No wolf pups at the WSC?

Clara Schnitzler (intern)



Here at the Wolf Science Center, the wolves don't have any offspring of their own. There are various reasons for this, which I would like to explain to you in more detail here.

As a scientific research facility, particular attention is paid to ensuring the greatest possible genetic diversity between the individual animals. From a scientific perspective, it is important that family-specific results are avoided because, as with us humans, differences between different wolf families are recognizable. Scientists from all over the world come to the WSC to understand the wolf as a whole and not to generate family-specific results.

Another, quite simple reason is that the WSC would soon run out of space. The Wolf Science Center has space for a total of around 14 wolves and if you consider that a litter consists of four to six pups, the space would probably be exhausted after just one or two years.

In addition, it often happens that two siblings live together in a pack. Of course, it is important to avoid inbreeding.

The most important reason, however, is hand-rearing. All wolves at the WSC were hand-reared 24/7 for five months from the age of around 10 days. Hand-rearing makes it possible to create an environment in which the presence of humans is not a stress factor for the wolves; it removes the wolves' innate shyness towards humans. This allows the animals to develop their full potential and show what they are capable of in various scientific research projects. You may be familiar with this from zoos or wildlife parks, where you rarely get to see the animals and they are exposed to a great deal of stress due to the presence of humans. If you ever visit the Ernstbrunn Wildlife Park, you will see that the wolves react calmly or even curiously to visitors. The visitor programs in direct or indirect contact with the wolves would also not be possible without hand-rearing. However, if the wolves were to have offspring, the pups would have to be separated from their parents, because shyness towards humans is genetically determined in wolves and the fact that the parent animals trust the animal trainers does not mean that their offspring will also trust the animal trainers. So, to establish the basis for an intimate relationship of trust between animal trainers and wolves, the parent animals would have to have their pups taken away from them. This would mean a major breach of trust for the wolves and their pups would only grow up a few hundred meters away from them as the crow flies. Due to the short distance, the pups would still be within earshot and the parents could smell them. A big no-go for the animal trainers, as this would probably border on animal cruelty.

But how exactly are the wolves prevented from producing offspring at the WSC? The simple solution is to vasectomize the males. During a vasectomy, the male's vas deferens are severed, which means they are no longer able to conceive, but their hormone balance remains intact.

Of course, the question now arises as to how the continued existence of the Wolf Science Center can be ensured if the wolves at the WSC do not have any offspring of their own. If you have already looked at the profiles of the wolves on the website, you will probably have noticed that the wolves have different countries of origin. Most of the animals come from the USA, but three Russians (Maikan, Tekoa and Taima) as well as animals from Canada now live at the WSC.

This can undoubtedly lead to astonishment, because what is the point of collecting wolf pups several thousand kilometers away and then bringing them to Austria? Are there no wolves in Austria? Yes, there are! But there is an important reason for the Wolf Science Center team to fly several hours to pick up wolf pups. Because only North American gray wolves, so-called timber wolves, live here at the WSC. North American wolves are said to be less reactive and shy towards humans, which makes future cooperation between humans and animals much easier.

As many zoos and wildlife parks make it their mission to bring native animals closer to visitors, most European zoos and wildlife parks are home to European gray wolves. As a result, many air miles must be flown to ensure the continued existence of the WSC.

However, there is also growing knowledge and experience in the European zoo world that North American gray wolves experience less stress in contact with humans than their European relatives. Of course, one should always question the conditions under which these animals are kept and that both European and American gray wolves have a natural shyness towards humans! Anyone who keeps wild animals in captivity has a great responsibility for the welfare of these animals!

The Wolf Science Center is aware of this responsibility and the hand-rearing mentioned at the beginning allows the wolves a stress-free everyday life, even with visitors. My favorite story about this is a story from the time when Covid-19 still had us all under control: The animal trainers told me that the first days and weeks of the lockdown didn't mean any particular change for the animals, but after several weeks, the animals started to get bored, because the visitors in the wildlife park, but especially their four-legged friends, keep the wolves on their toes all day long. It seems to be entertaining to watch the visitors and clearly demarcate their own territory with every dog that comes too close and show who is the bigger one.

But now back to the pups. In 2024 it should finally be time for new wolf pups! We can't say for sure, because that's up to the future parents, but the WSC is ready!  To this end, the Wolf Science Center is in contact with various zoos and wildlife parks, this year even from Europe.

If you would like to get to know the pups up close, you can already book a walk or a visit to the puppy enclosure on the website ( without obligation.