Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wolf Conservation Center Welcomes Critically Endangered Wolf Pups

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A critically endangered Mexican gray wolf living at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) made a priceless contribution to the recovery of her rare and at-risk species on Monday – she had pups! On May 22, Mexican gray wolf F1226 (affectionately nicknamed Belle by supporters) gave birth to a litter of three pups – each no larger than a Russet potato. This is the second litter born to mom (age six), and dad, (age nine).

Although F1226 is currently keeping her newborn pups out of sight, WCC staff anticipates the pups will begin to emerge in a few weeks and be visible to a global audience via live webcams.

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Recognizing the distinct peeps squeaks and mews of newborn wolves, WCC staff followed the pup “chatter” yesterday morning to confirm the pups had arrived!       

"It will be an exciting season," said Rebecca Bose, WCC Curator and member of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan Management Team. “With parents, newborns, and the pair’s three yearlings born in 2016, we have an opportunity to study the complex social structure of a multigenerational pack. Unbeknown to the wolves, our webcams allow us to observe their behavior 24/7, so it’s easier for us to make the best recommendations with respect to which wolves are most suitable for release.”

Accessible via the WCC website, webcams allow an unlimited number of viewers to enter the private lives of wolves.

“Over 300,000 people tuned in to the webcam last year to watch F1226 in labor,” said Maggie Howell, WCC Executive Director. “These Mexican wolves are really popular on webcam and have been exceptionally effective in demonstrating the importance of family. This is what makes wolves and humans so similar. As the pups and yearlings mature this year, the public will have an opportunity to witness the gestures of intimacy and enthusiasm that form the unique emotional bonds and shape the foundation of the pack.”

Raising pups is a family affair; it is natural for all the wolves to pitch in. The yearlings will assist their parents in rearing their younger siblings by regurgitating food for them, playing with them and even baby-sitting. Moreover, the parents will demonstrate critical parenting strategies and techniques for the yearlings to employ when they have pups of their own.

Passing down knowledge from one generation to the next also allows the family to maintain traditions unique to that pack.

“Hopefully some of these younger wolves will one day be able to apply what they learn today to raise pups of their own in the wild in the future,” said Bose. “So far three of our Mexican wolves have been released – two in Arizona and one in northern Mexico.”

Beyond being adorable, the wolf pups represent the Center’s active participation in an effort to save a species on the brink of extinction. The Mexican gray wolf or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act.

Because the entire existing Mexican wolf population descended from just seven founders rescued from extinction, genetic health is the primary consideration governing most recovery efforts.

“Addressing the Mexican wolf’s genetic imperilment requires an active program of releasing more genetically diverse wolves into the wild. Currently, the captive population is more diverse than the wild population; we need to capitalize on this with more captive-to-wild release efforts as soon as possible. Mexican wolf recovery cannot exist in captivity alone,” said Bose.

The WCC is one of 55 facilities in the U.S. and Mexico participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan – a bi-national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.

Currently 13 Mexican wolves call the WCC home. In the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 113 individuals - an increase from the 97 counted at the end of 2015.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Feds Propose Changing Protections for World's Last Wild Red Wolves

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is considering changes to the existing protections for the world's last population of wild red wolves. Fewer than 35 remain.

Published this morning, the federal agency's proposed rule intends to revise the existing nonessential experimental population designation of red wolves in North Carolina under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act to allow significant changes in the size, scope and management of the current red wolf recovery program.

The rule includes the Service's plan to allow pulling the last wild red wolves from most of their range in North Carolina to put them in captivity. Ironically, the federal agency claimed its decision was "based on the best and latest scientific information" from the red wolf Population Viability Analysis (PVA).

But the very scientists who drafted the PVA charge that USFWS based its plan on “many alarming misinterpretations” of their scientific analysis and warn that USFWS's plan “will no doubt result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild.” In a letter they ask the agency to "edit or append" its decision.

The WCC is is currently reviewing the proposed rule and will be participating during the public comment period. Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ambassador Wolf Atka Receives 1000 Emails

Well wishers at yesterday's birthday bash check out Atka's meat-filled piñata moments before the Atka tore it to shreds!
Well wishers at yesterday's birthday bash check out Atka's meat-filled piñata moments before the Atka tore it to shreds!
We wanted to make sure Atka's 15th birthday was special, so after the long, requisite talk about safety, etiquette, and responsibility, we gave him his very own email account at atka@nywolf.org! In a matter of hours, emails with photos, artwork, and wonderful well wishes started arriving at an alarming rate. Nearly 1000 emails filled Atka's inbox - with messages from every continent with the exception of Antarctica! Enormous thanks to all of Atka's wonderful supporters for joining us in celebrating a special wolf. We love you, Atka!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What Draws Tourists to Yellowstone? Wolves!

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What draws tourists to Yellowstone? A new scientific visitor survey shows the number one draw is wildlife - specifically wolves and grizzly bears! Beyond their value as a critical keystone species, by drawing an abundance of tourists to the park wolves benefit the greater Yellowstone economy too!

National Parks Service (NPS) estimates that wolf watchers bring $35M tourism dollars to the greater Yellowstone area annually. Moreover, a 2013 NPS report shows that 3,188,030 visitors to Yellowstone National Park that year spent almost $382 million in the surrounding communities. That spending supported 5,300 jobs in the area.

Despite the popularity of wolves, many of the park's neighboring communities are avidly anti-wolf and sometimes the more popular the wolf, the bigger target they become. Last month, the 12-year-old matriarch of Yellowstone’s Canyon Pack, was shot by poachers and left to die.

Poachers are not the only threats Yellowstone wolves face. Although hunting is not permitted within the park, wolf trophy hunts are authorized by every state bordering Yellowstone.

Communities surrounding Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho should give greater consideration the economics of wildlife watching. Only then would they would understand that wolves are more valuable alive than dead, and their current policies are indeed killing the "golden goose."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It's Ambassador Wolf Atka's 15th Birthday

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Happy Birthday, Atka!

Today Ambassador Wolf Atka turns 15 years old! The confident and charismatic ambassador has opened the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of people in his lifetime. He’s a powerful presence in the fight to preserve wolves’ rightful place in the environment, and for the Wolf Conservation Center staff and volunteers, the best boss we’ll ever have. We love you, Atka!

Wish Atka a Happy Birthday - send him an email!

In a world flooded with online communication, at 15 years old Atka decided he should build his digital identity. So, after a the long, requisite discussions about safety, etiquette, and responsibility, WCC staff gave Atka his very own email account! Get in touch with Atka at Atka@nywolf.org!


Monday, May 15, 2017

Yellowstone: A Wild Homecoming

The last wolves in Yellowstone Nation Park were killed nearly a century ago. But with the support of the American public in 1995 and 1996, a new chapter in Yellowstone's history began, with a homecoming that changed the Park.

The reintroduction of gray wolves to our first national park has been described as a near-miracle, having occurred at one of those rare moments when stars align in the political sky. A wildlife conservation effort with such positive environmental impact (and ongoing controversy) will likely go unmatched for a long time.

The following video gives an account of the remarkable effect of wolf reintroduction on Yellowstone's wild landscape.

Learn more about the "wolf effect" in Yellowstone and the ongoing scientific debate inspired by the video.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day


Wishing Mexican gray wolf F1226 (a.k.a. Belle)and all the mothers out there a wonderful Mother's Day!