Busch Gardens’ wolf pups make debut

11/15/2012  | 
Field Trip Destination

Busch Gardens’ three-month-old wolf pack quietly made their public debut in early August. The pups quickly got down to business exploring their new habitat in the park’s Wolf Valley. The valley is a naturally landscaped habitat featuring logs, a flowing stream and naturally growing vegetation. A bridge overlooking the valley offers guests a bird’s eye view of the wolves as they explore their new surroundings.

“Boise, Kaya and Beo seem right at home in Wolf Valley. They are exploring and seem unaware of their celebrity status,” said Jay Tacey, Busch Gardens’ manager of zoological operations.

Beo and Kaya are siblings and arrived at Busch Gardens in early June from a private facility in Montana. The brother and sister each have a black coat. Their pack mate, Boise, has lighter coloration. He was found wandering along the side of a road in central Idaho. The three pack mates have been inseparable since late June when Boise was introduced to the pack.

Nicknamed “Boise” by the park’s zoological team, the pup was slowly introduced to his new pack mates. Boise’s journey started near the resort town of Ketchum, Idaho. The orphaned wolf was found in May by a group of campers who mistakenly believed he was a lost or abandoned domestic puppy. The campers contacted a local veterinarian who, in turn, contacted Idaho Fish and Game. State officials, along with a local zoo, assumed the care of the pup and confirmed via DNA testing that the pup was a Gray wolf. After unsuccessful attempts to locate the pup’s pack, Idaho officials began looking for a suitable home for the rescued animal.

Idaho Fish and Game along with the host zoo, Zoo Boise, selected Busch Gardens Virginia as Boise’s new home based on the park’s extensive experience with wolf training, husbandry and education programs. The Williamsburg theme park is home to 10 wolves split into three packs, including two six-week-old pups the park recently acquired from a private breeder in Montana.

Idaho state officials transported the eight-week-old male by airplane to the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in June. A team of wolf experts from Busch Gardens met the plane at the airport and took custody of the pup.

“Because of our 12-year experience with wolves and the fact that we already had two wolf pups at the park played a major role in the decision by Idaho state officials to choose Busch Gardens for the pup’s new home,” said Jay Tacey, zoological manager for Busch Gardens.

Tacey said Boise immediately took to his new pack, which consisted of the two wolf pups and a German short-haired pointer named Mia who is serving as their surrogate mother.

Eventually Boise and the two pups will be introduced to one of Busch Gardens’ three mature wolf packs. Until then, Mia, the surrogate mother, has taken on the role of pack leader and is ensuring the pups remain submissive until they are transitioned into the larger pack with an already established pack hierarchy.

Once integrated into the pack, Boise and his young pack mates will help teach the public about the important role wolves and other apex predators play in the wild. “The young pack mates are getting along and adjusting very well,” Tacey said. “They are playing and discovering their new home.”

Daily stage productions and interactive training opportunities let Busch Gardens’ guests experience the power and agility of these animals while they learn about the company’s wildlife conservation efforts and ways they can help.

“Boise has been given a second chance at life thanks to the leadership and support of Idaho Fish and Game, Zoo Boise and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries,” Tacey said.

Learn more about wolves and Busch Gardens other animal ambassadors by visiting www.buschgardensvablog.com.
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