Sunset Zoo's PupDate Blog

Sunset Zoo is hand-raising a maned wolf pup and golden Labrador puppy behind the scenes. Stay up to date with the adventures of Fin and Matty on this weekly PupDate blog! 

Mar 25

[ARCHIVED] Welcome Fin and Matty, Sunset Zoo's Puppy Pals

The original item was published from March 25, 2016 1:24 PM to March 25, 2016 1:47 PM

By Ella Casey, Assistant Zoo Director

Some days my job can simply be described as awesome. The kind of awesome where you go home and when your spouse asks you about your day, you can reply with “a maned wolf pup was born at work today.” No big deal.

Over the last month and a half, I have enjoyed a front row seat to one of the most adorable – and quite frankly, inspiring – examples of why we do what we do. I’ve watched our dedicated animal care team, sleep-deprived and all, pour their hearts into caring for a resiliently scrappy maned wolf pup and a blissfully energetic golden Labrador puppy.

Fin and Matty playing outside

And while playing with puppies certainly has it perks, the cuteness factor isn’t their only motivation (although it helps). They are doing this because we are committed to providing the best dang care to every animal that arrives at Sunset. They are doing this to ensure maned wolves, an endangered South American canine, are around for future generations. That this wolf pup born here, in little ol’ Manhattan, Kansas, can one day join the maned wolf breeding population throughout AZA-accredited Zoos. So he can help maintain diversity in the captive population while we continue to make progress on removing the threats wild maned wolves are facing.

We do what we do because we love animals. And we do what we do because we hope you’ll join us. So help me say hello to Sunset Zoo’s newest inspiring duo: Fin, the maned wolf, and Matty, the golden Labrador. These two furry friends currently live behind the scenes at the Zoo, bounding (well, mainly Matty) around their newly outfitted “puppy playroom” and figuring out what life as a canine is all about. Read on to learn all about their story these past seven weeks. And look for weekly pup-dates on their continued adventures!

Code 4, Maned Wolf Exhibit
On Monday, February 1, one of our keepers radioed some exciting news…a newborn pup had arrived in the maned wolf exhibit. We had suspected that Lelah, our female maned wolf, was pregnant and due any day. We were also a little worried. This was Lelah’s first go around at motherhood and even in the animal world, newbie mothers have a little difficulty adjusting to life with a babe.

During that first week, we closely monitored mom and pup. Dad, Meek, was separated from the pair so they could focus on adjusting to one another. After a few days, we made the tough decision to pull the pup and begin a hand-raising regimen. Trust us, it’s the last thing we wanted to do. We’re firm believers that “mothers know best” and hand-raising animals brings a whole new level of risks and challenges. But unfortunately, if the little wolf pup was going to survive, he was going to need our help.

Fin in his incubator

 Fin was relocated to a warm incubator inside the Zoo’s James W. Carpenter Veterinary Clinic. Snuggled against a stuffed fox plush from the Zoo’s gift shop, the wolf pup began receiving around-the-clock bottle feedings. We also reached out to our friends throughout the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) network for suggestions. After talking with several institutions that had successfully hand-raised maned wolf pups, it became evident we needed to find Fin a friend. It was important that he have a fellow dog to learn canine behaviors. One thing us humans just couldn’t do for him.

Double Shot of Puppy Love
Our search for a puppy playmate began by reaching out to local shelters, rescues, zoos, anywhere we had an animal connection, to find a match. After several unsuccessful pursuits, we took our story to facebook and our online community did not disappoint. Within hours, you helped us connect to a local Chapman family. Their two black labs had recently welcomed a litter of pups and their daughter, a high school senior, had volunteered for several years with our friends at Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina. In fact, after she graduates this spring, she’s off to pursue a degree in zoology! With this background, the family certainly understood our mission and the level of care we provide animals. We couldn’t have asked for a better match and we were beyond excited to welcome one of their male puppies, Matty, to Sunset in mid-February.

Matty receiving a physical by veterinarian staff

 The pups were introduced the afternoon of Matty’s arrival. However, that night, Fin was having trouble breathing after swallowing formula too quickly. Our outstanding veterinarian team at K-State’s Veterinary Health Center worked their magic and after a short stay at K-State, Fin returned to the Zoo and is doing great!

Fin and Matty getting ready to eat

Fin enjoying a bottle

It's All About Benchmarks
The last few weeks have been filled celebrating several milestones with this fast growing pair:
  • Walking on our own. Matty is a rockstar and at this point the walk is more of a run-jump-jump-run-jump-jump-run motion. Mr. Fin is slowly trying to catch up, but like all maned wolves he has his parent’s slightly awkward gate…so he has the wobble down.
  • Seeing on our own. Both pups eyes are bright, open and boy, they’ll track you around the room.
  • Healthy, ahhhem, bathroom time. Just like human babies, it’s all about regularity around here and we want to make sure it’s “normal” and “consistent.” 
  • Eating. Eating. Eating. These growing pups are eating more and more, with more and more time before feedings. We’ve nearly cut the feedings in half at this point. In addition to both receiving formula still; Matty is rocking out solid puppy food, while Mr. Fin is taking his sweet time warming up to his ground-up maned wolf chow.
  • Playing outside. With this warmer weather and sunshine, the pair have enjoyed quite a few afternoons with supervised outdoor playtime. 

Matty enjoying a bottle
As we see with our own kids, the pair is growing up quickly. Fin’s fur is starting to lighten as it begins the transition to the adult wolf coloring. Matty’s fur is starting to darken from a pale yellow to the darker golden color in a few spots. We will continue to celebrate these milestones because it means we’re doing our job, they’re growing up healthy! Although I think a few of us will be sad to see the puppy side of things end…

Our future is still a little unknown, including if we'll offer public viewing opportunities with the pups. They’ll need to get a bit bigger before we adventure into that side of things. So until then, we hope you join us on this weekly blog to read our pup-dates and be a part of their story!

Thanks for all that you do to support Sunset Zoo. Until next week!