The pups, born in May, reached their 5-week birthday and getting adventurous.

Share story

A litter of red wolf pups at Wolf Haven International have reached their 5-week birthday and are starting to get a little more adventurous.

“Each day, it’s really interesting, they start exploring further and further away from the den,” said Wendy Spencer, director of animal care at the Tenino-area sanctuary for displaced, captive-born wolves.

About a week ago, the pups, which were born May 10 or 11, began experiencing life beyond their 15-foot natural den. And thanks to strategically placed video and game cameras in a wooded enclosure, the nonprofit’s staff members have been able to monitor the five pups and their parents. The family is considered to be on loan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan program.

Mom is 4-year-old F1945 (called “Nash”) and dad is 10-year-old M1482 (called “Tala”). The first-time parents are naturals, according to Wolf Haven executive director Diane Gallegos.

“They look pretty good,” she said.

The pups are still nursing, but are expected to transition to solid food soon. The sanctuary has a permit for road kill, so the pups’ diets will eventually include deer and elk, along with easier to procure meats such as turkey necks and chicken.

“Both the mom and the dad will assist as they transition from milk to solid food,” Spencer said. “Both parents will feed them by regurgitating.”

The pups’ genders won’t be known until after their first health checks at 8 weeks of age. That’s when they’ll be vaccinated, weighed and dewormed.

The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan was established in the 1980s to restore the red wolf population. It began with 14 founding wolves.

Each pairing is evaluated for their genetic suitability and sometimes wolves are relocated to other facilities for breeding.

“It’s really like computer dating for wolves — it’s super sophisticated,” Spencer said. “Gene diversity is a huge challenge. At one point, this population was almost wiped out and they literally came back from the brink of extinction.”