Friday, April 18, 2014

Red Wolf Pups Get the Call of the Wild


Two female red wolf pups born on April 8th at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge's Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center are en route to North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge where they'll grow up as wild wolves! The Red Wolf Recovery Plan employs a pup fostering program to introduce captive red wolves into the wild.

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. Best of luck to the red wolf kiddos!

Managing Wolves by the Numbers


Under the endangered species regulations governing gray wolf recovery, states must monitor wolf numbers and file annual status reports on wolf populations and packs on an annual basis. Federal authorities review the reports to ensure wolves are being properly managed above minimum standards to avoid relisting wolves as an endangered species. Evidence across the country, and now from neighboring British Columbia, suggest that the current process of counting wolves (which guides wolf management) may not be accurate.

Due to claims that monitoring wolves via radio collars, aerial observations and trapping can be an expensive task, many states have implemented a "patch occupancy model" for counting wolves. The occupancy model depends exclusively on hunter surveys to determine wolf populations and wolf locations.  This information, combined with prey base estimates and landscape data, become the formula for predicting  the  probability of wolves in a given area. This newer method might be less expensive, however, it is our understanding that it has not undergone rigorous scientific peer review for wolves, and is at best a guesstimate based exclusively on hunter experience in the field. 

n Montana, the patch occupancy model estimates the wolf population 25-35 percent higher than the verified minimum counts led by state agencies.  For instance, population modeling for Montana's wolves in 2012—where actual counts verified a minimum of 625 wolves and 147 packs—predicted that 804 wolves and 165 packs inhabited the state.

It is neither scientifically sound nor ethical to base critical decisions about public "harvest" on statistical predictions and not hard data.


Should we be managing wolves by the numbers at all?

By Wolf Conservation Center's Diane Bentivegna

As we learned from Dr. Gordon Haber's 43 years of wolf research in the book "Among Wolves," written with Marybeth Holleman, when it comes to wolves, it's not about numbers. It's about its pack. A wolf is a wolf when it's part of an intact, unexploited group capable of complex cooperative behaviors and unique traditions. If a pack is left unexploited, it will develop its own traditions for hunting, pup-rearing, and social behaviors that are finely tuned to its precise environment.

Wolves should not be managed by the simplistic models most commonly used by today's hunter-dominated wildlife agencies. The notion that we can "harvest" a fixed percentage of an existing wolf population that corresponds to natural mortality rates and still maintain a viable population misses the point. You can't manage wolves by the numbers.

You can't just count the numbers of wolves over a particular area and decide whether it's a "healthy" population. That's because the functional unit of wolves is the pack. If we leave wolves alone, they will manage their own numbers in concert with their environment. And, if we leave wolves alone, we will be the ones to benefit - for the presence of wolves brings natural balance to ecosystems.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mexican Gray Wolf M1133!


 Birthdays abound! Wolves are mono-estrus, breeding only once a year during the winter months. So springtime is birthday season! Today we celebrate the newest member to join the Wolf Conservation Center family - Mexican gray wolf M1133! We also want to honor F749 today. As M1133’s mother, she deserves to be celebrated too!

M1133 was born at the California Wolf Center in 2008 and lived at New Mexico’s Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility since his puppyhood. Like most of the Mexican wolves at the WCC, M1133 was cared for in a way to best prepare him for a future in the wild. In order to ensure the genetic health of this terribly limited population, it’s vital that the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program grants new wolves an opportunity to join their wild kin. And what an amazing gift to bestow – freedom!

In January of 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved the release of M1133 in hopes that the young male would fill a void within Arizona’s Bluestem pack created after alpha male M806 was illegally shot and killed on July 6, 2012. M1133 was released on January 8th in the Apache National Forest of east-central Arizona, however, his stint in the wild was short lived. After just 3 weeks in the wild, M1133 was placed back in captivity. USFWS captured the lobo because he failed to catch the attention of the Bluestem Pack’s alpha female. Shortly after his release, M1133 headed east crossing the state border into New Mexico. When it became clear to USFWS that he was heading increasingly further away from all wild lobos (likely in search for a mate) it was decided that the genetically valuable wolf can better contribute to the recovery of this rare species by being introduced to a mate in captivity. M1133 was then paired with a wild-born female at USFWS' captive breeding center and released again that spring with his new mate F1108. Sadly, the energetic lobo again trekked great distances out of the Mexican wolf recovery area tofind himself in poor habitat, and surrounded by human settlements, major roadways, and very little natural prey. Consequently, M1133 was brought back to captivity.

Although we wish the captive-born lobo could have remained in the wild, he receives the best care with us and his story contributes to our efforts to raise awareness of the importance of his endangered kin and the challenges of recovery on the wild landscape. Happy birthday, Lobo!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wolf Conservation Center Celebrates Mexican Wolf M904


 Birthdays are abound! It's pup season for wolves, so over the next few weeks we'll be celebrating a number of wolves on their special day! Today we celebrate Mexican gray wolf M904. Sadly we don't know the exact birthday for this handsome lobo because he was born in his rightful place in the wild.

M904 was born in 2002 and contributed to the recovery of his rare species as the Francisco pack's alpha male. Although Mexican wolves are critically endangered, USFWS designates the wild population as "experimental, nonessential." This designation means that their recovery is trumped by the demands of industry and/or recreation. Because designated as "nonessential," M904 was taken from the wild in 2005 for depredation incidents and would never again experience his native landscape.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Teaming With Wildlife - A Natural Investment for the Wolf Conservation Center


Today, the Wolf Conservation Center is proud to announce that it has joined the New York Coalition of Teaming with Wildlife (TWW).

The TWW Coalition, 6415 members strong nationwide, includes state fish & wildlife agencies, wildlife biologists, hunters, anglers, non-consumptive users, birdwatchers, hikers, nature-based businesses and other conservationists who support the goal of restoring and conserving our nation's wildlife.

On April 30th, members of the WCC's team will join some of our partners from the Northeast Wolf Coalition to attend an important TWW meeting. We look forward to working together to support increased state and federal funding for wildlife conservation and related education.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mexican Wolf M1141 Nears a Wild Future


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, Mexican gray wolf M1141 was transferred from the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in September of 2013 to meet his "bride" at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Sevilleta Management facility in New Mexico to prep him for his eventual home on the wild landscape of northern Mexico! At Sevilleta, the lobo couple hit it off and even engaged in a copulatory tie in February. Although it's not definite, the USFWS believes that the female is pregnant. Today, the two took their final stop before receiving the "call of the wild," they're en route to a different pre-release facility, Rancho La Mesa, across the boarder in Mexico. M1141 is the third Mexican wolf from the WCC to be chosen for release into the wild.

 M1141 was born at the WCC in 2008, and although an average of 9,000 guests visit the WCC annually, visitors have never seen him. M1141 was among 13 wolves that live off-exhibit within the WCC's 16-acre Endangered Species Facility - a natural environment where these incredibly elusive creatures can reside with minimal human contact. This setting and a strict diet of whole carcass road killed deer safeguards their natural behavior and best prepares them for a wild future.

The Mexican gray wolf or “lobo” (Canis lupus baileyi) is the southernmost and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in the North America. Once numbering in the thousands, the native species once roamed freely throughout the woodlands of the southwest U.S., and Mexico. Between 1977 and 1980, the last five known wild Mexican wolves in the world were captured in Mexico and used to initiate a captive breeding program.

Mexican wolf reintroduction efforts began fifteen years ago, on March 28, 1998, when 11 captive-reared Mexican gray were released to the wild for the first time in a small portion in the wild southwest. Because the entire existing Mexican wolf population is derived from just 7 lobos saved from extinction, genetic health is the primary consideration governing reproductive pairings and captive-to-wild release events. Both M11411 and his mate have genetic characteristics that will enhance the free-ranging wolf population currently in the wild.

The Mexican wolf remains one of North America’s most endangered mammals. Currently there are only 3 wild wolves living in Mexico and the end of 2013, only an estimated 83 Mexican wolves remained in the United States. Mexican wolves have struggled for a decade and a half, failing to ever reach the initial population goal of 100, and far from reaching the population goal recommended by the current Mexican Wolf Recovery Team’s Science and Planning Subgroup (SPS). The SPS team, scientists appointed by the USFWS Regional Director for their recognized expertise in scientific disciplines relevant to Mexican wolf recovery, recommend that a minimum of three, naturally connected subpopulations of at least 200 individuals each comprising a metapopulation of at least 750 wolves, are essential to the survival and recovery of Mexican gray wolves in the wild. According to WCC director Maggie Howell, "Artificial boundaries, state politics, illegal killings and USFWS's designation of all wild lobos as an 'experimental, nonessential' population, have put recovery in a choke-hold. So the release of these two lobos is an exciting step in the right direction! We're all incredibly honored to be able to help these wolves resume their rightful place in the wild."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lawsuit Initiated to Protect Threatened Lynx From Traps in Idaho

Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and Friends of the Clearwater initiated a lawsuit today against the Governor “Butch” Otter of Idaho and other state officials to halt trapping that illegally kills one of the rarest cats in the United States, the Canada lynx.

According to Idaho Fish and Game, the total population of Canada Lynx in the state is thought to be less than 100 and "may be especially susceptible to trapping, which has been a significant source of mortality." Could the presence of this threatened kitty help safeguard other critters from this indiscriminate and barbaric hunting practice in Idaho?

Read more from The Wildlife News.

If the Idaho Department of Fish and Game does not address the violations outlined in today’s notice of intent to sue, a federal lawsuit can be filed as soon as 60 days. The notice of intent to sue here.