A furry quartet of European grey wolf pups have gone on show at Highland Wildlife Park.
The new arrivals are already proving to be quite bold just four weeks after being born to mother Elara.
The Park’s wolf pack is comprised of alpha male Puika who arrived in 2010 from the New Forest Wildlife Park, Elara who arrived in 2009 from the Scottish Deer Centre and their five offspring born last year – the three boys Roma, Rannoch and Socks, Ruby the female and Forty whose sex is still unknown.
Wolf pups are born small and helpless, unable to regulate their own body heat, but they grow rapidly.
They can be ready to travel with their pack as soon as five months old. The furry bundles rely solely on mum’s milk for nutrition for the first three weeks, when they will start to eat meat scraps and are fully weaned around eight to 10 weeks old.
Due to the complex and sometimes volatile nature of wolf pack hierarchies, maintaining a successful pack can be difficult as personalities can clash or lead to a member being ostracised, and should one of the dominant breeding pair die, chaos can erupt as a new hierarchy is established.
Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections for the Highland Wildlife Park said: “The wolves have been an iconic species for the wildlife park since it opened 41 years ago.
“We have kept wolves in a number of locations around the park, but the current wolf wood gives them the space and level of privacy that they need.
“The birth and rearing of wolf pups two years in a row is a testament to the appropriateness of the space we created for them.
“Because of the nature of the enclosure, the pack is very calm when visitors are present and one can sit and watch the full range of social interaction, including the rearing of very young pups and how the different pack members interact with them.”
The Highland Wildlife Park specialises in native species both past and present as well as animals suited to colder environments – European grey wolves were once native to Scotland, though became extinct due to mass deforestation and direct persecution during the latter part of the 18th century.
The Park’s keepers enjoy being able to dispel myths surrounding this often ill-perceived species as visitors watch the pack interact in their 4000 square metre forest enclosure.
A £300,000 development, Wolf Wood was built with help from the Royal Engineers and opened by the Princess Royal, the patron of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland that owns the Park, on 8th September 2010.