Once the five wolf pups rescued from the Kenai Peninsula wildfire are nursed to health, they'll have a home waiting for them in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Zoo, located in a Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb, has offered to adopt the entire litter, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Friday. The announcement comes three days after crews battling the Funny River wildfire first heard yipping sounds coming from a hillside den near a firebreak.
A wildlife biologist responded, and with no parents in sight, the five pups were pulled from the den, dehydrated and pierced with porcupine quills. Since Tuesday night, the two-week-old animals have received around-the-clock care in the infirmary of the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage and a public spotlight as one of the feel-good stories of the wildfire, which has scorched more than 193,000 acres on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Since news of the rescue broke, the zoo has been flooded with calls and emails from sanctuaries, individuals and other zoos, offering a home for the pups. But the Minnesota Zoo was proactive, building on already-existing relationships, officials said.
"The Minnesota Zoo has an established relationship with the Alaska Zoo and has been a good partner with us in past orphaned wildlife situations," Cyndi Gardner, acting permitting biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said in a statement.
Several Alaskan brown bear cubs have been sent to the Minnesota Zoo, and the zoo has also offered up space in the past for moose calves and caribou, said Ken Marsh, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game.
A spokeswoman for the Minnesota Zoo could not immediately be reached for comment, but Marsh said the facility will be receiving a permit allowing it to house the pups permanently.
The Alaska Zoo already has a wolf pack in its care, and no other facilities in Alaska had the right accreditations, Marsh said.
Right now, it's too soon to say when the pups might be making the move. That will be depend on their health, said Pat Lampi, executive director of the Alaska Zoo.
The pups arrived in Anchorage weighing about 2.5 pounds each, about a pound below healthy weight. Lampi said the pups have since grown more active and are eating more, although two have been more lethargic than the others, and there are concerns about remaining porcupine quills that aren't visible to X-rays or the human eye.
When the time does come to move to Minnesota, the pack will stay together. And that's the way it should be, Lampi said.
"For these guys, as long as they're together, anyplace they go will feel like home to them," Lampi said.
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.