Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Gray #wolves explore new home at Detroit Zoo

By Gus Burns
on June 08, 2015

DETROIT, MI -- Waziyata and Kaskapahtew, a pair of gray wolves, explored their new digs at the Detroit Zoo Monday morning. They waded in the waterfall-fed pond, trotted the perimeter, wove through tufts of tall grass, nimbly hopped fallen trees and rolled in their new sleeping quarters.

Waziyata, a 7-year-old female, and Kaskapahtew, a 5-year-old male, both born in Canada, were acquired from the Minnesota Zoo earlier this year and have been in Royal Oak awaiting the completion of their new permanent home, The Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness Exhibit.

The 2-acre exhibit cost $1.4 million to create, of which the Cotton family, a wealthy family from Grosse Pointe that owns Meridian Health, donated nearly one-third.


Waziyata, a 7-year-old white-coated female wolf whose Lakota name means north, and Kaskapahtew, a 5-year-old male wolf whose Lokota name means smoke for his dark colored-coat, explore their new 2-acre habitat 'The Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness.' The pair were introduced to their new home for the first time Monday morning June 8. The Candian-born gray wolves are the Detroit Zoo's newest additions, which arrived from the Minnesota Zoo earlier this year. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive Detroit)
The Minnesota Zoo took in a group of pups rescued after a forest fire in Alaska. The pups couldn't be integrated with Waziyata and Kaskapahtew, so the adult gray wolves were donated to the Detroit Zoo in March, said spokeswoman Patricia Janeway. "This is their first day out here and they look like they are having a great time," said Detroit Zoo Chief Science Officer Scott Carter. "They've spent a lot of time exploring,which is what we expected them to do."

The exhibit has various vantage points for the public, including a mock cabin with glass walls that allows visitors to get "nose to snout with the wolves," the Detroit zoo said in a statement.

One interesting dynamic is the unusual hierarchy that developed between Waziyata, the alpha, and Kaskapahtew, who, despite being larger, is the subordinate. "It's not normal for the female to be so in control, but that's kind of who she is because she's not socially normal, because she was hand-reared," Carter said. "And he tolerates it ... "

It's hoped they will one day breed.

Waziyata, because she was raised by humans, is less timid and even approached and began to whine, like a house pet begging, when a trainer walked around the enclosure to throw in smelt.

Kaskapahtew, though he was happy to eat the fish tossed his way, stood further back in silence.
Carter says this is very important time for wolves in Michigan. "We haven't had wolves at the Detroit Zoo since the '80s, so we're pretty excited to have them back," he said. "Also because this is a very important time for people to be thinking about wolves and talking about wolves in Michigan, because they are such an important part of our ecosystem. "We've pretty much done everything we can to exterminate them, and it's really important that we understand them and that we not fear them and that we make sure there's a safe place for them."

Michigan held its first wolf hunt in 2013 but political infighting, pending lawsuits and a public vote against having a hunt in November 2014 ended the hunt.

To celebrate the grand opening of the exhibit, the Detroit Zoo is offering free admission Monday to anyone whose name includes "wolf" or a variation, such as Wolfe, Wolfson, Wolford, Wulff and Wulfmeier.