Friday, May 17, 2013
National Endangered Species Day is a day to remind us of the significance of protecting endangered species and the wild habitat they require. For Atka, everyday is Endangered Species Day! He helps people young and old grasp the importance of safeguarding the future of wolves in North America for generations to come. While Atka's future is not at risk, some of his wild brothers and sisters have a less certain outlook. We all have the responsibility to affect the world and today is a perfect day to use your voice in order to speak up for species in need.
The WCC participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Recovery Plan for two critically endangered wolf species, the Mexican Gray wolf (Canis lupis baileyi) and the Red wolf (Canis rufus). Our participation in SSP captive breeding and our ability to accommodate endangered wolves is essential for these animals to resume their rightful place in the wild. Pleas enjoy this video about the WCC role in the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf.
The Mexican Wolf from Lincoln Athas on Vimeo.
Today Atka turns 11 years old! It's hard to believe our Ambassador pup is all grown up. Seems like it was just yesterday when hundreds of people traveled to the Wolf Conservation Center’s Pup Fair to celebrate arrival of the stunning fellow.
But think of all the people he has touched since his puppy-hood in 2002. Atka has traveled to over 1000 schools, libraries, nature centers, etc... and he never fails to impress the masses with his rock-star attitude. He's a true road warrior, an inspiration, and for the WCC staff and volunteers - the best boss we'll ever have. With the mission to educate people about wolves, their relationship in the environment, and the human role in protecting their future, the WCC family thanks Atka for his valued service. You never know, Atka may be in your neck of the woods soon!
Friday, May 10, 2013
Sometime on Wednesday afternoon, Mexican gray wolf F749 crawled into her homemade den and quietly gave birth to two male pups while her mate, M804, patiently waited right outside. Unfortunately, this birthday is bittersweet. Due to the mother’s poor record of keeping her vulnerable and valuable pups alive (F749 has lost several litters in her 11 years, only 2 of her last 19 pups survived), the 2 one-day-old pups were pulled from their parents less than 24 hours after their birth to be hand reared at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden and eventually placed with Mexican wolf foster parents there.
After collecting her pups, WCC staff brought the brothers to Pound Ridge Veterinary Hospital where WCC volunteer Veterinarian Renee Bayha gave them a bill of good health. We then continued to Sikorsky Memorial Airport to meet up with a special volunteer, one with wings. Jim Houser is among the great folks from Lighhawk, a volunteer-based environmental aviation organization that donates flights to conservation groups. Houser donated his time, plane, and fuel to help make this special mission a success. WCC curator Rebecca Bose kept the boys warm and bottle fed throughout the four hour flight and upon arriving in Indiana, the boys were given to their new temporary caregiver, Dr. Susan Lyndaker Lindsey, Animal Curator at Mesker Park Zoo.
As of today, the pups are reportedly continuing to do well. As for F749 and M804, they've been seen out via webcam and welcomed a large meal, but we can imagine they're extremely confused at this time and hope that they realize on some level that they are a part of something much larger than their pack, the recovery of their imperiled species.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Gardiner-area landowner Bill Hoppe shot collared Yellowstone wolf 831F of the Canyon Pack over the weekend after losing more than a dozen sheep to wolves in late April. Yellowstone Park wolf biologist Doug Smith said the tracks at the scene indicated that park wolves were not responsible for the sheep killed. Although this killing appears legal at first sight, Hoppe was issued two shoot-on-sight permits by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) after his sheep were killed, baiting a wolf is NOT legal. After Wildlife Services investigated the scene where the sheep were killed, Hoppe told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that "he would transplant the remaining sheep and leave the carcasses on a bone pile on his property." Wolf 831F, a wolf that I was lucky enough to behold in October while attending National Wolfwatcher Coalition's "Project Yellowstone" Conference, is guilty only of discovering what she thought was an easy meal.
Hoppe, a cattle rancher, hunting outfitter, and an outspoken opponent of wolf restoration, has a second shoot-on-sight permit he has yet to use.
If you live in Montana or know someone who does, please consider attending Thursday’s FWP commission meeting in Helena, where the commissioners will consider the 2013 wolf hunting season. Wolves need you voice. Thank you!
Monday, May 6, 2013
The red wolf is one of the most rare mammals in North America. About 100 red wolves roam their native habitat in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina and approximately 200 comprise the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) in facilities across the United States. As a participant of the RWSSP, the WCC is thrilled to be home to five red wolves including one breeding pair, F1291 and M1394. We are especially excited to be hosting red wolves that were selected to breed because there is a chance that some of their potential pups will be given the opportunity of a lifetime - a future in their ancestral home in the wilds of North Carolina! The Red Wolf Recovery Plan employs a pup fostering program to introduce captive red wolves into the wild. Adult captive red wolves are not candidates for release.
Captive-to-wild fostering is a coordinated effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Red Wolf Recovery Program, and the RWSSP. Fostering is a method which allows genetically valuable captive-born red wolf pups to become integrated into the wild red wolf population. The pup-fostering method has been extremely successful for nearly a decade, this video from the North Carolina Zoo depicts the first ever foster event from 2002!
Every spring, red wolf field biologists in North Carolina listen for the whines and peeps of wild red wolf pups as they search for dens. When biologists locate dens, each pup is counted and tagged and blood samples are collected before the pup is carefully returned. Some of these dens will serve as the foster home for captive born red wolf pups.
As soon as captive red wolves are born at the any of the participating RWSSP facilities, the host organization alerts the field biologists of their great news. If the captive born litter is robust and the date of births match those of wild red wolves, a couple of 7 to10-day-old pups (number of pups depends on the size of the litter) are removed from the litter and transferred to North Carolina. Ideally, each year a few captive born pups are blessed with this opportunity and are embraced by their wild foster parents. The pups then develop in the wild and thus gain survival skills required to mature and reproduce.
Yesterday, WCC Curator Rebecca Bose looked around F1291 and M1394's habitat for clues of impending parenthood and was blown away by the pair's architectural skills upon discovering an amazing den! We're keeping our fingers crossed that the red wolf pair will be able to contribute to the wild red wolf population with some pups in the coming weeks!
Thursday, May 2, 2013
In order to maintain genetic diversity within the Mexican wolf population, the MWSSP management group determines which captive lobos will be permitted to breed by using software developed for the population management of endangered species. Wolf unions are chosen based on the genetic "value" of the individuals and the benefits their offspring would potentially contribute to the diversity of their rare species. Wolf couples with low inbreeding coefficients produce offspring that will best enhance the wild lobo gene pool. Lobo genetics are a matter of concern for the MWSSP because the founding population of all lobos here on Earth today can be counted on two hands (not including your thumbs!)
Although Mexican Wolves M740 and F749 were likely unaware, in 2012 scientists all over North America are crossing their fingers that the a vital pair would prove fruitful. They had the lowest inbreeding coefficient in the MWSSP. So you can imagine the excitement when during an early morning in May, F749 quietly had eight pups under a thicket. All five boys and three girls appeared to be in good health so WCC staff followed protocol and stayed out of the lobos' way to allow the new parents do their job. Sadly, all 8 pups died within a month’s time. MWSSP procedure prevented WCC staff from intervening and with our vast wild enclosures, it was impossible to determine what was ailing the newborn lobos. While this loss was devastating on many levels, it did prompt the implementation of new MWSSP protocols for selective emergency intervention.
WildEarth.TV Webcams can attest that the couple appears to find comfort in each other's company. So here we are a year later, and F749 appears to be pregnant again. However, due to the mother’s poor record of keeping her vulnerable and valuable pups alive (F749 has lost several litters in her 11 years), we will be pulling the pups no later than 18 hours after their birth to be hand reared and eventually placed with captive lobo foster parents. Ideally we would hand raise the pups at the WCC, but unfortunately we do not currently house a pair of lobos that have successfully raised a litter of their own. So, after we pull the pups, we’ll transport them to the Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden in Evansville, IN where they will be hand raised and fostered with a Mexican wolf couple with a stellar record of raising pups successfully.
In coming days we hope to announce the birth of a robust litter from F749, but it will be bitter sweet knowing that she will not be a part of their development. It takes tough and sometimes heart breaking decisions to preserve a species. We can only hope that F749 and M804 realize on some level that they are a part of something much larger than their pack, the recovery of their imperiled species.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Late yesterday afternoon we learned that the Wolf Conservation Center will not be welcoming a new Ambassador pup this spring. Due to unanticipated circumstances, the breeding facility is unwilling to relinquish any pups born this season. Although we're terribly disappointed, our resolve to provide science-based education programming with Ambassador wolves remains strong. Ambassador wolves Atka, Zephyr, and Alawa will continue their meaningful work of forging a connection with our visitors and improving our efforts to teach the importance of conservation, ecological balance, and one's personal responsibility for improved human stewardship of our World.
That being said, the WCC is still prepping for pups. Home to two breeding pairs, the WCC hopes to celebrate the birth of critically endangered red wolves and/or Mexican gray wolves any day now. WCC supporters have been spying on Mexican wolf F749 (and her growing waistline) via our WildEarth.TV webcams, and both F749 and red wolf female F1291 have been demonstrating behavior typical of wolves with pups on the way! So please stay tuned to find out whether or not these special wolves that call the WCC home will be making a priceless contribution to the recovery of their rare species.