Friday, March 27, 2009

Ready to Howl?

Now that the weather is finally warming up, the Wolf Conservation Center will again host Friday and Saturday evening howls.

You’ll get a chance to learn about wolves, observe our ambassadors, howl with them (they usually join in), and enjoy some season-appropriate treats. Yes, that means ice cream now that it’s getting hot! For a preview of the howls, check out this great video that Chiara, an 8-year old visitor, was nice enough to share with us from a winter program.

Click here to view our calendar for upcoming programs. We hope to see you this spring!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Visit From The Vets

People often ask us how we monitor the health of our wolves. Needless to say, the well-being of our wolves is the top priority of the Wolf Conservation Center, so we constantly take stock of their health. In addition to conducting frequent visual monitoring of the SSP and ambassador wolves, we also conduct periodic veterinary checks for hands-on assessments, vaccinations, and blood-work.

Under program protocols, the SSP wolves (critically endangered Mexican Gray Wolves and Red Wolves that are housed at our facility under a federal program) must be checked by a veterinarian on a yearly basis. Since we have over 20 SSP wolves, the most recent check-ups had to be conducted on three different dates this past fall.

The WCC is very lucky and grateful to have the veterinarians Dr. Charlie Duffy of Norwalk Veterinary Hospital, and Drs. Renee Bayha and Kim Khodakhah of Pound Ridge Veterinary Center donate their time and services to us. It takes dedicated and caring people to venture out in the cold to work in the field, sometime for hours, as the wolves are isolated in capture boxes so they can be thoroughly checked. Huge thanks also go to all the volunteers who helped out, including Chuck Dyckman of Dyckman’s Wildlife Control ((800) 696-7803) who is invaluable, especially when it comes to ensuring the safety of our wolves and volunteers.

For photos from two of the check-ups, please click here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Peter and a Real Wolf

Just thought I'd fill you in on a(nother) pretty good day at the Wolf Conservation Center. Today we were lucky enough to do a special program at the NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in New York City. The renowned pediatric hospital was presenting a live performance of Peter and the Wolf for patients and local schoolchildren. The organizers thought it would be a nice idea for everybody to get a chance to see Atka, our traveling ambassador Arctic Gray Wolf, and learn a little about the way wolves really live and act in the wild. So before the Russian National Orchestra Wind Quintet and narrator Gregg Whiteside performed the classic story, Atka (handled by Rebecca Bose) strolled around the room as we fielded some great questions from the audience. The only downside was that we couldn't stay for the entire performance! I probably have the entire piece memorized anyway, since my sisters and I used to listen to it (the Peter Ustinov version) all the time when we were growing up. I never dreamed I'd one day speak before a performance, let alone work with wolves!

We don't have any photos from the hospital (though we may get some at some point), but we do have some from our return to the Center, when Atka took advantage of the warm weather with a short dip before his dinner. Don't worry - no ducks were harmed! Click here to view the photos.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Visit to the Vet

If you have a pet, you know how difficult it can be to bring him/her to the veterinarian. Well, to paraphrase Einstein: “Do not worry about your difficulties in bringing your animal to the vet. I can assure you ours are still greater.” The issue came up last month when we got the word that F516, an 11 year-old Mexican Gray Wolf, had to be brought to the vet to be spayed.

To read more about this and for links to photos and video, please click "more" below.


F516 is one of 23 wolves living at the WCC as part of the federal Species Survival Plan for the critically endangered Mexican Gray Wolves. She is a remarkably healthy and spirited wolf, but is no longer able to successfully carry pups to term. Spaying will help protect her health, but because she is so genetically valuable, the directors of the SSP asked that her ovaries be preserved after the operation so that any viable eggs (oocytes) could be harvested. As soon as the procedure was over, the ovaries had to be rushed to La Guardia Airport so they could be flown to the St. Louis Zoo and the oocytes extracted.

First, of course, we had to get her to the vet. Not an easy task given F516's athleticism (I wish I had half her vertical leap), speed, and fear of humans. Luckily, thanks to the foresight of wolf curator Rebecca Bose and the efforts of a team of volunteers, F516 was coaxed into a travel crate with a minimum of fuss.

She was then transported to the Norwalk (CT) Veterinary Hospital where Dr. Charles Duffy performed the operation under the watchful eyes and camera lenses of F516’s sizeable entourage. We are very thankful to Dr. Duffy, who has been an invaluable friend to the WCC for years. The ovaries were then whisked to the airport by volunteer Mike McGuire, who ably dealt with the traffic and inevitable bureaucratic snafus.

Later that afternoon we received word that 67 viable eggs, even more than expected, had been successfully harvested. More importantly, by that time F516 was already comfortably resting in her enclosure at the Center. None of us was surprised that within a day she seemed to have fully recovered her usual energy. Perhaps one of the best “side-effects” of the spaying is that she will now be able to spend winters with her mate, M575. We wish them both many years of healthy companionship!

For a video of highlights from the day, please click here. Please note: this video is not gory, but it does show some of the operation. If you are squeamish, you probably will not enjoy watching it.

For some non-gory photos, click here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How you can speak up for wolves

Last week Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the federal government's decision to eliminate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for wolves in the northern Rocky mountain states of Idaho and Montana, and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon. Wolves will retain federal protection in Wyoming, where Interior Department officials say recovery efforts have been inadequate. The policy change to delist the gray wolf was made in January before President Obama took office, but its adoption was put on hold so it could be reviewed by the new administration. This decision marks the second time in twelve months the government has moved to lift ESA protections from wolves. Conservation groups successfully sued to get the protections reinstated in July 2008 and more lawsuits are sure to follow. The state-by-state approach to delisting wolves will raise some hackles from both conservation groups as well as the state of Wyoming.
If your hackles are up, please call the US Fish and Wildlife Service and let Interior Secretary Ken Salazar know. Thanks to Defenders of Wildlife, here's some direction:

Make your voice heard. Call the US Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-344-9453 (between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM Eastern Time, Monday-Friday), select option “3” (for endangered species) and hit “0” to speak with the operator. Once you are connected, just deliver this simple message:
My name is [your name] and I am calling from [City, State] to express my extreme disappointment in Interior Secretary Salazar’s decision to implement the Bush Administration’s flawed plan to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana.
If this rule is allowed to stand, nearly two-thirds of the wolves in the Northern Rockies could be killed starting as soon as this spring. I strongly urge Secretary Salazar to stop the implementation of this awful decision and reconsider his approach to wolf conservation in the Northern Rockies.
Important: Please let Defenders of Wildlife know that you called. They will be closely tracking the number of calls in order to ensure that all our voices are heard on this important issue. Secretary Salazar and the Obama Administration need to know about how strongly Americans support protecting our wolves.
I was on hold for 15 minutes while others I know got through immediately.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who Needs Photos?

After our recent visit to the American Museum of Natural History, one of the audience members gave us this drawing of the presentation. So big thanks to Santiago, age 8, for a great job! (And sorry about the less-than-perfect scan.)

If you have artwork or photos of our wolves, we'd love to see it! You can email it to us at

Friday, March 6, 2009

Secretary Ken Salazar Approves Removing Gray Wolves From Endangered Species List

The Obama administration upheld a Bush decision to take wolves off of the Endangered Species List in the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes region.

To read more from the Associated Press - "Feds OK gray wolves' removal from endangered list", click

Monday, March 2, 2009

Who Says There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch?

I love this story because it combines several aspects of the Wolf Conservation Center's mission. We always make it a point to tell people that they can do something every day to make the world around them a better place. And we always like to remind people that wolves, being wild animals, should not be kept as pets - people should adopt dogs instead. A couple of great dogs that were adopted from shelters are pictured above. Charlie, the lab mix on the left, is part of the WCC staff pack. He was adopted from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control in Arizona. Tiger, on the right, spent 15 years with my best friend. An Airedale/Wolfhound mix (probably) from the North Shore Animal League in Long Island, NY, Tiger literally selected my friend's family by gently grabbing her mother's arm as the family walked by.

Why am I going on about shelter dogs? Well, recently I read an article about an organization that has donated almost 85 million pieces of kibble (that's over 55 tons!) to feed dogs (and cats) in animal shelters. Naturally I was very happy about that, but I was floored when I read that it was founded by a 12 year old girl, Mimi Ausland. Talk about doing something to make the world a better place...

You can help too, with just a couple of clicks! Just go to her website, try to answer the entertaining daily trivia question about dogs, and, voila!, 10 pieces of kibble are donated by Castor & Pollux Pet Works. The kibble is then distributed to animal shelters. After answering the question about dogs, you can click on the link to go to to feed cats the same way. It's simple, quick, and fun - you don't even have to get the question right.

We hope you'll join us in making a visit to Mimi's website part of your daily routine. And don't forget to check out local shelters if you're thinking about getting a dog or cat!