Wolf Transfer Day: Removing Wolves From Crates

Getting a wolf from out of our wolf yard and into a crate is complicated, as we’ve reviewed. Releasing a wolf from a crate back into the habitat is reasonably easy. For the most part, you open the door and the wolf runs out. (Sometimes, however, some wolves just stay in the crate). But what about getting a wolf out of a crate for its physical? There are numerous ways to do this, and the below routine is what has worked well for us for the past three years.

The five who would be working on removing wolves from the crates and cleaning.
Ro, in the pink shirt, was our crate cleaner, setter-upper, and general wolf/crate watcher. Kate, far right, with Aaron, Janine, and me in the bandana, reviewing how our work would flow before we started this phase.

I mentioned in the post about crates, that we wanted crates that came apart… top half from bottom half. This is the key to what we’ve found works best for us- and the wolves.

When ready, we move the crate into our work area. As quickly as possible we disassemble the crate: we remove all the screws, latches, and wires that keep the crate halves together. One team member is on each side of the crate, keeping it in position, while one team member is on the crate door. A quick check of the position of the wolf in the crate allows us to see where to lift the crate apart for easy and rapid access to the wolf’s scruff. Once I have the wolf secured, the parts of the crate are moved away, allowing the muzzle to be placed on the wolf. A muzzle is an added layer of safety for the people, however for the most part, once a red wolf is in hand it goes fairly passive.

When we have the crate ready to come apart, the rest only takes a minute or so. It is very, very quick to get hands on a wolf securely and get it muzzled. Another minute or so to get the lift coordinated and the wolf moved to the exam table.

Janine on the left taking apart the crate– notice the muzzles below her. Kate is on the door, and Aaron will be working on the right side of the crate. This crate had both screws to undue, as well as ties to cut off, hence the wire cutter on top of the crate.
The picture doesn’t show me slinking my hand in the back on the wolf, but once I have the wolf secure, the team removes the crate top and the door.
Janine gets the muzzle ready while Aaron and Kate move the crate parts out of the way
Muzzle to go on
muzzled wolf

The wolf, and typically two handlers, take the wolf to the exam table which is a few feet away (we’ll talk about that in the next post). One person heads out to work on crate cleaning and readying a crate (with labels and bedding) for the wolf to return to. With the wolf on the table for about 10 minutes, the process needs to get in a rhythm with all the parts efficiently running.

With 10 wolves, to get through, we do the first two exactly the same. Once I feel good about the process, I work in a rotation of tasks so the team learns the different parts.

In the photo series below, I’ll pass off wolf lifting and moving to Janine and Kate. Whomever is “on the head” of the wolf, leads the procedure. This person communicates what is needed from their partner, like where to hold and when to lift and how to turn to get to the table.

Kate and Janine removing a wolf after it’s physical
Kate and Aaron removing the top of the crate, and door, while I hold the wolf. Janine will muzzle this wolf in a moment.
Once muzzled, I work Janine into the lead position. I want Janine and Kate to work together on this wolf.
It is possible to do this with just one person. However, lifting a wolf up from a crouched position can be a challenge, especially when the wolf weighs over 60 pounds.

The last series of pictures is of us getting Moose, the patriarch of the family, out of the crate. He is the most passive red wolf I’ve ever handled. He just sits there. The process is the same for him:

  • put the crate in the room and start to disassemble
  • slink hands on his scruff
  • move crate parts away and muzzle wolf
  • make lift and moving plan
  • lift to table

Everything for him is fairly easy, with the exception of the lift. 90 pounds of dead weight is very different than 55, or even 65 pounds. Just like with the other wolves, we carried out our plan, however we had three people lifting– just to be sure.

Janine gets the muzzle ready
Aaron, Kate and I are the lifters while Janine moves the crate parts out of our way.

So, that’s how we get a wolf out of a crate. When done with their 10 minutes or so on the table, a clean crate is ready for them. We loosen the muzzle and lift the wolf back to the crate. For the most part, the wolf walks in and the muzzle falls off. The door to the crate is shut. Then, repeat.

Next post: the wolf physical. Until then.

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