Sunday, December 28, 2008

When Opportunity Knocks...

                                                   Kaila in October                   

Rebecca Bose, the curator in charge of the care of the wolves, related this recent incident to us:

Rebecca had brought deer legs up to feed the ambassador wolves. Apache, the alpha, generally takes his food first but Lukas let his lust for food get the best of him and grabbed the first leg at the same time as Apache. The two backed away from the fence growling, each tugging at a different end of the leg. Kaila, who as the omega generally has to hang back during feeding or risk discipline from the other two, watched the males struggle for a while. Finally, seeming a little surprised at her good luck, she ambled up to the fence and happily trotted off with her food as Apache and Lukas continued their tug of war. (Of course, we don’t know what she was thinking, but that’s what it looked like.)

We’re sure there’s a moral in there somewhere, but we wanted to tell the story because we know that Kaila has a lot of fans. Score one for the grande dame of the WCC!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us, including Kai the resident German Shepherd, at the Wolf Conservation Center.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Rules

Spring may be the time “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” but for wolves, the wintertime is when their hormones turn toward making pups. Wolves are always born in the spring, so winter is the time for breeding.

That means that this is the time of year that the males and females in our SSP (Species Survival Plan) enclosures need to be separated to prevent unauthorized breeding. As a holding facility, the Wolf Conservation Center doesn’t determine which SSP wolves get to breed. Those decisions, which depend on genetics and the numbers of Mexican Gray Wolves and Red Wolves in captivity and in the wild, are made by the management groups for these endangered wolves. We don’t have any breeding pairs this year, but hopefully we will in coming winters.

To read about this year’s separation procedure and access the photo link for some behind-the-scenes shots of the rarely seen Mexican wolves, click on “more”.


On Friday, feeling a bit like chaperones at a Junior High School dance, a group of WCC staff and volunteers tramped up to the spacious SSP enclosure that is home to a family of 15 wolves. The wolves live in a large double enclosure with a holding pen in between. Our job was to get groups of the wolves to run from one enclosure into the holding pen, at which point the males would stay in large capture boxes while the females would be released into the other enclosure.

Given the natural terrain of the enclosure (full of rocks, trees, and thorn bushes) and the speed and maneuverability of the wolves, it was no easy task. The fact that these wolves rarely see humans (because the wolves or their descendants may be released into the wild some day) helps to some extent because the wolves’ inclination is to run from the line of people advancing toward them. Of course, when they decide to run through gaps in the line instead of away from the line, it doesn’t help us much.

We managed to complete the procedure relatively quickly though, beating the incoming snowstorm. I only lost a hat (temporarily) and a little skin (hopefully temporarily) to the thorns. Come springtime the females will be reunited with their male relatives, but for the duration of the winter a reinforced fence separates them.

To see photos from Friday, click here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are...

Obviously getting to see the wolves is the highlight of a visit to the Center, but every time I head up to the Center I’m looking forward to being surprised by other wildlife sightings. Located in the midst of an area rich with biodiversity, the Wolf Conservation Center and the surrounding land is, or has been, home to a variety of animals from the frequently sighted (deer, vultures) to the extremely rare (bobcats!).

Just the other morning, as I waited to take Atka to a program, I looked up to see 6 wild turkeys heading away from our fenced in office enclosure. Unfortunately, they left one of their brethren inside the enclosure. Even more unfortunately, the stranded one seemed to forget, as turkeys often seem to, that he could fly. After a few comically sad minutes of shaking his head at the fence and making some rather pathetic noises, his memory seemed to be jarred by my walking into the enclosure and he somewhat shakily flew off to search for his comrades.

A few hours later as Maggie and I drove back up the driveway after the program, a large red-tailed hawk flew over the van. Naturally he was gone by the time I got my camera out. I did however take the above photo of a bird’s nest that was constructed right on top of the fence of the ambassador wolves’ enclosure. Not only did the birds take advantage of the manmade structure to hold their home, but they also used wolf fur and the stuffing from some of the enrichment toys to help line (insulate?) their nest.

So if you come up to visit us, keep your eyes peeled because there’s always a lot of wildlife around. Or check out nearby Ward Pound Ridge Reservation after visiting us. With 35 miles of trails, it’s a great place to hike, see wildlife, sled, and/or just have a picnic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Here’s some recent news about previous topics:

The buffalo donated to us after Thanksgiving was cut up and distributed among various SSP wolves and the ambassador wolves. The ambassadors' reactions to their treats varied a bit. Lukas and Kaila promptly ran off with their shares, but Apache sniffed at the liver and dropped it to the ground. He then rolled on it and probably ended up not eating it. There’s no pleasing some delicate palates! Atka also rolled on his offering (a heart), but we’re not sure if he ended up eating it. Even if Apache and Atka didn't eat their offerings, providing the wolves with buffalo serves as a good enrichment experience as they get to react to all the new sensory stimuli that the interaction provides.

Moonshine Pack (reintroduced Mexican Gray Wolves)
We received the monthly update from the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project and learned that for the last few weeks F836 and M1039 have been traveling separately, with F836 in New Mexico and M1039 in Arizona. The wolves were radio collared before being released so they can be tracked using radio telemetry. You can even go here to view the results of weekly aerial tracking flights and for other news about the reintroduction project. For the tracking information, just click on the link under “Wolf Location Information” on the right side of the page.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

WCC Hits the Road!

Part of our mission at the Wolf Conservation Center is to let people know that there are simple things we all can do to make the world a better place. Kids at our programs always make great suggestions about what people can do; one of them is often “pick up litter.” Well, we’ve decided to take their advice. In fact, we’ve even made our commitment to helping keep our community clean official.

Not only do we take care of almost thirty wolves, but we also now have responsibility for a road. That’s right, we have officially adopted a road near the Center and pledged to keep it free of trash. Unfortunately, Atka won’t always (or ever, for that matter) be there on patrol to discourage potential litterers!

Of course you don’t have to officially adopt a road to pick up litter, but if you are cleaning up your neighborhood, or anywhere else, please make sure to watch out for traffic and have adult supervision if necessary!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Conservationists Petition for Modern Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan

Environmentalists say the federal government's current plan for re-establishing the Mexican gray wolf in the wild is outdated and legally invalid, and petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday to revise it.

This is an area of great concern for the Wolf Conservation Center as we participate in the plan and currently house over 20 Mexican Gray Wolves.

To read a press release from WildEarth Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity about the petition, click on "More" below.

To download a copy of the petition as a PDF file, please click here.

For Immediate Release, December 3, 2008
Rob Edward, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 573-4898 x 762,
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 534-0360,
Dave Parsons, The Rewilding Institute, (505) 275-1944

Conservationists Petition for Modern Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan
SANTA FE, N.M— Conservationists filed a formal petition today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling on the agency to revise the outdated and legally invalid Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. The petition was filed under authority of the federal Administrative Procedures Act, which requires the government to consider and, if appropriate, to act in a timely fashion on petitions that seek to better implement existing legal obligations. Amendments to the Endangered Species Act in 1988 established content standards for recovery plans not met in the 1982 Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan.

A new, up-to-date recovery plan is necessary to ensure the future recovery of Mexican wolves within their historic range. The 1982 plan called for breeding Mexican wolves in captivity and establishing at least two viable populations through reintroduction, including enabling the first reintroduced population to reach at least 100 animals.
The 1982 plan provides antiquated guidance in managing reintroduced Mexican wolves, and does not include benchmarks for downlisting the species to threatened status nor for removing it from federal protection. These shortcomings have enabled a highly politicized Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid taking steps to grow the population, which in a count taken at the beginning of this year stood at 52 animals and just three breeding pairs.

“It’s time to free the lobo from the shackles of an antiquated recovery plan,” said Rob Edward, director of carnivore recovery for WildEarth Guardians. A revised recovery plan should be completed before revisions to policies governing the reintroduction project are completed, Edward said. “It’s a fool’s errand to base new policies on a plan that has been gathering dust for over two decades,” he said. “We’re managing these rare wolves based on a plan written before the advent of the personal computer.”

A previous Mexican Wolf Recovery Team completed a working draft of a new recovery plan in 1996, but the federal agency never approved it. In 1998, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would revise the existing recovery plan, but did not do so. In 2003, the agency appointed a new recovery team, which was on track to complete an updated plan in 2005. In March 2005, the agency’s regional director, H. Dale Hall – now the national director of the agency – suspended meetings of the team.
Dave Parsons, formerly the Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service and now the carnivore conservation biologist for The Rewilding Institute, drove home the imperative of revising the recovery plan. “At the end of 2007, 26 years after adoption of a recovery plan and nearly 11 years following initial reintroductions, the total wild population of Mexican wolves is far short of reintroduction goals. We could lose the lobo in the wild for a second time if my former agency doesn’t get serious about recovery.”

“Recovery is the goal of the Endangered Species Act, and recovery plans are road maps showing how to get there,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “A recovery plan without recovery criteria is the equivalent of a map showing a flat Earth with edges dropping off. North America’s most imperiled mammal deserves the benefits of 21st century science.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Otter Nonsense

As I've mentioned before, we love to give our wolves opportunities for enrichment - experiences that will provide them with interesting sensations or challenges. A few weeks ago when Atka was appearing at the Maritime Aquarium, his handler Rebecca had the great idea of asking our hosts for an item from one of their enclosures so our wolves could enjoy some new scents. The Aquarium folks were nice enough to give us a towel from the otter enclosure. We wanted something smelly, and this more than fit the bill!

Atka played with the towel a bit while we were there, but the real fun started when we returned to the Center where a group of visitors was watching our three other ambassador wolves. We gave the towel to Spencer, who was teaching the program, to throw into the enclosure and that's where our plan went a little astray. The story is best told in photos, so click here to see the rest of the story. (Click on the photos to see bigger versions.)