Wyakin: Spirit Guide ( 12 May 1994 - 15 October 1999 )
Kamots: To Go Free ( 23 May 1991 - 02 June 2000 )
Chemukh: Black  ( 12 May 1994 - Escaped October, 2000)
Lakota: Peaceful Person  ( 23 May 1991 - 09 May 2002 )
Matsi: Sweet and Brave  (23 May 1992 - 08 December 2003)
Wahots: Howl A lot  (12 May 1994 - 12 February 2004)
Amani: To Speak The Truth  (23 May 1992 - 07 November 2005)
Motomo: He Who Goes First  (23 May 1992 -
Motaki: Shadow  (22 April 1996 -
Ayet: Little Sister  (22 April 1996 -
Piyip: Little brother  (22 April 1996 -

Above is the CORRECT spelling of each wolf according to Jim Dutcher..
He named 'em.. He should know.........

In Memory of Wyakin (May 12, 1994 - October 15, 1999)
  In life we miss you dearly, in death we love you still, in our hearts you hold a special place, no one else will ever fill.

Weyekin was born on May 12, 1994 with her brother Wahotts. Shortly after her birth, the two siblings were joined by another gray wolf pup from a separate litter, Chemukh. These three eventually joined the rank's of Jim Dutcher's Sawtooth Pack in Stanley, Idaho. As Kamots and the rest of the pack raised these pups in proper wolf behavior, Jaimie and Jim Dutcher, with Megan Parker and Amy Edmonds socialized them to respect and trust humans. As the pups grew and began to exhibit social hierarchy traits, it was difficult to determine which female was more dominant. While Wahotts was kept busy with the other five males of the pack. Weyekin and Chemukh concentrated their dominance toward each other, mostly through play, since they were the only two females in the pack at the time. Although Chemukh socially dominated over Weyekin more often, Weyekin tended to eat prior to Chemukh. As breeding season approached, it was unclear who Kamots would choose as his new mate.  During their second breeding season, both females went into estrus, Chemukh first followed by Weyekin. Until then, it appeared that Kamots was about to choose Weyekin as his mate, then suddenly began pair-bonding with Chemukh. With this choice, the tides changed in the female hierarchy. With the support of Kamots and the pack, Chemukh became the alpha-female as Weyekin fell into the omega role.
The next Summer the pack was moved to their current (and permanent) location on Nez Perce Tribal Lands outside Winchester, Idaho. For the remainder of her life, Weyekin filled the omega-female position within the pack, even with two female pups born into the pack during the Spring of 1996. With Chemukh being a young mother, Weyekin played a large part in caring and raising the only three wolves to be born into the Sawtooth Pack. The omega role in a captive pack of wolves can be a very difficult life--Weyekin exemplified this harsh reality.  She was rarely permitted to be near or socialize with the remainder of the pack (except during feedings) and occasionally received significant wounding in addition to the persistent minor wounds on her rump. Weyekin was always a very social wolf which probably led to the majority of discipline she absorbed, since an omega's proper place is a distance from the pack's nucleus.  Nevertheless, she continued to be social with both humans and her wolf family.
WERC (and many other captive facilities) have attempted in the past to alleviate the strain the injuries of captive omega wolves. Weyekin, in particular, was removed from the pack twice in an attempt to stop some aggression towards her and heal some significant injuries. During this isolation, Weyekin consistently attempted to return to her pack (through vocal and body language) and the pack became very disturbed they could not be with her. The energy created within the pack during this time created an increase of aggression toward other lower ranking members. As plenty of wild and captive pack's documentation show, when an omega wolf leaves the pack, for whatever reason, a new omega is chosen and the process begins over. When Weyekin was released back into the main enclosure, the aggression and  wounding increased to greater levels than prior to isolation. Captive wolf packs will not accept new adults to enter the pack, therefore Weyekin could never have been transferred to another facility--the only other options were solitary confinement or euthanasia. As she already showed us, Weyekin desired and needed to be with the family she had known her whole life. In my opinion, she never would have dispersed from her native pack if she was wild. She accepted her role and destiny far greater than any human I have ever met. It is widely accepted that wolves are much more aggressive (toward each other) in captivity than in the wild. Weyekin taught us this simple lesson everyday: wolves belong in the wilds, not captivity.
Weyekin died on October 15, 1999 due to a ruptured urinary bladder. A fecal impaction in the lower intestine caused a squeezing of the urethra, therefore the distended bladder eventually ruptured. The physical symptoms of this first appeared five days prior to death. Behavioral changes occurred after physical symptoms arose. Veterinarians and wolf biologist consultants all concluded that at the time the symptoms arose, nothing could be or should be done to resolve the ailment. She would certainly have died if we attempted to remove, diagnose, and treat her. The pack may have foreseen her doom since they permitted her to remain near the pack without disturbance the days leading to her death. Wahotts remained close to her at this time, as well. It is important to note that her fatal condition is very common among both wild and captive wolves. Her omega position may have compounded the situation, but did not cause the blockage in her intestines. Additionally, there is nothing WERC could have done to prevent such a situation from occurring. In a sense, to succumb to such a natural condition is probably honorable for a captive, omega wolf. I was privileged to spend the last two years of Weyekin's life with her. We enjoyed many fun times, as well most of the difficult times together during that span. I remained by her side through her final days in an attempt to comfort her. She never exhibited persistent signs of pain and often would sleep as I sat beside her. Her passing was a great loss to all of us who cared for her through the years (Jim and Jaimie, Megan, Amy, Keith, Tom, numerous interns, and myself). However, we must look forward and learn from her life, for she remains in the hearts of all those she ever touched, spiritually or in body. Weyekin was truly a great wolf, friend, and teacher.

Jeremy Heft
Primary Pack Manager

with support from: Megan Parker
Former WERC Pack Manager / Research Biologist
Ph.D. Candidate, University of Montana

April, 2000

Since Wyakin's death in October, 1999 the packs hierarchy has changed immensely.

Kamots (Alpha male) has fallen to the roll of an Omega.
Chemukh (Alpha female) has also fallen to the roll of an Omega.
Amani (Mid-ranking member) has now become the Alpha male.
Ayet (daughter of Kamots and Chemukh) has now become Alpha female.

All  four members above seem to be settling into and adjusting to their new roles.

Matsi (Beta and care giver) has not been getting along with the changes. Those that might have an idea think that Matsi would have dispersed, had this been a wild pack.

It is pretty odd that Kamots and Chemukh would fall all the way from the top to the bottom.

I wish them all my best.


My visit to WERC
May 2000
My Photos

Visiting the Sawtooth pack is something I've wanted to do since purchasing my first sponsorship kit back in 1994. This pack holds a special place in my heart, as I feel I know them, and now after meeting them close up, I know that I love them. During my visit, I was able to see 8 of the 10 pack members, some as close as 5 feet in front of me.

During my first tour, I was able to see only Chemukh. She was off at a distance, but it awed me just the same. To see one of the Sawtooth wolves in person, was incredible to me.

My second tour was even better, Chemukh and Lakota came right up to the fence, only for a moment though, as if just to grace us with their presence. Then off into the wilderness they went. From a distance I could see Wahots and Amani.

My third tour was much like my first, everyone was at quite a distance.

My fourth tour was like something written in the stars. The pack had been fed about 2 hours prior to my visit. Excitement in the air, Ravens flying so close you could hear their wings flap. Then the oddest thing I'd ever seen happened. Piyip trotted over to Chemukh caring a whole chicken. With Chemukh beside him now, he circled 3 times as if chasing his own tail. He then surrendered the chicken to Chemukh and trotted away. With Chemukh being the Omega now, she was not welcomed to get her own chicken, it was as if Piyip was looking after his mother by bringing her dinner. That random act of kindness surprised everyone who witnessed it, as Piyip is normally an aggressor.

During my fifth and last tour, I was able to see Motomo, Ayet, and Motaki up close, it was absolutely incredible. Amani was off laying in some tall grass close by, and Chemukh was laying under some tree's at a distance from the other members. Motaki didn't do much more than sleep and Motomo just stared, allowing me to look back. There's no greater sensation in the world than looking into the eyes of a wolf knowing he's looking right back at you. For me, it was so intense that it brought tears to my eyes that actually rolled down my cheek. Ayet was the most active, she walked past us a few times and would lay down again. She acted as if she wanted to play, she'd be down on her front legs with her butt in the air. She even did a little pounce before getting back into that position and laying down. When we left, she followed us for as long as sight would allow us all to see each other.

My WERC experience is truly amongst the greatest experiences of my life. Something I will never forget in this lifetime. I want to thank everyone who went out of their way to make sure I saw a Sawtooth wolf.

I want to thank Cindi for freezing and allowing us to stay out there as long as we did, and Andy for doing an enclosure walk in hopes that he'd get a few wolves to follow him back to where we were. Also, I want to thank Randy for everything he did to make this the most memorable adventure of my life.

Thank you Rick for everything. After talking with you for so long over the internet, it was great to finally meet you. I look forward to the next time. The Outback again? I had a great time, you're truly an interesting person, with so much to share...

During my trip to Northern Idaho, I was also able to meet with Wolf Recovery Biologist Russ Richards.... Thank's for everything Russ..

Last but not least, I want to thank the Sawtooth Pack ( Kamots, Lakota, Matsi, Motomo, Amani, Chemukh, Wahots, Ayet, Motaki, Piyip, "and the never forgotten, always in my heart" Wyakin ) for their part in dispelling the myth of the big bad wolf.

Peace to all who have been touched by a wolf..


My visit to WERC
June, 2000
My Photos

June has been a really tough month for me.
Eight days before my second trip to Winchester to attend Wyakin's Memorial
my sister passed away from an epileptic seizer. Four day's after my sister's
Memorial and through advice from family and friends, I decided to go
ahead with my plans to attend Wyakin's Memorial. After the first day in
Winchester, I learned of Kamots death. It hasn't been a good month.

I'll be glad when June is over....

Unfortunately about 80% of my pictures this trip were a blur..
Though after a month like this, I shouldn't have expected anything more...

Most photo's from my June trip are credited to Dianne Donnell..
(Here's to hoping you find your camera.. Though it's probably "just over the hill")

I have to add though that Wyakin's Memorial was beautiful. I can't help but believe the pack knew what was going on that day. Just as the Memorial began, the pack tributed a group howl, it was both beautiful and eerie enough to send shiver's down your spine.. The howl also took place in the middle of, and just after the memorial ended.

I will forever be grateful that I was there that day.
They felt our pain........ My pain........ And maybe their own

June, 2000

The body of Kamots, the former alpha-male of the Sawtooth pack:Wolves of the Nez Perce, was discovered within the twenty-acre enclosure in Winchester, Idaho. The long-time leader of the pack was removed from his alpha position in February by the other males in the pack. His death was quick and unexpected as he exhibited steady, good health when last seen by the pack caretakers prior to his death. Although the specifics of the cause of death are currently unclear, WERC (in conjunction with other wolf biologists and the pack veterinarian) is investigating all possible scenarios. At this time, it appears pack aggression may have been involved. Kamots was nine years old.

Kamots: an update by WERC Staff
August, 2000

On June 2nd, 2000, Kamots, one-time alpha male of the Sawtooth Pack: Wolves of the Nez Perce, was found dead in the 20 acre home of the pack. His loss is felt by all those who knew this special being, and the lessons he taught us will not be forgotten.

We believe Kamots led a fulfilling life, to say the least. From birth, he exemplified strong leadership characteristics that continued throughout his life as he maintained the alpha-male rank among the Sawtooth Pack: Wolves of the Nez Perce from the age of one year. Known for possessing a very firm, yet fair, control over the pack, Kamots led his family through many difficult transitions (such as the relocation to Winchester from Stanley). In addition, he successfully produced a litter of three pups who were raised into the pack. As all life grows old through time, Kamots could not escape the physical toll of leading the pack for eight years. In February, during the height of the breeding season, Kamots lost the alpha rank suddenly as the other males removed him by physical force. Hierarchical changes such as this are a natural progression in a pack as the leaders show signs of age and associated debilitation. Kamots then moved to a secluded area of the enclosure, away from the remainder of the pack, and frequented a few dens. He remained hidden from the pack until he healed the injuries he sustained during the overthrow, at which time he continued to keep a distance from the pack but would wander about the enclosure. Considering many alpha-males are killed in the process of being deposed, the lack of consistent dominance exhibited toward Kamots, as a "retired alpha," by the remainder of the pack put him in a relatively good position, possibly heading toward an omega rank.

Through this time, his body changed slightly due to his new role, but consistently remained healthy. He also became proficient at escaping potential conflicts with the remainder of the pack by disappearing inside the enclosure, then reappearing when the conditions were appropriate. Then, in early June, Kamots vanished from sight and was not seen again, until his body was discovered by the staff.

Due to the amount of time that had elapsed, we will never know the complete events leading up to and causing Kamots' death. However, after an extensive investigation, examining all evidence at the scene, as well as other captive and wild situations where a similar event has occurred, a few conclusions can be drawn. Prominent wolf biologists and veterinarians were consulted for insight and He remained hidden from the pack until he healed the injuries he sustained during the overthrow, at which time he continued to keep a distance from the pack but would wander about the enclosure. Considering many alpha-males are killed in the process of being deposed, the lack of consistent dominance exhibited toward Kamots, as a "retired alpha," by the remainder of the pack put him in a relatively good position, possibly heading toward an omega rank.

Through this time, his body changed slightly due to his new role, but consistently remained healthy. He also became proficient at escaping potential conflicts with the remainder of the pack by disappearing inside the enclosure, then reappearing when the conditions were appropriate. Then, in early June, Kamots vanished from sight and was not seen again, until his body was discovered by the staff.

Due to the amount of time that had elapsed, we will never know the complete events leading up to and causing Kamots' death. However, after an extensive investigation, examining all evidence at the scene, as well as other captive and wild situations where a similar event has occurred, a few conclusions can be drawn. Prominent wolf biologists and veterinarians were consulted for insight and comment on Kamots' death, and the majority agree on the most likely scenario: The findings of the investigation show that Kamots was more than likely killed by the remainder of the pack. Furthermore, evidence suggests there is a possibility that his body was partially consumed by the pack. There is documentation of this occurring in both captive and wild situations.

Important evidence was uncovered at the scene of his death that may shed some light on the cause of such an attack. Some remnants of food items and empty cache sites (underground temporary food storage) were discovered surrounding the area where he died. Wolves are known to aggressively defend these cache sites, so there is a strong possibility that Kamots was feeding on one of these food stores when found by the remainder of the pack. If this did occur, an attack would certainly have ensued, possibly eliciting a predatory instinct to kill.

It is always important to view wolf behavior as a trait that has evolved for thousands of years to provide survivorship and adaptability in a wild environment. Since wolves have just recently been placed into the confinement of captivity (relative to their evolutionary time-line), some of these wild behaviors seem contradictory to their well being in captivity. Indeed, some are. Captive wolves undergo a great amount of unnatural stress compared to their wild counterparts, therefore drastic and occasionally aggressive behaviors are the product of such a lifestyle. This is a price which the Sawtooth Pack: Wolves of the Nez Perce, and most other captive packs, pay in order to educate and promote the acceptance of their wild cousins. We, as humans, grow and evolve just as the members of the pack. WERC is currently training additional staff members to the intricacies of the new hierarchy. This will not only aid in the daily care, but increase our preparedness in emergency situations. Therefore, creating additional back-up while the primary caregivers are not present to handle similar situations in the future.

Although it may seem sad or frustrating to all of us who cared for Kamots, we must always recognize his death as an occurrence caused by typical captive wolf behavior, in which, according to many experts, could not have been prevented or foreseen. Just as in life, we must take this opportunity to learn from Kamots. He has taught us many things through his nine years of life, and now he continues to teach us. Kamots will always live on in the hearts of those he touched, both near and far. Just as his name means "to go free" in Blackfoot, Kamots is finally free.

Chemuhk Escape Update
October, 2000

After over 4 years in operation, WERC experienced its first wolf escape. The wolf that escaped is Chemukh, the omega-female of 'The Sawtooth Pack; Wolves of the Nez Perce'. The enclosure is double - fenced the entire circumference, except an approximate 30-foot section where the pack is usually fed from. Chemukh climbed the fence at this single fence area. This area has extra precautionary measures installed to prevent climbing of the fence, including an electrified fence and a three-wire overhang that extends one foot over the inner side of the fence. These measures failed to stop her.

Currently, It is believed that Chemuhk remains in the area around Winchester, Idaho and the WERC. The Nez Perce tribe has kindly offered the use of trappers which are being used in the tribe's ongoing wild wolf studies. These people are experts in their field, and have a long history in successfully catching and releasing wolves in the wild.

Chemukh will probably not endanger any domestic or wild animal, as she has no hunting skills and furthermore will probably be too scared to use the skills she has. However, if an animal matching her description approaches your animals, Chemukh can be easily scared away by yelling at her or throwing an object at her. Again, SHE WILL NOT BECOME AGGRESSIVE TO HUMANS. Shooting a rifle in her direction to scare her or kill her will result in severe panic or the injury/death of an innocent, scared animal who is simply lost or attempting to return home. Please contact WERC immediately upon sighting.

Matsi removed from Sawtooth Pack, doing fine

Matsi has been the omega-male of the Sawtooth Pack: Wolves of the Nez Perce for seven months, obtaining the position after losing a battle with Amani for the alpha-male rank of the pack. Through these months, Matsi sustained several significant, yet not life threatening, injuries during dominance displays over him by various pack members. Although discipline was commonly directed toward Matsi, he still remained an integral part of the hierarchy. On Monday, October 9, Matsi sustained an injury to his genital region that would eventually end his stay with the remainder of the pack. The pack veterinarian recommended corrective surgery or Matsi's life may have been in jeopardy from imminent infection. On Saturday, October 14, Matsi was removed form the pack's enclosure and underwent surgery to correct the injury and thus prevent infection. Due to the anesthesia necessary for the operation and the recurring significant injuries to his body, WERC elected to permanently remove Matsi from the Sawtooth Pack: Wolves of the Nez Perce. He currently is recovering in the one-acre holding pen adjacent to the pack, and plans are under way to create a new and permanent home for him. To date, the pack is coping well with the loss of his rank, and has begun to shift the male hierarchy to compensate for the vacancy. More information will be made available as the pack's shifting becomes more clear and we are able to observe a new hierarchy.

Kamots report ready

The final reports on the death of Kamots, former alpha of the Sawtooth Pack; Wolves of the Nez Perce, has been finished and approved. The report is available from the WERC via post, for $6.00 shipping and handling. To order the report you can call (208)924-6960, email us, or write to the Wolf Education and Research Center, P.O. Box 217, Winchester, ID 83555

Amani Removed From the Pack
By Jeremy Heft

Amani was removed form the alpha-male rank on January 8 through an aggressive overthrow by the pack.  At that time, Amani sustained only minor injuries, but was henceforth not permitted to be social with the pack again.  He existed mostly in dens and rarely was permitted to even lie at the entrance of his den.  The pack consistently reinforced his exiled position by physically confronting him every chance they could.  Thus, Amani began to receive significant injuries to his rump and both hind legs.  It also became apparent that the pack prevented Amani from feeding on occasion as he began to quickly lose weight. 

After adequate behavioral observation and medical consultation with the pack's veterinarian, WERC decided to remove Amani from the pack's enclosure for his safety.  Such a removal must be permanent, as Amani's life would certainly be in danger if reintegration to the pack were attempted at a later date

On Saturday, March 9, a team of WERC handlers and a volunteer surgical team, including the pack's veterinarian, from the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital removed Amani from the enclosure.  The process proceeded relatively smoothly and Amani handled the anesthesia and transport without difficulty.

Once Amani was isolated to the adjacent one-acre enclosure, the pack's veterinarian and her team proceeded to clean and suture his wounds and neuter him.  Although neutering was not necessary to save Amani's life, it was deemed necessary before he joins his brother Matsi, who was neutered when he was removed from the pack in October 2000.

Amani is now recovering within the one-acre isolation pen by sleeping and eating great quantities.  He is currently on a high protein diet, supplemented by hard-boiled eggs, in an effort to reestablish healthy weight and help repair his wounds.  So far, Amani has been social with his handlers, but is still exhibiting severe submission traits when the pack is in view.  However, the pack rarely shows any interest in Amani and showed no sign of stress due to his removal.  This may be an indicator that Amani was in fact exiled from the pack, and if given the chance in the wild, probably would have dispersed from the pack.

Sorrow befalls the Wolf Education and Research Center as Lakota Passes Away

On Thursday, May  9, 2002 a sadness befell on the Sawtooth Pack; Wolves of the Nez Perce and the Wolf Education and Research Center with the passing of it's eldest member, Lakota.  Early this morning while conducting the daily pack check, Lakota was found to have passed away in the night.  There was no evidence of a traumatic death, such as pack aggression.  The preliminary necropsy conducted by a veterinarian this afternoon found that Lakota's heart valves were rigid along with his liver exhibiting signs of damage.  According to the veterinarian this is not uncommon among canines of his age, as Lakota was eleven years old.  Although the cause of death has not been officially determined, it is possible for Lakota to have experienced pulmonary failure. A full necropsy report should be available in a few weeks.


MAY 23, 1992 - DECEMBER 08, 2003

The saga of the Sawtooth Pack: Wolves of the Nez Perce has been exciting through the years, to say the least. By far, the most eventful life was lived by Matsi, the predominantly white-colored wolf who was one of the original five from the beginning of Jim Dutcher's project. Although news of Matsi was commonly overshadowed by his more popular pack-mates, Matsi truly lived more experiences than any other member in the pack to date. Unfortunately, Matsi's adventures came to a sudden, yet quiet, end on November 13. Matsi's benefit to his wild kin was, and continues to be, huge; yet he paid an enormous price for this life-long mission. His life was full of good times and hard times, but until the very end he was always sweet and brave. This is the life story of a great warrior, caretaker, and friend.

Matsi (Blackfoot for "Sweet and Brave") began his life in the spring of 1992 with his brothers Amani and Motomo. Immediately all three joined the ranks of Kamots and Lakota to form the Sawtooth Pack. Under Kamots' leadership, it was not long until Matsi also exhibited dominant qualities among the others. Through the years as more pups were added to the pack, Matsi solidified his position of beta-male in the hierarchy. Even so, he was also the most defensive of the pups and eventually was considered quite an appropriate caretaker of the pups. Some of the wolf handlers at the time found this out the hard way! Although he rarely enforced his rank with aggressive dominance, all consistently honored Matsi as the second-in-command of the pack. The only wolf Matsi ever truly submitted to was Kamots. These two maintained an interesting and faithful bond to one another until Kamots was removed from alpha-male in February 2000. Before this time, Matsi was known as the "faithful lieutenant" to Kamots and would frequently step in to cover Kamots' "dirty work" with the subordinates. When Kamots was deposed from alpha, a long believed theory was confirmed: Matsi was not born to be an alpha, he was always more true to the beta role. This belief was conformed by Matsi failing to gain control of the pack once Kamots was removed. Amani challenged Matsi for the alpha-rank and although Matsi put up a good fight, eventually he lost under pressure from the remainder of the pack. The decision from the pack to support Amani instead of Matsi completed a large, positive chapter in Matsi's lifeand opened a chapter that would comprise the worst times of Matsi's life.

Once it was clear that Amani would be the next alpha, Matsi virtually disappeared from the hierarchy. Perhaps he was too proud to serve under his long-time subordinate brother. Regardless, Matsi exiled himself (the pack did not aggressively chase him away) to the often-unseen backside of the enclosure. Concerned for his welfare, handlers would check on him daily, however, at first the pack ignored him. As time passed, he slowly slid into the omega-male role of the pack due to his lack of participation in social events. Matsi became skilled at stealing food under the cover of night, then avoiding discipline from the others by climbing a partially fallen tree by day. It was clear that this pattern of behaviors frustrated the leadership of the pack, and hence when they would catch him out of "his tree" severe dominance ensued and typically led to minor injuries on Matsi. This reaction from the pack no doubt promoted Matsi's avoidance behaviors and the situation continued to worsen. Matsi now would not approach any human or other wolves  a solitary life he led in the territory of a past family, now rival pack. As the situation escaladed, more significant injuries to him, such as half his tail bitten off, appeared. WERC then began exploring options to safeguard Matsi's welfare. Finally, in October 2000, the pack inflicted the convincing injury. During a dominance display shortly after Chemukh fled the enclosure, Matsi sustained a torn scrotum that exposed his genitals. WERC immediately mobilized a top-notch surgical team from the Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and WERC handlers risked great personal danger to permanently remove Matsi from his home enclosure. Once removed, the surgical team performed the necessary surgery within the enclosure complex. This process, the most complex and dangerous such event in WERC's history, was successful, however Matsi was required to be neutered. This drastic episode in Matsi's life also suddenly closed his most painful chapter. A new beginning was about to occur.

At eight years old, some wondered if Matsi could endure such an abrupt change in lifestyle. It was not easy at first, but once he recovered from his surgery, Matsi explored his new life with bravery. He once again enjoyed the presence of his human friends and may have even taunted his alpha-brother, Amani from the safety of his exclusive sanctuary. Since he was neutered, Matsi could never return to the pack (severe consequences certainly would result), so he lived in the one-acre emergency isolation pen that was built into the main enclosure in 1996. He was the first wolf to make this unique habitat his home, so there was much to explore and scent-mark! WERC quickly began the huge undertaking of erecting a larger, permanent home for Matsi. One year, lots of hard work, and $40,000 later, his new, top-quality, two-acre home was ready. It included a variety of habitats, views to the Visitor Center, and isolation from the daily disturbances from the pack hierarchy. In September 2001, Matsi was moved into his fourth territory of his life. The 24-hour surveillance that occurred over the next week proved that Matsi was a bit lonely at first. However, as he had in the past, his bravery soon was apparent and he began the next exciting task of exploring and scent marking! Matsi's energy and morale steadily increased to levels above what had been observed when he still was beta-male. He frequently played with handlers, and commonly sung along with the pack during howls. Jokes circulated about Matsi now being "retired" and "living the good life", but seriously all his behaviors did point to such a theory. Little did Matsi know that his life was about to change again  he was about to receive a companion.

In January 2002 the pack hierarchy suddenly changed again. This time, Amani was deposed from his alpha rank and followed a similar path as Matsi when he was outcast. In March 2002, Amani was permanently removed from the enclosure and neutered in preparation to be placed with Matsi. Finally, in July 2002, the two brothers were reunited in Matsi's two-acre enclosure. Although WERC did not fully know what to expect from the reunion, both of "the boys" made it a very unexciting event (simply walking right past one another the first time they met!). In the days that followed, as Amani followed the lead of Matsi, a rekindling of brotherhood and friendship developed. The two, affectionately known as "the boys", quickly solidified their bond and genuinely appeared to enjoy the presence of one another. Both took to playing with one another and with the handlers, and frequently made appearances for most visitors. Undoubtedly, life was good for the both of them. Unfortunately, life must always come to an end, and on November 13, 2003, Matsi suddenly closed the final chapter of his life.

On the morning of November 13, Matsi behaved normally and at the end of the routine visit was peacefully falling asleep in one of his favorite spots of the enclosure. By early afternoon, his body lay motionless as his spirit passed on away from this Earth. He never struggled during his passing; rather he laid in peace, looking up at the sky. Amani appeared as shocked as we who found him. Subsequent behavior from Amani showed that he probably did not detect Matsi's death coming. If Matsi knew, then until the very end he remained sweet (for protecting his friends from bearing the inevitable) and certainly very brave.

Matsi's body was transported to Washington State University's Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory the next day to complete a necropsy. Due to the suddenness and mystery behind his death, it was imperative to conclude that Amani was not in danger from a potential transmittable disease. The results from the exam concluded that Matsi died from a significant hemorrhage of his liver. Although we will never know exactly what caused the rupture, we do know that poison and any contagious disease were not present. It is believed that a past blood clot in his liver may have spontaneously dislodged, causing the fragile, dead portion of the liver to rupture. Matsi subsequently succumbed to internal bleeding. It is believed that it was a fast, and probably painless event. Matsi's body will be laid to rest beside his previously fallen companions. Now, Amani and all at WERC are healing from the loss of our good friend.

There are many memories of Matsi that define his character, in my opinion. The excited romps in the snow with his favorite partner among the pack, Lakota, then the same behavior with his late-life best companion Amani. The sometimes intense defense he provided for the pups, and then both Weyekin and Wahotts later in life (Weyekin and Wahotts were both omegas during Matsi's time as beta-male, and he also assisted in the raising of them as pups). Matsi also was known as the most likely to "test" humans that entered the enclosure. At one time, it was believed that if Matsi accepted someone in the enclosure, then they were welcome to stay. This behavior was at times severe, which also provided Matsi the "most dangerous" title for many years. Ironically, he formed incredible bonds to a select few humans and permitted actions from them that most wolves would vehemently object. This "love your family, but chew on the outsiders" characteristic earned him the title of "the gangster." All in all, Matsi acted as the protector and nurturer to the pack through his time with them. Perhaps this is why he will always be the most respected among those who have cared for the pack.

Although Matsi's life may be over, his teachings and purpose certainly live on through all the members, sponsors, and the mission of WERC. He will forever be remembered for his sacrifices made to educate us and thus promote the recovery of his wild kin. Through all the hardships, Matsi still succeeded with his mission in life, now the rest is up to us to ensure his wild counterparts have a better life than his. Matsi was 11 and a half years old when he passed, and will be greatly missed by us all, especially his closest human buddy, me. To WERC, his legacy will always be remembered as the sweetest and bravest of them all.

-J Heft

(Note: Matsi actually passed on December 08, 2003)


More sad news.  On February 12, 2004 Wahots passed away.
:::Not sure why WERC always changes the dates.
Wahots passed on February 12th....not January 25th as stated below:::

The Wolf Education and Research Center sadly announces the passing of another beloved friend. On Sunday, January 25, Wahots suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. There was no previous indication of illness, injury, or any other health compromise. He was last seen the morning prior, behaving normally. Wahots was found during a routine inspection of the enclosure, lying in an area where he was known to rest alone. The area where he was found showed no signs of struggle and it was immediately clear that the pack did not cause his death due to dominance displays. No injuries (besides his normal rump wound) were found on his body. A necropsy was performed the following day at Washington State University's Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Unfortunately, a specific cause of death could not be determined, however there was evidence that his heart and lungs were not functioning at full capacity. Abrupt cardiac failure is possible, but not enough evidence was found to proclaim it the exclusive cause of death. Otherwise, Wahots was in good physical condition for his age. The necropsy was able to confirm that the pack was not responsible, nor was any poison or contagious disease. It appeared as though Wahots simply curled up to sleep and never woke. He was nine and a half years old, which leads us to believe he succumbed to natural, age-related conditions.

As sad as it may be to lose two beloved members of the pack within two months time, both deaths are independent from one another. Such natural, age-related deaths can be expected as the wolves grow older. Yet this is little comfort for WERC supporters and WERC wolf handlers who now grieve the loss of two dear friends this winter. Both Matsi and Wahots will be missed greatly by us all.

Novemver 07, 2005

It is with deep sadness that we have to inform you that on Monday, November 7, 2005, our dear friend, Amani, passed away due to complications from an inoperable terminal illness.  After extensive tests and numerous consultations with the Pack Veterinarian and the Resident Veterinarian at Washington State University, there was no humane choice left except to put Amani to rest.

Amani was 13 1/2 years old and was one of the original members of the Sawtooth Pack/Wolves of the Nez Perce - The Elder Eight.

He will always be remembered for his independence and his whimsical expressions with his ears laid out flat - lovingly nicknamed "Airplane Ears" by all of us that lived and worked with him.  His name means "To Speak The Truth" in Blackfoot language.

Amani will always be remembered and loved by the thousands of people he touched with his wonderful Spirit.  There will always be a hole in our hearts where Amani stood.

Fall/Early Winter 2005

The long, hot, and dry days of summer have finally yielded to the short, crisp days of autumn. The Canada geese that have been spending their summer floating about Winchester Lake are now taking wing and heading south. The bats and seasonal songbirds have already departed, and the local elk and deer have moved onto WERC's 300-acre site to escape the hunters of the area. This migration of hunted species is a normal occurrence every fall as the local herds have apparently learned of the sanctuary provided by WERC for all wildlife. Winchester is experiencing a wet, yet relatively warm fall season, however the wolves are quite busy preparing for the onslaught of winter. Their winter coats are growing quickly and all seem to be gaining weight each day. As usual, the pack is fed more this time of year to help satisfy their voracious appetite. Dominance behaviors are also beginning to swell among the pack hierarchy as pseudo-breeding season is in effect. However, the hierarchy has remained stable throughout the year and shows no obvious signs of change in the near future. As the flickering jack-o-lanterns slowly dim in Wolf Camp and the first woodstove smoke drifts toward the night sky, the wolves let out a chorus howl that seems to beckon the pending winter. Appropriate, since the sky looks like it may drop snow at any time now.

MOTOMO continues to hold the uncontested alpha-male throne among the pack. Now at 13 years old, he is past his physical prime, yet obviously still strong enough to convince Piyip and the females he is the king of their territory. Motomo's slow transition to a salt-and-pepper coloration from his original pure black coat progressed through the summer months, however this trend has temporarily subsided as he builds his plush winter coat. It is common for wolves to appear darker in the fall due to the increased new hair growth. Plus, the lack of intense summer sun prevents the new hair from fading. Motomo needs to dominate over Piyip only occasionally, which undoubtedly has attributed to Motomo's long tenure as alpha. His alpha demeanor is apparently sufficient to lead the pack through each season since the only consistent occasions when he dominates over Piyip is during feeds and social rallies. Still, there is no indication that Motomo will lose control over the pack anytime soon.

AYET remains quite the contrast to Motomo in her leadership skills. Her dominance over Motoki is consistent, frequent, and occasionally borderline over-bearing. Ayet commonly follows Motoki about the enclosure and growls whenever Motoki turns toward her. She even leaps onto Motoki's back sometimes in a surprise dominance display. This behavior is quite unusual among normal conditions, and is typically met with defensive rejection by Motoki. Unfortunately, this rejection by Motoki only fuels subsequent dominance displays from Ayet. This never-ending feud between the sisters creates regular dominance vocalizations that reverberate through camp every day and night. Eventually, these frequent severe dominance displays from Ayet may possibly lead to another attempt by Motoki to depose her sister. Only time will tell. Ayet is the only member of the pack that has not changed appearance in the past year. She remains the darkest color and most petite among the other members.

PIYIP on the other hand, has changed his appearance the most drastically in the past year. He remains the largest and strongest of the pack, but his once pure black coat has turned to a predominantly light gray or silver color over the years. Although graying of the fur is normal in wolves (and dogs) as they grow older, Piyip's body has taken this process to the extreme with now more silver than black over his body. He has changed to the point that some past handlers have even had difficulty in recognizing him at first during recent visits. In contrast to his physical appearance, Piyip has not changed his behavior for several years now. He remains consistently submissive toward Motomo, generally ignores both of the females, and constantly strives for attention from interns and staff.

MOTOKI has changed both her appearance and behavior slightly. Although no major alterations to either characteristic have occurred, Motoki has a new scar that slightly changes her appearance, and her occasional rebellion toward Ayet are new to Motoki this season. The rejection behaviors that Motoki has recently exhibited toward Ayet are likely caused by the non-stop intense dominance from Ayet. Motoki will now occasionally growl in return to Ayet's dominance attempts, but then also runs from Ayet to escape the display. Motoki does not show any behaviors that are indicative of a challenge toward Ayet, rather just a rejection of Ayet's persistent dominance. If Ayet decreased the frequency of her dominance toward Motoki (which is unlikely), the rebellion behaviors from Motoki would likely subside. However, if Ayet continues her course of intense domination, Motoki may eventually fight Ayet in an attempt to depose her alpha rank. Motoki's rebellion behaviors may also be induced by the pseudo-breeding season, which occurs in October and November, and prepares the hierarchy for the upcoming breeding season by solidifying the rank order. If this hormonal influx is indeed the cause of such behaviors, then the rebellion may subside soon. If not, there may just be a battle for alpha-female this winter. Motoki has acquired a new, minor scar due to the increased physical dominance displays from Ayet. A small section of skin was injured under Motoki's chin, which would be considered a normal infliction caused by a dominance interaction. However, the flap-avulsion healed in such a way to create a permanent notch in her chin. This new alteration to her appearance is quite seasonal, as it really resembles a witch's wart at the tip of her chin.

J. Heft

Sawtooth Pack Photos by Rick Hobson


Over the past couple years I've received a few nasty emails either for supporting WERC, or for supporting Jim Dutcher.. There have been decisions made by both parties that I've completely disagreed with.. Aipuyi and Wyakin being my biggest issues. If you know your Sawtooth history, you'll know what I'm talking about.. So lets just say that its the Sawtooth Pack that I SUPPORT, and leave it at that.. Feel free to email me if you have any questions..

Thank You,