What are the wolves up to?

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21st June 2024 - A typical day working at the UKWCT

This updates describes a typical day volunteering on 21st June 2024. By Cammie Kavanagh.

Magic Moments

I arrived at the Trust this morning only to find other volunteers already on site. I had missed the magic moment. The best time to arrive is before everyone else when the wolves are often sleeping in the long grass. A quick call out to them often results in heads bobbing up to see who has arrived. Wolves in the wild often display energetic and joyful behaviours especially after being apart for a while. Captive wolves are no different when they haven't seen us for a few days. Their greetings can include tail wagging, jumping and the Beenham Pack often stand on their back legs with their paws raised high on the enclosure fence. If you were being anthropomorphic you could say they were giving you a high five. Licks are always given freely by the wolves which sets the day up beautifully for us.

Shared memories including wolf personalities

Today one of the other volunteers was given a slide show of when the Beenhams Pack were cubs. It was great to share memories with people who were not around when the wolves were small and it was especially interesting to share how they behaved. The wolves were born on site to parents Mai and Motomo and they are now 13 years old. The Beenham Pack were always keen to play with each other and volunteers but as soon as they had enough or were tired they would climb back into their straw beds and curl up asleep. Today they do exactly the same. They will spend time with the volunteers marking us with their scents and receiving rubs from us but as soon as they have lost interest they walk away to a quiet spot and go to sleep. We always take the hint and then leave them to rest.
Tundra is the boss of the females and regularly puts Tala in her place. This is displayed by her sometimes pinning Tala to the ground to show dominance. Tala does argue back and sometimes hides under the platform baring her teeth and jaw snapping at her sister. Nuka is a wonderful wolf with a loving, gentle personality but he will take Tundra to task if he thinks she is being too rough with their sister. It's an amazing sight to see him charging in at full speed to separate them.

Wolf enrichment and why it is important

A quick drink and we set off to take the wolves for a walk. As our wolves are now more mature it is more important than ever that we provide enrichment for them. We do this in a number of ways but the walk provides physical, mental, social and sensory enrichment. They love to smell and roll in all the new scents they can find. These are provided by other animals such as mice, dogs, deer, badgers, hare, leverets and badgers to name a few. We are lucky to have such a beautiful area to walk them in. Nuka loves to dig for his smells and textures such as grass, gravel, mud and streams all provide a new sensory experience.
Their walk also involves physical enrichment as they can climb logs or wade in the pond or the stream. It also provides them with interaction with the volunteers with provides mental stimulation and social engagement.

Howling and why the wolves are howling

During our walk with the Beenhams you will sometimes hear howling from the Arctic wolves. Wolves howl for a number of reasons but as this happens each time the other pack is taken out. We take this to be location signalling. Wolves in the wild howl to locate each other over long distances and captive wolves also howl locate each other. After working with wolves for over 20 years this never gets old and each howl is as exciting as hearing it got the first time.

Cleaning bed blocks / jet washing the troughs

After our walk it is time for our lunch and then general maintenance work, such as cleaning the wolves' inside sleeping quarters in case they want to use them. We also jet wash their troughs to keep them clean and ensure both wolf packs have enough water in the ponds.

Preparation of food and explanation of wolf diet

After cleaning it is time for food preparation. The wolves diet varies and includes beef, chicken, paunch (sheep's stomach lining), deer and sometimes pheasant. Their food is weighed and documented so we can keep an eye on how much each wolf is eating. It is also important to make sure they get enough protein as they get older to offset muscle wastage. Wolves' eating habits are as individual as their personalities. Pukak especially will act as if he is hungry no matter how much food you give him. When its feed time the red kites that populate the trust come to life and try to grab any food that is not eaten quickly.

Wolf wellbeing and exploring what the wolves like

After their food it is time for us to interact with them. Wild wolves would not seek out contact with humans however ours have been accustomed to human contact from an early age so enjoy a good rub. This also gives us the opportunity to check for any injuries the wolves may have or check for lumps or ticks. Nuka often uses this chance to try and engage us in play by bouncing, play bowing and running away but we don't get involved in playing with adult wolves. Tala and Tundra take the bait and it is great fun to watch them chase each other at full speed round the enclosure.
After this it is time to go home. The wolves are left with a variety of enrichment. Sometimes this is food based in the form of frozen treats. Blood or meat ice lollies are a good choice in warm weather. Their enclosures provide a wide variety of open space, woodland area and 3 different water sources. They also dig and it is not uncommon to find a large hole has been dug especially around breeding time. Having a quiet place, they can retreat to and feel secure is very important to their wellbeing. We also sometimes leave them with either a new food treat like sheep's trachea which they prefer to roll on before they munch on them. Sometimes we leave them with hessian sacks filled with straw and sprinkled with either essential oils to repel flies or even good aftershave which Nuka absolutely loves. The sacks are not only good for scent rolling but also as prized possessions to be protected and fought over with the other family members. This allows the wolves to interact with each other in a way that maintains appropriate pack structure and supports natural wolf behaviour.


Since 2004 the trust has donated more than £450,000 to various projects in 17 countries. Although the trust is no longer open due to the wolves' retirement we do still support some projects. We have recently donated a further £15,000 split between the Croatian Wolf Group and the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme. If you wish to see details of all donations the trust has given and how the money has been used full details are on our projects page.
The wolves are looked after by the Palmer family and a team of volunteers who know the wolves well. It is unfair to ask the wolves to accept new people as they get older and for that reason we do not accept new volunteers.