Saturday, April 30, 2016

More Wolves, Less Politics

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At least once a week I am privileged enough to hear one of the most rare and raw sounds: the howl of a Mexican gray wolf. The hauntingly beautiful sound pierces the sky and reminds all who listen of the wildness that surrounds us. Sadly, as evidenced by New Mexico’s decision to sue the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent the release of Mexican gray wolves into their state, that wildness is rapidly fading.

My privilege only extends so far, for the howls I rarely hear are not the howls of wild lobos reveling in freedom. They are the howls of captive lobos that reside at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY as part of the Mexican gray wolf species survival plan (MWSSP). These six lobos, each uniquely wild save the fences that enclose them, represent the future of their imperiled species. Each day they live and survive and unknowingly strive for a world with no boundaries, a world with only the open forest before them. For New Mexico to seek to prevent the release of a Mexican gray wolf pack is not only a disservice to the tireless efforts of all members of the MWSSP program but to all captive lobos as well.

New Mexico Game and Fish asserts they cannot stand idle and allow the USFWS to ignore the laws and regulations of New Mexico, but we cannot stand idle and allow New Mexico to ignore the laws of the wild. These lobos are meant to roam free on the site of their ancestors and if New Mexico refuses to grant them the freedom they deserve, it is only a matter of time before these primal creatures once again vanish from the wild landscape.

If the release of Mexican gray wolves into New Mexico is halted, the privilege I marvel at and remember fondly will become just that: a memory. Please stand with USFWS and strengthen the howls of all Mexican gray wolves so that their elusive voices may be heard by all, not just the privileged few.

Regan Downey, Youth Program Coordinator
Wolf Conservation Center

Friday, April 29, 2016

Spring Calls For a Wardrobe Change for Wolves

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Flowers are blooming, the trees are green, the peepers are peeping - signs all pointing to the arrival of a new season! Although the official start to spring can be found on the calendar, subtle cues from Mother Nature are indicators too! Ambassador wolves Atka, Alawa, Nikai and Zephyr have have been letting us know that spring has sprung - they've begun to shed their winter coats.

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A sample of the insulating undercoat
For weeks now their insulating undercoats have been falling from their bodies like sheets of soft wool to allow them to live comfortably during the dog days of summer. What triggers the shedding process? This time of year both male and female wolves have rising levels of a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin levels increase with the onset of long days, and during the short days of winter the hormone levels decrease. It is believed that prolactin has many key roles.


 High levels of the hormone contribute to the following:

1) Development of the mammary gland for expectant wolf mothers
2) Maintenance of lactation – helps milk production in wolf mothers
3) Promotion of parental behavior in both males and females and thus enhances pup survival
4) Shedding of the undercoat! So longer days alter the chemical makeup of wolves and help ensure that they spend the spring and summer months in comfort with their happy healthy packs.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Hunting Wolves Near National Parks Leads to Fewer Wolf Sightings

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It seems obvious, but now there's hard science that confirms when wolves are allowed to be hunted near a national park, visitors tend to be treated to fewer wolf sightings. Furthermore, researchers say the study's conclusions can be applied to not just wolves but any large carnivore than moves in and out of protected park land.

National Parks Service estimates that wolf watchers bring $35M tourism dollars to the greater Yellowstone area annually. Based on this one would think the wolf's economic value coupled with its ecological importance would demonstrate good reason not kill wolves for sport surrounding the Park's boundary (or anywhere else for that matter).

Read the paper in full here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Court Settlement Provides Hope for Mexican Gray Wolves

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NEWS RELEASE: April 25, 2016 Contacts: Rebecca Bowe, Earthjustice, 415-217-2093, rbowe@earthjustice.org Steve Parker, Endangered Wolf Center, 636-938-5900, sparker@endangeredwolfcenter.org Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, 914-763-2373, Maggie@nywolf.org Catalina Tresky, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0253, ctresky@defenders.org Preguntas de prensa en Español: Betsy Lopez-Wagner, (415) 217-2159, blopez-wagner@earthjustice.org

Court Settlement Provides Hope for Mexican Gray Wolves

Forty years after Endangered Species Act protection, government required to prepare recovery plan

Tucson, Ariz. — A coalition of wolf conservation groups, environmental organizations and a retired federal wolf biologist today announced a court settlement [link] requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) to prepare a long-delayed recovery plan for Mexican gray wolves by November 2017.

With only 97 individuals existing in the wild at the end of 2015, and fewer than 25 in Mexico, the Mexican gray wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America and faces a serious risk of extinction. Thanks to the courts, the Service is finally required to meet its legal obligation of completing a legally-sufficient recovery plan, with the ultimate goal of a healthy, sustainable population of Mexican gray wolves in the wild.

“The settlement announced today provides hope that the lobo can be a living, breathing part of the southwestern landscape instead of just a long-lost frontier legend,” said Tim Preso, Earthjustice attorney. “But to realize that hope, federal officials must take up the challenge of developing a legitimate, science-based recovery plan for the Mexican wolf rather than yielding to political pressure.”

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in November 2014 to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s multi-decade delay in completing a recovery plan for the Mexican wolf. Earthjustice represents Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, retired Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center in the case. Today’s announcement of a settlement agreement follows a September 2015 ruling by a federal judge in Tucson that rejected the government’s effort to dismiss the case.

“Wolves love to follow paths,” said former Mexican wolf recovery leader David Parsons. “Now, finally, the path to recovery for the critically endangered lobos of the southwest will be blazed.”

“After four decades of delay, a scientific roadmap for recovery of the Mexican gray wolf will finally be reality,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The recovery plan should trigger new releases of captive-bred wolves into the wild and establish new Mexican wolf populations in the Grand Canyon and southern Rocky Mountain ecosystems.”

The Service developed a document it labeled a “recovery plan” for the Mexican wolf in 1982—but the Service itself admits that this document was incomplete, intended for only short-term application, and “did not contain objective and measurable recovery criteria for delisting as required by [the Endangered Species Act].” Most importantly, the 34-year-old document did not provide the necessary science-based guidance to move the Mexican gray wolf toward recovery. Without a recovery plan in place, the Service’s Mexican gray wolf conservation efforts have been hobbled by insufficient releases of captive wolves into the wild population, excessive removals of wolves from the wild, and arbitrary geographic restrictions on wolf occupancy of promising recovery habitat. The Service in 2010 admitted that the wild Mexican gray wolf population “is not thriving” and remains “at risk of failure,” and further admitted that “failure to develop an up-to-date recovery plan results in inadequate guidance for the reintroduction and recovery effort.”

“We are racing extinction on the Mexican gray wolf,” said Eva Sargent, senior Southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “The best available science, not political pressure, should lead the recovery planning for the Mexican gray wolf. We need more wolves and less politics.”

The plaintiffs joining today’s settlement agreement include two environmental education organizations that operate captive-breeding facilities that have supported recovery efforts by providing Mexican gray wolves for release into the wild. Despite their efforts, Mexican gray wolf survival continues to be threatened by the lack of a recovery plan to ensure that wolf releases are sufficient to establish a viable population.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. “And for these iconic and imperiled wolves, failure means extinction. This settlement represents a necessary and long overdue step toward recovering America’s most endangered gray wolf and preventing an irrevocable loss from happening on our watch.”


“Education is a key component to the recovery of a species, especially for an animal that has been historically misunderstood and misrepresented. Equally important is an active, up-to-date recovery plan for the species in the wild,” said Virginia Busch, executive director of the Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis, Mo. “The genetic variability that organizations like the Endangered Wolf Center hold with the Mexican wolf population is hugely valuable for releases and cross-fostering opportunities in the wild. We are pleased to hear that the Service will be taking an active role in developing a recovery plan in a timely manner.”

REPORTER RESOURCES:
Background on Mexican gray wolves and photos for media use: Earthjustice.org/lobo 
Read the settlement document:http://earthjustice.org/documents/legal-document/settlement-court-settlement-provides-hope-for-mexican-gray-wolves-0
Read the release online: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2016/court-settlement-provides-hope-for-mexican-gray-wolves 
Versión en línea: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2016/dictamen-judicial-brinda-esperanzas-para-los-lobos-grises-mexicanos 

BACKGROUND: The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)—the “lobo” of southwestern lore—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. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population in the Blue Range area of Arizona and New Mexico comprising only 97 individuals, all descendants of just seven wild founders of a captive breeding program. These wolves are threatened by illegal killings, legal removals due to conflicts with livestock, and a lack of genetic diversity. Within the past year alone, escalating mortalities and illegal killing, along with reduced pup survival, reduced the wild population from 110 to 97 individuals.

The Service has never written or implemented a legally sufficient Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. Its most recent recovery team has done extensive, rigorous work to determine what needs to be done to save the Mexican gray wolf. Recovery team scientists agreed that, in order to survive, lobos require the establishment of at least three linked populations. Habitat capable of supporting the two additional populations exists in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The recovery team drafted a plan in 2012 that called for establishing three interconnected Mexican gray wolf populations totaling at least 750 animals in these areas, but the plan has never been finalized.

The settlement today requires the Service to complete a valid recovery plan by November 2017 and requires peer review of the recovery plan to ensure its scientific integrity. The settlement has been presented to the federal judge overseeing the case, who must approve it before the settlement becomes binding on the parties.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Color the World with Love on Earth Day

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TODAY is Earth Day, the 46th annual international event meant to raise awareness about the efforts to protect the planet and secure a sustainable future. This day underscores the ripple effect of each individual’s actions that benefit the environment to ensure a viable planet for generations to come. 

How will you celebrate?

The Wolf Conservation Center is joining an awareness-raising campaign created by young WCC supporter named Bria. The nine year old kiddo wants to color the world with love on Earth Day and hopes you can join! Color your sidewalks with chalk and then share the images on social media with ‪#chalkthewalkearthday. Let's show Bria how beautiful the world can be!

Learn more about Bria's ‪#‎chalkthewalkearthday‬ campaign here.

  bria

B'Earth Days Abound!

Happy Birthday to Mexican Gray Wolves F1143 and M1059


Mexican Wolf pups 7 days old
Eight years ago, the Wolf Conservation Center family grew. During the early morning hours on April 22, 2008, Mexican gray wolf F613 (affectionately nicknamed “Mama Gray”), quietly had six pups in her den and created a new holiday - "B'Earth Day!"

puppy capture 049 (3)The six newborn pups (three girls and three boys) were not only adorable, they were (and still remain) an essential contribution to the recovery of their rare species. As the siblings matured, opportunities came knocking. As a part of ongoing efforts to reintroduce critically endangered Mexican gray wolves into a portion of their ancestral home in the United States southwest and northern Mexico, U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) selected one of the siblings to be released into the wild! In 2015 Mexican gray wolf M1141 was paired with a mate and released in the wild of northern Mexico!

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M1059
A new chapter opened for Mexican gray wolf F1143 too. She met a birthday buddy! Last fall she was introduced to Mexican gray wolf M1059 who was born on April 22 of 2007.

This is the first year M1059 (affectionately nicknamed “Diego”) is celebrating his birthday at the Wolf Conservation Center – the lobo joined the WCC family in November of 2015 from the Seneca Park Zoo. It’s also the first time he’s been able to share his big day with a lady!  


The Species Survival Plan (SSP) management group for the Mexican gray wolf determines which wolves should be bred each year by using software developed for the population management of endangered species. This is necessary because all Mexican wolves descended from just 7 founders rescued from extinction. Genetic diversity is the primary consideration in the selection of Mexican wolf breeding pairs and during last year’s meeting it was determined that M1059 and F1143 are a great match (on paper) with an extremely low inbreeding coefficient.

Mexican gray wolf F1143
Mexican gray wolf F1143


Sadly, just months after F1143’s new life with M1059 began, another chapter closed when her mother, F613 (affectionately nicknamed “Mama Gray”), passed away at 16 years old. But as life would have it, on the very day of her mother’s passing (March 2nd), F1143 and M1059 engaged in a copulatory tie – a necessary step to allow her mother’s legacy to thrive. The gestation period (length of pregnancy) for wolves is 63 days so we won’t know the outcome of their union until early May.

 So today we wish the dashing duo wild and wonderful birthdays and we’ll keep our paws crossed that the pair will soon have reason to celebrate with potential pups of their own.

Happy birthday, Mexican wolf F1143 and M1059!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Step Aside New Mexico, It’s Time to Release More Wolves

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Although New Mexico denied the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) application to release Mexican wolves into the wild in 2015, the federal agency announced on Monday its plan to release a single family of captive-bred wolves in the state and implant captive-born pups into wild packs via cross-foster events. USFWS opted to forge ahead despite the state’s objections explaining that it has a responsibility under federal law to facilitate recovery of the critically endangered species and that releases are a part of that effort.

Now New Mexico plans to sue. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish confirmed Wednesday that its lawyers have filed a notice of intent to sue USFWS over the agency’s proposed releases for 2016 citing the plan as “aggressive.”

Aggressive? The fed’s plan is anything but.

Only 97 wolves remain on the wild landscape (47 in NM), a significant drop from the previous year’s count of 110. Mexican wolves in the wild face not only illegal shootings, but also inbreeding from too few animals with few choices of mates. Inbreeding results in smaller litter sizes and fewer pups surviving to adulthood, all of which heightens the odds for extinction.

Science says that Mexican wolf recovery requires releasing more family groups into the wild. And the best remaining unoccupied habitat exists in New Mexico. Thus releasing wolves there is critical to boosting numbers and improving the genetic health of the wild population.

The unremitting slaughter by humans already drove Mexican wolves to extinction in the past. No species should have to face extinction at the hands of humanity, much less twice.

The lobos are ready and the wild is calling. It’s time to release more wolves.

Background

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) 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. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 97 individuals.


The Wolf Conservation Center participates in the federal Species Survival Plan for the Mexican gray wolf. Since 2003 the WCC has played a critical role in preserving and protecting the imperiled species through carefully managed breeding and reintroduction. To date,three Mexiacn wolves from the Center have been given the extraordinary opportunity to resume their rightful place on the wild landscape.