Sunday, December 21, 2008
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.