Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT – Two bear cubs are exploring their new home at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott, climbing around on tree trunks and causing a loud ruckus amongst the neighboring lemurs that appear to be wondering just where these black balls of fur came from.
An endangered Mexican gray wolf also is new to the zoo, where she will interact with the public for the first time.
All three were moved to public enclosures Friday, after spending their first few weeks in private while they became accustomed to their new location.
The stories behind these new residents highlight the sanctuary’s mission of conservation through education.
The 11-year-old female wolf has been an integral part of the effort to restore Mexican wolves to their native habitat in the Southwest after people hunted them to extinction. Many of her pups were released to the wild, McLaren said.** Now the wolf is spayed and will spend her retirement in Prescott. Her previous home in the California Wolf Center at Julian was not open to the general public, so her caretakers never named her.
The cubs’ mother was hit and killed by a vehicle along the Townsend-Winona Road in north Flagstaff on Labor Day Weekend. A motorist saw the cubs huddling next to their mother’s body and called the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said Shelly Shepherd, the agency’s public information and education officer in the Flagstaff region. The cubs ran up a tree when Game and Fish arrived. Wildlife managers tranquilized them, put them in cages and started looking for a place that could house them permanently.
The wolf moved in Friday with the sanctuary’s other wolf, a male named Imado. His brother Tasai had to be euthanized recently after developing aggressive tumors between his nose and eyes that vets were unsuccessful in trying to remove, McLaren said. At least two of his captive siblings living at other sites had the same cancer, but the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program has not found wolves in the wild with this problem, McLaren said.
Tasai was the dominant wolf over shy and elusive Imado, but now Imado might come out of his shell because the new female is quite docile, McLaren observed. After a few weeks in neighboring enclosures, Tasai and the female were curling up along their respective fences close to each other. This is the first time the sanctuary has been home to a male and female Mexican gray wolf, and they are more likely to bond than create a hierarchy, Fischer said.
The female spent much of her life alone. This is the largest enclosure she has ever seen, and she’s getting meat for the first time in more than a year, Fischer said.
“It’s going to be a good union for both of them,” McLaren predicted.
** A correction to the article above:
We contacted the California Wolf Center, as we were unaware of any of this wolf’s offspring in the wild. The wolf transferred to the Heritage Park Zoo is F668 and she in fact has no offspring living in the wild. Her sister has offspring that are living in the wild. They include Middle Fork AM871 and former Fox Mountain and current Hawk’s Nest AM1038. Other offspring of F667 that were in the wild, but are now deceased or lost to follow-up include Durango AM973 and F1105. Grandpups of F667 include San Mateo F1157, Fox Mountain AM1158, and Willow Springs M1185.
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Photo credit: California Wolf Center