A revived and lively litter of wolves is expected Tuesday at the Minnesota Zoo, just weeks after being plucked from the smoldering aftermath of an Alaskan wildfire.
Officials at the Apple Valley zoo said the five gray wolf pups have rebounded nicely after being abandoned by their parents during the May fire and then losing a sibling to a porcupine attack.
Four firefighters discovered the 2-week-old pups in their den, dehydrated and stuck with quills. A porcupine apparently had wandered into the den to escape the smoke and flames of the massive Funny River wildfire in the Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Refuge.
Such a wildfire rescue of pups is rare, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website. Officials believe the pups’ parents fled the den because of the fire and firefighter activity in the area.
The five survivors — three males and two females; three gray, two light-colored — were taken to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage on May 27, where staff tended and bottle-fed them. One pup is named X-Ray, after the fire crew that saved them. The others were named after the four rescuers’ hometowns: Gannett, Hooper, Huslia and Stebbins, said Minnesota Zoo spokesman Josh Le.
Now eight weeks old, the pups have tripled in size and can be seen playing on video taken at the Alaska Zoo. Visitors were invited to view wolf feedings five times a day at the zoo, and as they grew, watched them romp and roll outside.
“So far they are really healthy and that is why they are coming Tuesday to the Minnesota Zoo,” Le said. “They are growing but still adorable.”
But don’t expect to see the Alaskan canines in person until mid-August. The pups will be in quarantine for a month while they are monitored and blood and fecal tests are done to ensure they carry no disease or parasites to the zoo, Le said.
The furry five will replace the zoo’s adult pair of gray wolves, Kaskapahtew and Wazi, who have never bred successfully, Le said. He said the pair will be sent to another accredited zoo in the U.S., and had no chance of being euthanized.
The five siblings likely will boost attendance by creating the wolf pack the zoo has long sought. They will have free run of the spacious wolf enclosure on the Medtronic Minnesota Trail. They will be spayed and neutered because they are not an endangered species and the zoo avoids inbreeding, Le said.
Le said the pups will be escorted by Alaska Zoo staff on a flight donated by Delta Air Lines. Two Minnesota Zoo managers will greet the Alaskans at the Minneapolis airport.