Jason Ahistus [00:00:00] Our program is pretty hands-off. We, we, the way we manage them as we're not interacting with them. We don't speak to them. We don't take part in any training of the individuals.
Jason Ahistus [00:00:12] We, we really only spend a few minutes a day with these wolves. We check out their enclosure every day to make sure everything is secure. We get a look at the wolves, make sure they're, they're healthy and behaving normally, and we throw some food out there. And then we pretty much get out of the yard and leave them alone for the rest of the day.
Jason Ahistus [00:00:31] So it's, it's very hands-off. It's, it's, it's almost like having these wolves be in a wild setting where they're not around humans. They're not around cars. There's, there's not a lot of noise around the area. And they're just there.
Jason Ahistus [00:00:44] So it's really worked well for this species and the management that is requested of the species.
Jason Ahistus [00:00:50] Some of the, some of the other things we do is: a lot of captive animals get what's called enrichment, which is giving just different objects - food items, different scents, smells, interactive toys and things of that nature to, to get animals to promote natural behaviors.
Jason Ahistus [00:01:07] You think of a lot of animals in captivity. They're not needing to go hunting. They're not needing to find mates. They're not needing to find shelter. So that's essentially what an animal does in the wild. That's, that's its life. Right?
Jason Ahistus [00:01:19] So in captivity, these things are provided for it. So it doesn't spend the time every day doing these things. So with enrichment, what you do is you, you try to get these animals to do those behaviors. You want to get them having these natural behaviors and going through the motions. It's, it's what they're supposed to do.
Jason Ahistus [00:01:39] So, for most animals in captivity, you can, you can give them manmade objects. And you think of a giant plastic ball or something that you see a lion or a tiger at a zoo playing with. That's an enrichment item. That's given to the animal to promote those natural behaviors.
Jason Ahistus [00:01:56] And with the red wolves, we're not allowed to give them manmade items because the way we manage is we act as if any wolf, at any given time, can go back out to the wild. And we don't want wolves being attracted to those manmade items, or human voices, or cars, things like that, because it, it puts them at a risk in the wild. They are more likely to approach a human where they could get hit by a car, or shot, or, you know, have an interaction with a dog or something.
Jason Ahistus [00:02:31] So, so we want them to be wild wolves. And that's kind of how we do our enrichment items as well. Everything is, is natural. We make, you know, a ball to interact with out of, out of vines, or something like that, that they can still have things to interact with. We give them antlers. We give them hair from other species - you know, natural scents and smells from from their native range, which for us is great because they were found in central Texas and, and this is all native land to them.
Jason Ahistus [00:03:01] So, and then, and then to go along with with our management of these wolves for release is we have that hands-off approach. We're not interacting with them. And in fact, our only interactions with them where we're actually close to them is when we do a yearly exam on them, where we, we get hands on them and we give them vaccinations. We check their blood. Do a quick physical exam to make sure they're, they're healthy and there's nothing abnormal.
Jason Ahistus [00:03:30] When we do that, we are manually restraining the wolves. So, meaning that we're not using an immobilizing agent to make the animal go to sleep while we do the procedure. We are catching the animals, you know, cornering them in a yard or a den and manually restraining them while we do these things.
Jason Ahistus [00:03:49] And that helps keep those animals wild. You know, they, that puts a natural fear in the wolves. And that is exactly what we need. If they go back out in the wild, we want them having a fear of humans because we don't want them to approach a human.
Jason Ahistus [00:04:06] So it all just, you know, it's, all of our management is focused on that one thing and that is returning wolves to the wild and trying to keep them as wild as possible.