Wolf pups make debut at Asheville's WNC Nature Center

Carol Motsinger
The female pup, Nova, enjoyed a romp around the WNC Nature Center enclosure Thursday morning.

Asheville got to welcome some new fuzzy, four-legged residents Thursday morning.

Two gray wolf pups made their debut at their Western North Carolina Nature Center habitat, after arriving at the East Asheville facility in June.

The duo were "all over" the gray wolf exhibit, said Chris Gentile, the center's director. "They were in every corner of the yard. They were in-and-out of the pool ... playing with the enrichment items like the boomer ball."

The pups are a brother and sister, and born in captivity.

They weigh about 20-25 pounds. The male is Wayah -- which means "wolf" in Cherokee -- and Nova is the female, which means "chases butterflies."

The pups are still in the process of being introduced to Shalimar, the center's adult female wolf. The center employees plan to have the pups in the exhibit most mornings -- from 10 a.m. to noon -- for the next two weeks, Gentile said, before joining the exhibit permanently.

The pups arrived in Asheville from Bozeman, Montana, at 6 weeks old, weighing about 10 pounds each. They spent about a month in quarantine to ensure they weren't carrying any diseases.

The pups' introduction to Shalimar went well, Gentile said, though "there was some posturing."

Thursday morning, Shalimar watched the pups play from her section of the exhibit.

The center's male gray wolf, 7-year-old Cody, had to be euthanized in April after it was stricken with cancer.

"It left our female gray wolf alone," Gentile said in June. "We knew we needed to do something because wolves are so social. Unlike, say, cougars that want to be by themselves, wolves form little family groups.

"When Cody passed away, we didn't want Shalimar to spend the rest of her time alone. We decided to bring in two young wolves that we can put in with her."

The gray wolves are one of the center's most popular exhibits.

Gray wolves once roamed over much of North America, although it's unclear if they were native to North Carolina. The pups will grow to about 80 pounds each. Gray wolves typically live 13-15 years in captivity.