Thursday, February 26, 2015

Over Sixty Canadian and International Signatories Voice Opposition to the B.C. Wolf Kill

Over Sixty Canadian and International Signatories Voice Opposition to the B.C. Wolf Kill in an Open Letter to the B.C. Government

‘B.C. Government scapegoats wolves for its failure to protect caribou habitat’

February 25, 2015 via Pacific Wild More than sixty organizations and concerned citizens not only from British Columbia, but also from around the globe have signed an open letter addressed to Premier Clark opposing the B.C. government’s ongoing wolf slaughter. The government has inhumanely slaughtered at least 24 wolves by helicopter in the South Selkirk Mountains and another 160 wolves either have been or are about to be killed from helicopters in the South Peace region by the end of this month. Furthermore, we have learned that that the B.C. government actually plans to continue the aerial killing of wolves for at least four more years, and it is willing to spend millions of tax dollars doing it. This means it won’t be hundreds of wolves that die because of government’s refusal to protect adequate habitat for caribou; thousands of wild wolves will be inhumanely shot from helicopters. The B.C. government claims that the wolf slaughter will “protect” the imperiled caribou in these areas from extinction, even though there is no scientific basis to its claim. For years, the B.C. government has sterilized and/or killed wolves while the caribou populations have continued to crash.

Ian McAllister who signed the open letter on behalf of Pacific Wild Alliance emphasizes that: “The public should not be fooled that killing wolves will recover endangered caribou herds as the B.C. government claims. The caribou are threatened because of decades of government inaction and refusal to protect adequate levels of habitat.” In the Selkirk Mountains, caribou have failed to thrive because of logging, as well as snowmobilers, heli-skiers and cat-skiers scaring them off their crucial winter-feeding grounds, and their tracks facilitating access for predators. In the South Peace, critical caribou habitat has been destroyed and fragmented by logging, oil and gas development, access roads and coal mines.

The more than 173,400 people from all over the world who have signed the #SaveBCWolves petition are certainly not fooled by the B.C. government’s claim. They understand that caribou need large intact zones free from human encroachment to thrive, and wolves, as top predators, play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

The undersigned conservation organizations and concerned citizens call on the B.C. government:
  • to develop caribou recovery plans in line with procedures for identifying critical habitat under the federal Species at Risk Act. These plans should include the creation of large intact protected areas in high and low elevation habitat that are off limit to logging, resource extraction and recreational users, with buffer zones where minimal industrial or recreational human encroachment is permitted;
  • to ensure the recovery plans are implemented through a transparent and open process, including the publication of annual reports compiled by government scientists and peer-reviewed by independent conservation experts;
  • to increase the immediate protection of the 18 surviving caribou in the Selkirk Mountains by enforcing all snowmobile closures recommended by government scientists, excluding overlapping heli- and cat-ski tenures from protected caribou habitat and its buffer zones and prosecuting trespassers. Ongoing Snowmobile Management Agreements negotiations with snowmobile clubsshould be open to public review and comment.
For more information: Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild: - cell: 250-882-7246 www.pacificwild.org and petition here Craig Pettitt, Valhalla Wilderness Society: - gcraigpettitt@gmail.com or phone: 250-358-7997

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Help Save Endangered Red Wolves


Red wolves are among the world’s most endangered species; with just a few hundred animals in existence (and about 100 in the wild), they are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “Critically Endangered.” Only one place on the planet are wild red wolf populations viable and secure - North Carolina. But the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission has asked the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to terminate the entire red wolf recovery program in North Carolina which would inevitably result in the loss of the last wild population of red wolves and render the species “Extinct in the Wild.”

If the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removes the red wolf from North Carolina it will set an extremely dangerous precedent that will negatively impact all endangered species.

There are two ways YOU can help save red wolves today:
Contact your Federal Representatives (link offers contact information and talking points)
Take the #Howl4Wolves Challenge

The Wolf Conservation Center took the #Howl4Wolves Challenge.  Now it's your turn!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Critically Endangered Wolves Make Valuable Contributions to Genetic Health of Their Species

The Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Recovery Plan for two critically endangered wolf species, the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) and the red wolf (Canis rufus). The Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf are among the rarest mammals in North America; both species at one time were completely extinct in the wild.  An SSP is a breeding and management program designed to ensure the long-term sustainability of captive-based animal populations. The primary goal for the Mexican gray wolf SSP and red wolf SSP is to breed wolves for maximum genetic integrity for reintroduction into the wild.  Organizations participating in the SSP are tasked with housing and caring for the wolves, collaborating in the captive breeding program, sharing observations and recommendations for release, and engaging in the sometimes unusual and often controversial measures to save the species.

Because the entire existing populations of Mexican wolves and red wolves are derived from such a limited founding populations (just 7 individuals for the Mexican wolf and 14 for the red wolf), genetic health is the primary consideration governing decisions re: reproductive pairings and captive-to-wild release events.  It's also the reason that the SSP programs for both wolf species pursue an extraordinary conservation measure to save these species - gamete cryopreservation.

 
So last weekend, at the height of breeding season, WCC staff and volunteers set out to collect semen from 6 Mexican wolves and 2 red wolves for potential future use.  This is an important option when trying to maintain diversity with a species that was once extinct in the wild.  The first task was to capture all 5 wolves, not an easy job in a few feet of snow...  Thankfully for the wolves, they won't remember much beyond the capture. Semen collection from wolves requires anesthesia first,  and then electro-ejaculation. Dr. Cheryl Asa,  Saint Louis Zoo's Director of Research and reproductive specialist, led the procedure with the help of the WCC's amazing volunteer veterinarians, Norwalk Veterinary Hospital's Charlie Duffy, DVM and North Westchester Veterinary Office's Paul Maus, DVM. The procedure was a two day event and proved to be a great success!  Dr Asa was able to determine how productive each wolf was by examining each deposit under the microscope to determine the number of sperm, the proportion of sperm moving and the quality of their movement, as well as the percentage of sperm with normal shape and an evaluation of the abnormal shapes present. Dr Asa then stored the samples in "straws" to prepare for cryogenic preservation at the St Louis Zoo.
So here's a breakdown of what the wolves produced:
  • Mexican wolves M1139 & M1140: Both wolves extremely productive
  • Mexican wolf M804: productive collection - no surprise for the proven breeder
  • Red Wolf M1566: Sperm present but many broken heads and tails. Possibly due to his transfer to the WCC in December when spermatogenesis occurs. Stress of travel might have interrupted the process.
  • Red Wolf M1803: Very productive collection. Obtained the most straws of all the WCC males!
  • Mexican wolf M904 (underwent a reverse vasectomy in January 2014): unsuccessful collection. Currently unable to discern if the vasectomy reversal can be deemed unsuccessful or if his age (12) has to do with lack of sperm production
  • Mexican wolf M1198: successful collection
  • Mexican wolf M1133: successful collection


Enormous thanks to Dr Cheri Asa, Charlie Duffy, DVM, Paul Maus, DVM, our family of awesome volunteers! But most of all, we owe our thanks to M1139, M1140, M804, M1566, M1803, M904, M1198 and M1133 for making a very personal and valuable contribution to the genetic health of their rare species!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Scientists Urge Congress to Leave Wolves Alone


February 18, 2015 -  More than 50 world-renowned wildlife biologists and scientists, many of whom have devoted their entire professional careers toward understanding the social and biological issues surrounding wolves in North America, sent a letter to Congress urging members to oppose any efforts to strip federal protections for wolves in the contiguous 48 states.

Read more from the Humane Society here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Endangered Mexican gray wolf population reaches 109

Numbers encouraging, but wolves still far from recovered

Phoenix, AZ - Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that the wild Mexican wolf population has increased to 109 from 83 wolves counted at the end of 2013. While conservationists cheer this good news, they point out that the agency projected there would be 100 wolves in the wilds of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico by 2006. More than a decade later, the total population has finally reached that milestone, still a whisker away from extinction. Due to USFWS’s failure to release new wolves from the captive breeding population, the genetic diversity of the wild population remains low, in spite of the increase in numbers.

“More wolves from the same breeding pairs will most likely condemn these wild wolves to eventual extinction,” said Southwest Environmental Center executive director Kevin Bixby. ”Without new releases into the wild of wolves from captivity, inbreeding poses a significant, but avoidable threat to their survival and recovery.”

“With recent changes to the rules governing the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction, the US Fish and Wildlife Service now has the ability to release genetically valuable wolves into New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness and they should do so immediately,” said Wolf Conservation Center executive director Maggie Howell. Howell’s organization is an important participant in the captive breeding program for the Mexican wolf.

“An increase in numbers is always cause for celebration, but a single population of 109 wolves with similar genetics is still a long way from what the best available science says is needed for recovery,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “We need a diversity of wolves in more areas in the wild, and soon.”

In a peer-reviewed article published in Conservation Biology in 2013, scientists wrote that, in order to achieve recovery, there must be at least two more populations of Mexican gray wolves north of I-40 in the Grand Canyon region and the southern Rockies, with movement possible among all three. The scientists also stated that human-caused mortality of the wolves must decrease.

According to Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project executive director Emily Renn, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made these necessary changes impossible with the recently completed revision to the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction rule.

“For years, the Service has stalled completion of a mandatory recovery plan for the Mexican wolf, and, in direct contradiction to the recommendations of scientists on the recovery planning science subgroup, has established rules that keep the wolves below I-40, set a cap on numbers far below what the science says is needed, and loosen restrictions on take, which will result in increased mortality,” said Renn.

Western Wildlife Conservancy Executive Director Kirk Robinson said federal proposals to remove Endangered Species Act protections pose additional threats to the wolves’ recovery.

“The Obama administration has proposed stripping gray wolves’ Endangered Species Act protections nationwide, making it nearly impossible for wolves to resume their natural role in excellent habitats in Utah and Colorado that scientists say are necessary for Mexican wolves to recover,” said Robinson.

Anti-wolf bills sponsored by Representative Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Representative John Kline (R-MN) were introduced February 12, 2015, and wolf supporters fear that between the administration and federal legislation, decisions about wolf management will be turned over to states that are hostile to wolf recovery.

“Pressure is being applied to many members of Congress for legislation to push wolves, even the small, struggling population of Mexican gray wolves, toward extinction. Wolf extinction bills and riders threaten all wolves and undermine the Endangered Species Act. These decisions should be based on the best available science, not politics,” said Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council’s conservation director.

-END- Grand Canyon Wildlands Council

Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project

Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter

Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter

Southwest Environmental Center

Western Wildlife Conservancy

Wildlands Network

Wolf Conservation Center

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mexican Wolf Cross-Foster Effort Confirmed as Success

Last spring, U.S. Fish and Wildlife's (FWS) Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team made history - they successfully completed the first cross-fostering event of Mexican wolf pups in the wild! Cross-fostering is a coordinated effort FWS, the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP) and is a technique employed to enhance the genetic health of the wild gene pool of Mexican wolves. The Red Wolf Recovery Program has been successfully using captive-to-wild fostering as a recovery tool since 2002, allowing genetically valuable captive-born red wolf pups to become integrated into the wild red wolf population. But last May the Mexican wolf program employed this effort too and two 2-week-old pups from the Coronado Pack were transplanted into the Dark Canyon Pack's three-pup litter of similar age. In this video, FWS captures one of the wild pups (now about 10 months old) and confirms the foster event was a SUCCESS!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Annual Mexican Gray Wolf Count

Any day now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will complete its an annual survey and announce their estimate of how many critically endangered Mexican gray wolves (and breeding pairs) call the wild landscape of Arizona and New Mexico home.

This video highlights what is involved in counting lobos effectively.