First photos: Gray wolf pups reach 6 week milestone at Oakland Zoo

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The Oakland Zoo is celebrating its growing family of gray wolves, as it gave the public a first look at its brand new, adorable litter of pups.  

On Monday, the zoo's four 6-week-old gray wolf pups emerged from their den for the first time and began exploring their enclosure, a two-acre habitat dedicated to the animals. The zoo said the pups are thriving.

First-time mom, Siskiyou, delivered her litter on May 13, to the delight of the zoo which acquired her and the pups' father, Sequoia, back in April 2018, as part of the zoo's partnership with the California Wolf Center (CWC).

Both Siskiyou and Sequoia were born in captivity and were relocated to the zoo’s California Trail expansion. With the arrival of the pair, zoo officials held out hope that the two would bond and have a litter of pups, stressing the importance of creating a pack for the emotional health of the wolves. 

Experts said gray wolves are shy, reclusive, and sensitive in nature and take time to develop relationships as they typically mate for life.

"... zookeepers, volunteers and docents made every effort to ensure the wolves had an ideal environment and atmosphere to ensure their comfort and emotional well-being," zoo officials explained. "When wolves feel comfortable, they are more likely to bond and have offspring."

Their efforts worked. And when Siskiyou got pregnant, the zoo took precautions given that she's considered an older wolf and would be a first-time mother, factors that could lead to greater risks during her pregnancy. She was closely monitored as officials were prepared for contingencies and interventions in the event of any complications.

When she successfully carried and delivered her litter, the zoo was elated and welcomed the newest members of its family. 

‍“We are thrilled the pups are doing well-mom and dad have been amazing first-time parents,” said Darren E. Minier, Assistant Director, Animal Care, Conservation, and Research. “Siskiyou and Sequoia’s pups will have a forever home at Oakland Zoo with their parents.”

With the successful arrival of the new litter, the zoo said it does not plan to breed further.

The zoo said it's continuing to work closely with California Wolf Center and seeking the group's guidance and expertise as they watch over the pups.

Officials said CWC has been instrumental in guiding the zoo’s "wolf wellness" program. For the last 30 years, the group has played a major role in breeding the Mexican Gray Wolf, an endangered species, for reintroduction.

The Oakland Zoo also said the new family pack now offers its guests an opportunity to see the animals in their natural wolf behavior. The wolf habitat at zoo’s California Trail includes a pool, trees, dens, and plenty of cover for the elusive animals, officials noted. 

The zoo also said it hopes the arrival of the pups will promote further and continued actions to save the species and result in the safe return of their wild counterparts to California.