Sad news from Wolf Park: Marion "the Barbarian" has left us.
Marion was peacefully euthanized on the evening of April 22nd, having just turned 17. What looked like an “ouchy walk” (just a little hitch in the gitalong) turned, over the course of a few days, into increasing loss of control and then paralysis in her hindquarters. Pending the outcome of a necropsy, we think that there was something unfixably wrong in Marion’s central nervous system.
Marion was born to Karin and Seneca in 1998 and was the longest-lived of her age-mates. She grew up and entered the pack with three foster siblings: Tristan, Erin, and Maya. (Her biological littermates, Ingo, Ojeesta, and Skennen, were donated to other facilities when they were around three months old.) As a puppy she was outgoing, a forceful personality who had to be involved in whatever was happening. As she grew up she eventually acquired the nickname “Marion the Barbarian” because she ruled most of the other wolves, both males and females, with an iron paw. Seneca was the only wolf that was not intimidated by her. Visitors used to ask how such a tiny wolf could dominate wolves who were much larger. “She’s only little on the outside” was our stock answer.
Marion was one of the fastest canine learners we have ever seen. She was a nimble explorer who helped us to improve not only our handling techniques, but our containment methods. She was always the first to open the loosely-latched gate, climb the low-hanging tree branch, or wiggle under the one loose spot in the fence. Bold and inquisitive, she was the first to open (or at least pee on) the Halloween pumpkin and the first to climb into the Christmas tree. She stole Pat’s hat and Monty’s sunglasses, and everyone learned a lot trying to trade to get them back.
She helped prove that wolves can be at least as good as dogs at reading human social cues. In this last year she was participating in “smart collar” calibration as part of a project to study the energy budgets of large predators. We have footage of Marion on the treadmill – she was the first of our wolves to walk on it while it was moving. Researcher Caleb Bryce can be heard saying “Marion, you rock!” on the video. Marion certainly did “rock”. She was a brilliant, active and athletic wolf. Wolves like Marion are not always easy to live with but they are some of our best and most memorable teachers.
Marion, we will never forget you!
Marion was one of Wolf Park's current pups when I first heard about the institution. I wish I could've met her – and the other wolves – some time, but when you're quite literally on the other side of the planet it's difficult.
In any case, seventeen years is a very ripe old age for a wolf, and Marion had a good and rich life. Cherish her memory if you knew her, and be grateful for those who're still with us and for every moment we get to spend with them.