A hot, dry start to summer in Alaska brought with it devastation. As May gave way to June, a 200,000-acre wildfire scorched the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, beginning along the Woodcut Road close to Mile 6.5 of the Funny River Road. Over 700 firefighters fought tirelessly for over a week to contain the blaze. And, in doing so, they salvaged a bit of a miracle. As Alaska Zoo photographer John Gomes wrote:
5 young wolf pups were rescued from the 200,000 acre forest fire dubbed the Funny River Fire, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The pups were found by fire fighters adjacent to fire break line made by the fire fighters.
Their parents had abandoned the den in response to firefighting activity, and the pups had been left without food and water for days. One sustained a severe eye injury during a confrontation with a porcupine.
Huslia firefighter Jefferson Sam told KTUU’s Lacie Grosvold that his crew had known about the wolf den on the line and decided to see if any survivors could be retrieved. “One of the pups actually came out of the den, Sam said, and to him it looked like the pup, a female, was asking for help.”
The help was received. The five pups are now thriving at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, before eventually being transferred to their final home at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley. The pups will grow up their together. Zoo staff say the trip to the Lower 48 will take place as soon as the pups are healthy enough to travel.
By the look of it, they’re not too far off.
All five pups, who have been named after the firefighters who saved them, are making steady recoveries. Before they head to Minnesota, Alaskans have the chance to stop by the zoo and greet them. Public viewings during feeding time take place daily at 10:15am, 2:15pm, and 6:15pm at the Orphaned Cub Facility. It is an opportunity that will be gone before too long, and should not be missed.