KINGSPORT — One of Bays Mountain Park’s oldest wolves has died.
“Kiva passed away late last night or early this morning,” park operations manager Rob Cole said Tuesday. “He died due to natural causes and we’ve ordered a necropsy on him so we have a solid ... cause of death.”
Kiva, a male grey wolf, was one of the six wolves at Bays Mountain Park, coming to the park about a decade ago.
Kiva and the other 10-year-old male wolf, Whya, were diagnosed this past winter with myelopathy (spinal nerve degeneration) and were being medicated three times a day in an effort to slow down or possibly stabilize the advancement of the condition.
Cole said Kiva had been responding to the medication well, better than Whya has, and was not in any pain.
“We knew this was coming. Kiva had shown some sudden signs of deterioration, and we did separate him from the rest of the pack Sunday evening,” Cole said. “It is a blow, a tough thing for us to swallow because he had become like a family member to our staff here.”
Cole said park officials are keeping a close eye on Whya, who has been separated from the remainder of the pack. Cole noted Whya seems to be doing very well with no noticeable decline in health.
The park held a moment of silence for Kiva prior to the Wolf Run 7-mile trail race Tuesday night.
Bays Mountain Park’s wolf program began in 1992 with the arrival of three 6-month-old pups. Additional wolves were added in 1995, 2004 and most recently in 2007. The last two groups of wolves added to the park were from Bear Country USA of South Dakota.
In captivity, wolves live 12 to 14 years on average, and in order to maintain the dynamics of the pack, Bays Mountain Park needs to add wolves every five to six years. All of the current wolves are grey (a.k.a. timber) wolves, with two being 10 years old and the other three being 6 years old. The two females in the pack are sisters.
The park attempted to purchase four additional wolf pups earlier this year from Bear Country. However, due to an unsuccessful breeding season, no wolf pups were born this season. Cole said the park will attempt to purchase additional wolf pups next year.