work, which is why we walk the wolves at the weekends. Update, video and photos by Eve.