It was a cold and rainy end to the day, again. I was standing at the Red Wolf Enclosure with a few visitors talking about the wolves and their status in today’s world. All of the sudden, a Sharp-shinned Hawk came barreling in from the right hand side of the enclosure. Birds that had been foraging inside the enclosure scattered. The hawk circled through the trees and perched near the top of the ridge just outside of the enclosure’s fence.
I had seen a sharp-shinned earlier in the day as it skillfully maneuvered through the trees behind the Lemur House chasing song birds. Sharp-shinneds eat song birds. The bird that I was looking at perched up by the wolves appeared to be the same bird as I had seen earlier. It missed catching the object of its pursuit through the wolf yard as it had that morning.
Just as quickly as it had arrived, the hawk was gone, off through the woods behind the wolf enclosure.
I noticed the female wolf, the huntress, pawing at something near the bottom of the fence at the top of the ridge. All of the wolf’s attention seemed concentrated on that one spot. Because of the angle, I couldn’t see what she was doing, although it appeared as though she had caught something.
The animal department had placed a few “cardboard sheep” in the enclosure earlier in the day as enrichment for the wolves. The boxes are made to look somewhat like sheep with legs, head, tail, and have sheep’s wool attached to give it some authenticity. The wolves typically tear them apart and you can see pieces of wool throughout the enclosure soon after the “sheep” are placed in the enclosure. Perhaps the wolf was playing with a piece of “cardboard sheep.”
After a few minutes of pawing, female 1287 turned around and I could see what looked like red feathers hanging from her lips. She turned again, this time a male cardinal dangled from her lips. She had captured a cardinal!
When the sharp-shinned hawk came zipping through the trees a few minutes earlier, all of the birds that had been peacefully feeding on the ground and shrubs inside the enclosure scattered. Apparently the cardinal had either slammed into the fence in the panic, or had sought shelter behind a rock up at the top of the wolf enclosure, which turned out to be not a rock, but a wolf, and was quickly pounced upon.
Once again, I did not have my camera with me, this time because it was raining (poor excuse, I know).
However, this little event demonstrates that what may be a tranquil, peaceful, even boring, scene at the time can turn into something very exciting, very quickly.