Friday, February 4, 2011

Saving a Species, One Egg at a Time

Mexican gray wolf F628
Just a few days after federal officials delivered promising news about the wild lobo population growing for the first time in 4 years, Mexican gray wolf F628 unknowingly made a priceless contribution allowing her species to persist. F628 is one of the 16 Mexican wolves that call the Wolf Conservation Center home. The 11-year-old female is too old to be chosen to breed but this does preclude her from contributing to the future survival of her species. Genetic management and preservation are central to the conservation of a critically endangered species. Maintaining genetic diversity within the Mexican gray wolf population is a challenge so the directors of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP) ask that older females in the program are spayed (for their own health benefit) and their viable eggs (oocytes) conserved for future use in the Mexican wolf in vitro fertilization program.  Our first step was capturing F628.

The WCC team of volunteers and staff met this early morning prepared to meet the inevitable challenges that the snowy terrain would create in catching the elusive wolf. While naturally ill-equipped humans are tasked with laboring through the deep icy mix, wolves can maneuver effortlessly with their large paws working like snow shoes. Thankfully, we did not need to move much at all, the mere presence of our menacing crew scared F628 straight into a capture box.

The WCC team give F628 a sleigh ride
After we successfully crated F628, we carefully brought the kennel down from our endangered species facility located high in the woods on the WCC's 27 acres and into our van. I don't think F628 has ever been on a sleigh ride before! About an hour after the capture, we were greeted by the friendly and accommodating team at the Norwalk Veterinary Hospital in Norwalk, CT.

Dr Charlie Duffy successfully spayed F628 and her ovaries were packed and shipped after the quick and graceful operation. Within 4 hours of her capture, F628 was returned home where she and her handsome companion peacefully reside off exhibit in their vast and snowing enclosure. Thanks to F628 and the Norwalk Veterinary Hospital, the future of the lobo is looking brighter.


Jean Ossorio said...

Thanks, F628! And thanks to WCC for the story and photos. ^..^

Michael said...

After rereading the WCC-Blog "Remembering Mexican Gray Wolf M190" (January 20, 2010) and his biography (inserted link), I'm guessing that F628 is a hybrid (with dog). Although she lived under wolves, it seems she preferred dogs (I suppose her litter wasn't a coyote hybridization), or she and her "wolf" mate are both hybrids and the hybridization was intensified in the litter. Normally, hybridization is a danger only for wandering lone wolves.

My suspicion: In most cases, the livestock incidents are caused by hybrids (dogs are fed with beef, in the West).
Such a "wolf" MUST be removed from the recovery project. In some hybrids the dog part is maybe stronger as the wolf part.

Differently can it be on handicapped wolves like the two three-legged Alphas of the Middle Fork pack. The USFWS does help them for getting their normal prey, and from this time on they avoid livestock: they enjoy deer more.

I don't know how extensive the hybridization (with dogs) is in the Mexican Wolf population, and how difficult it is to find it out. If I would commission a laboratory check of wolf blood or such, I would do it with two or three different persons (I have bad experiences in human medicine).

Maybe, the eggs of F628 will be checked for implanting; there could be some eggs with a weak "dog genome". Remember: our ancestors rebred some extinct animals without having a tool like DNA analysis.

Instead of breeding with a probably/possibly hybrid "Mexican Wolf" one can add outside blood (pure Northern/Western Grey Wolves e.g.), if the genetic base for breeding with pure Mexican Wolves is too little.

nywolf said...

Hi Michael,
Thank you for following the WCC Blog and the Mexican Gray wolf Recovery Project. It is so unfortunate that F628 was unable to continue her life in the wild after she produced a hybrid litter. She is a beautiful, elusive wolf and I believe she would have thrived in her ancestral home in the wilds of the Southwest. F628 is a pure Mexican gray wolf who happened to produce a litter of wolf/dog pups. This is not a common occurrence and it is very possible that in her case it was not a natural one. Let’s hope that her genetically valuable eggs (57 viable eggs were harvested by the way!) can help the future of the recovery program and that she lives the remainder of her life peacefully off exhibit at the WCC.

Michael said...

Hi, thank's for the info.
But why "off exhibit" after that, or will she help educate the Mexican Wolf pubs, which will be born in the spring I hope ?