Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Wolves of Isle Royale Face Extinction

Rolf Peterson of Michigan Tech University was the lead biologist on Isle Royale for decades. In this photo, Peterson gives WCC educators an opportunity to help process an elk that was taken down by Yellowstone wolves.

The number of wolves that call Lake Superior’s Isle Royale home has dwindled to just 16 with only two breeding females. Scientists fear that this limited population may not be sustainable much longer.

Isle Royale, a U.S. National Park, is primarily a wilderness area and it's been a wonderful outdoor laboratory for many decades. It’s a nearly controlled natural environment because the wolf is the only large predator and moose is their sole source of food. The predator-prey relationship on the island has been the focus of scientific study for over 50 years, the longest wild wolf study in U.S. history.

To learn more about Isle Royale and this unique popultion of wolves, please visit The Wolves and Moose of Isle Royale website.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Big Bad Wolf of Oregon?

Chirs Baxter / The Observer
This new billboard depicting a snarling wolf and cattle grazing in a pasture was erected by the Wallowa County Stock Growers earlier this month. It's disappointing that within a state with just 25 wolves there exists such venom. What could a new billboard reflect to convey the efforts to bridge the needs of the ranching community and wildlife?

To read more about the billboard in an article (and comments) in The Observer, please click here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red Wolf M1483 Plays Hide and Seek!

Wolves are naturally shy and elusive.  Although red wolf M1483 tends to be the most outgoing in his pack, he too likes a good game of hide and seek.  Can you find him in this photo?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wolves and Politics: An Update

Wolves, their recovery, and the status of this keystone predator in the United States continue to be really hot topics in Washington D.C..  So much so, that with the introduction of bills, amendments, riders and settlements, many wildlife advocates are left exhausted and confused...  Here is an overview of the proposed legislation that many fear pose a threat to wolf recovery:

HR 509   
To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide that Act shall not apply to the gray wolf (Canis lupus).  This bill would delist all gray wolves, including the last remaining 50 Mexican gray wolves that reside in the wild.
Sponsor: Rep Rehberg, Denny [MT]
Introduced: 1/26/2011
Cosponsors: 49
Related Bills: S.249
Latest Major Action: 1/26/2011 -Referred to House committee.
Status: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Idaho and Montana Wolf Management Act of 2011.  This bill would delist Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves in Idaho and Montana.
Sponsor: Rep Rehberg, Denny [MT]
Introduced: 1/26/2011
Cosponsors: 2
Related Bills: H.R.838
Latest Major Action: 1/26/2011 - Referred to House committee.
Status: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require that certain species be treated as extinct for purposes of that Act if there is not a substantial increase in the population of a species during the 15-year period beginning on the date the species is determined to be an endangered species, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Baca [CA]
Introduced: 3/11/2011
Cosponsors: 8
Latest Major Action: 3/11/11: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Status: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
HR 838
To prohibit treatment of gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as endangered species, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Kline [MN]
Introduced: 2/28/2011
Cosponsors: 8
Latest Major Action: 2/28/11: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Status: Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

S 321    
A bill to provide for the status of the Northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment of the gray wolf, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Baucus [MT]
Introduced: 2/10/2011
Cosponsors: 1
Latest Major Action: 2/10/11: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Status: Referred to  to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

S 249
A bill to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide that Act shall not apply to any gray wolf (Canis lupus).
Sponsor: Sen Hatch [UT]
Introduced: 2/1/2011
Related Bills: H.R.509
Latest Major Action: 2/1/2011 Referred to Senate committee.
Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011
The Continuing Resolution Bill, which is needed to continue to fund government operations, had numerous amendments to delist or defund wolves. Two of these were attached as riders by Senator Jon Tester and by Representative Steven Pearce. The Continuing Resolution Bill was defeated in its previous versions but will be coming back, and no-one in the Senate has taken action to remove the Tester rider to delist the northern Rockies gray wolves.

If the above proposed legislation have your hackles raised, it's not to late to contact your representatives to share your concerns.

TO CONTACT:  regarding bills in the House (HR...) or Senate (S...)
  1. House Committee on Natural Resources - Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs    or
  2. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works - Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife   or
TO CONTACT:  regarding "riders" in the budget bills: 

Senate Committee on Appropriations - Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies:   -    or

For the latest updates on the above legislation please visit and

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    Canids and Conservation

    What a treat! Dr. Gregory Rasmussen and Alison Nicholls of the Painted Dog Conservation Project (PDC) came by the WCC this afternoon to talk canids and conservation. Painted Dogs, also known as African Wild Dogs, are unique to Africa and they are among the continent's most endangered species. The PDC works closely with the local communities in Zimbabwe to educate people about the importance of healthy painted dog populations and to employ conservation methods that are improving the outlook of this beautiful predator.  Although there has been some success, the PDC faces challenges that are similar the ones wolf recovery programs confront here in the U.S.  Poaching, livestock conflicts, and fear are among the issues that plague the conservation efforts of both species.

    We discussed the recovery of both species, the wonderful victories that occur through education, and more while sitting in the sun up by Atka's enclosure.  Atka seemed uninterested by our chatter but out of the blue, on a few occasions, he began to howl.  He didn't carry on for long, just a single howl every now and then to perhaps remind us who the "top dog" is! 

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Atka's Day at the Lake

    Atka wowed the Seneca Falls community last night after a fun filled day at the Cayuga Lake. The air was brisk but that didn't stop him from taking a dip after scent-rolling in fragrant who-knows-what on the shoreline.

    By day's end, Atka had fun leaving the enthusiastic community with two things: a deeper understanding of the importance of wild wolves and his signature scent :)

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Art Contest Update

    Something to shout about: We're awarding a Lords of Nature DVD to Seela, who sent some amazing drawings to our Student Art Contest. The contest is open until the end of April, but Seela wins our first random weekly prize for sending art all the way from Finland! Details about the contest are available here.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    U.S. District Judge Molloy to Decide the Fate of Wolves... Again

    Federal protections for wolves were eliminated in the northern Rocky Mountain States of Idaho and Montana, and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon in May of 2009. In delisting wolves, the Fish and Wildlife Service authorized Idaho and Montana to hold wolf hunts that year, Montana’s ending with 73 wolves killed and Idaho with 185. The controversial hunts as well as the state-by-state approach to delisting wolves raised hackles from several conservation groups and in little time over a dozen of them filed suit to restore federal protections. Just over a year later in August of 2010, the plaintiffs were victorious as U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the federal efforts to remove federal protections from Montana and Idaho but not neighboring Wyoming were driven by politics, not science. His ruling was celebrated as a win for wolves and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as it is applied to wolves and other endangered species.

    Last week, ten of these plaintiffs announced that they aim to settle with the Department of Interior regarding federal protections for wolves of the Northern Rockies. Many wolf supporters are shocked and outraged by this proposal offered by conservation groups that were victorious less than a year ago.  If this proposal is approved by the court, it will remove the recently restored federal protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana and once again allow public hunting of the predator in the two states. Although the majority of the plaintiffs are on board to settle, three wildlife advocacy groups are holding firm. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds Project, and Friends of the Clearwater pledge to continue to fight the battle for wolves in the Rockies.

    Today, Judge Malloy will once again hold the fate of this controversial population of wolves in his hands as the proposal to settle goes before his court in Missoula. So now we wait for a decision and hope that the rift between the several conservation groups and their supporters will not prevent us from accomplishing a goal that we all once shared - to safeguard the future of this misunderstood predator the cornerstone of our Country's environmental law, the ESA. Stay tuned...

    To read more about today's hearing and the proposed settlement from the Missoulian, please click here.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Some Souvenirs for the Seniors

    Atka visited a great group at the Greenwich Connecticut Senior Center this morning! Everyone loved him and Atka was apparently quite fond of them too. He marked his territory in several ways (some a bit crude...) and at program's end he left them a parting gift, his autograph on their front steps.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Today is U.N. World Water Day! How Will you Celebrate?

    Today is U.N. World Water Day! It's a global event honored every year on March 22nd dedicated to focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. What do you do to conserve water? Please let us know!

    To learn more about U.N. World Water Day please visit their website at: Special events are taking place worldwide and perhaps in your community too!

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Sombody's Happy!

    There's nothing like a snowy morning in the spring to make an arctic wolf smile.  This frosty weather is just what Atka ordered!  Soon he'll be more tolerant of the warmer weather as he has already begun shedding his thick undercoat (learn more about the shedding process from When and Why Wolves Shed).  Enjoy the snow while it lasts, Atka!

    Atka Visits "Pet Talk" with Lauren Collier!

    Atka and crew visited CT News 12's "Pet Talk" with Lauren Collier today! During our last visit to the News 12 set, Atka had a great time destroying an inflatable palm tree and a flamingo or two... No casualties today, perhaps he's weary after busy night frolicking under the the "Super Moon."  The episode will appear next Sunday (March 27, 2011) so try to catch it if you're in Connecticut!

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Several Wildlife Advocacy Groups File Settlement in Wolf Delisting Case

    Yesterday's announcement that a number of plaintiffs are seeking a settlement with the Department of Interior regarding wolf recovery and management in the Northern Rockies comes as a shock to many who have been following the emotional and political roller coaster.  Although ten wildlife advocacy groups announced a proposed settlement, three of the plaintiffs (the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds and Friends of the Clearwater) are holding firm.  If approved by the court, the agreement would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in Idaho and Montana, while retaining full protection in Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and Utah. Most surprising about the proposed settlement is that it follows a relatively recent victory for the plaintiffs - an injunction in federal court putting Northern Rocky Mountain wolves back on the Endangered Species List after demonstrating that federal efforts to delist wolves were not based on science.  How will this settlement impact wildlife, the ESA, and the organizations proposing to settle?  It feels like the political wolf "ride" will not cease to surprise...

    To read more about the proposed settlement in the Helena Independent Record, please click here.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Why and When Wolves Shed

    It's 70 degrees out today and WCC staff and volunteers have a major case of "Spring Fever!" Too bad one member of the WCC family chooses not to celebrate the warm winds, I think he has a case the "Balmy Blues."  Atka has barely begun to shed his coat so he's better equipped for a blizzard than a warm front.

    A sample of the insulating undercoat
    But Atka shouldn't fret, in no time his insulating undercoat will begin to fall from his body like sheets of soft wool and he'll be better prepared for the warmer months to come.  What triggers the shedding process?   This time of year both male an female wolves have rising levels of a hormone called prolactin.  Prolactin levels increase with the onset of long days and during the short days of winter the hormone levels decrease.  It is believed that prolactin has many key roles.  High levels of the hormone contribute to the following:

    1) Development of the mammary gland for expectant wolf mothers
    2) Maintenance of lactation - helps milk production in wolf mothers
    3) Promotion of parental behavior in both males and females and thus enhances pup survival
    4) Shedding of the undercoat!

    So longer days alter the chemical makeup of wolves and help ensure that they spend the spring and summer months in comfort with their happy healthy packs.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Get your green on! Ollie's sporting his St. Patrick's Day duds and you can too! Visit the WCC's Website Shop on and make every day a green day :)

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Sixteen Legislators Speak up for Wolves

    Mexican gray wolf F837
    Sixteen members of the Arizona State Legislature sent a letter to President Obama to express their concerns and opposition to recent efforts in the United States Congress to remove and exclude Mexican gray wolves from the endangered species list. The great folks at Lobos of the Southwest are helping people THANK these Arizona legislators for speaking up for lobos and the importance of the Endangered Species Act! More support is needed so please visit their site's action page dedicated to assisting people with helpful tips about what YOU can do.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Announcing: Art Contest!

    Red wolf howling
    We couldn't help but notice that the Wolf Conservation Center has a lot of fans who are great artists. Often people, especially students, present us with beautiful drawings or paintings when we're at programs. Sometimes they even sketch Atka during the program! Well, we want to see more of your amazing work, so we're announcing our first Art Contest, open to everybody who is 18 years-old or younger.

    Elk grazes in Yellowstone National Park

    Kaila resting in the sunlight


    We're looking for drawings or paintings of wolves or their environment (which can include the other animals they live with). The rules are very simple and they're all here. We'll be awarding prizes in a bunch of different categories (and probably be giving some out randomly). Teachers - you can enter as a class if you want. The deadline isn't for a while so you have plenty of time to think of what to draw. And please spread the word!

    Yellowstone National Park
    Can't wait to see your work!

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Spring Ahead...

    ... right into a comfy bed. No use losing sleep over daylight saving time!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    We Remember Apache

    A year ago today Apache, the alpha of our ambassador pack, passed away. His big howl and warm heart were instrumental in educating thousands of people and helping the Wolf Conservation Center develop. Those who knew him will never forget him.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Discounted Photo Session

    If you've been waiting to schedule a visit to the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, here's a great opportunity: Our Sunset Photo Session this Sunday March 13 is being offered at half price. Space is limited, so check out the details on our website here (price shown is the discounted price). It's a great opportunity to take photos of the wolves while they still have their winter coats.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    The Mating Game

    It was almost exactly a year ago that critically endangered red wolves F1397 and M1483 consummated their relationship at the Wolf Conservation Center. It looks like the time is right again! Well, almost...

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Love Thy Neighbors?

    Atka, with a snack close at paw,  gazes across at his neighbors

    Everybody at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY is quite excited to see one of our pairs of endangered red wolves acting amorously now that it's breeding season. We're hoping that F1397 and M1483 will produce their second litter of pups later this spring.

    Well, perhaps not everybody is thrilled with the romantic activity.  Atka, our ambassador Arctic gray wolf, has a front row seat for viewing his next door neighbors, but seems less than impressed by whatever canoodling he's witnessing.



    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Join us for Lunch!

    After what we hope was an exhausting evening for red wolves F1397 and M1483, the red wolf family should enjoy a nice big meal. It's unlikely the pack is willing to share their venison feast but that doesn't mean you can't watch! Check out our WOLFCAM starting at 12PM today. Not only should this meal allow you to observe all four red wolves (F1397, M1483 and their 2 soon to be yearling sons m1803 and m1804) but also a chance to watch some of the behaviors wolves show over a carcass. See if you can spot anything interesting and if you do, please tell us about it here on our blog or on the WCC's Facebook Page. Enjoy!

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Smitten or Bitten...

    It's the tail end of breeding season and we've been watching red wolves F1397 and M1483 very closely hoping for a repeat performance of last year.  We estimate that the two lovebirds engaged in a copulatory "tie" a year ago this week and based on some courtship behaviors we seen of late (see It's Okay to Stare), we're hopeful we'll be celebrating pups again soon.  What sort of "courtship" behavior does one look for to know that they are getting along?   It isn't always easy for an observer to determine if the wolves are a "couple" or not and as it turns out, some romantic signals can be confusing for the wolves too!  Check out this video of F1397 and M1483 from February 2010 and you make the call.  Do they seem like a "couple" to you?  Wait for just past the 2 minute mark.  Hilarious!

    Music: "Teen Beast" by Los Straitjackets and "My Girl" by Madness

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Just Another Morning...

    The sun is rising here at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, but things are already in full swing. One of our Mexican gray wolves arches her head back and sends a long mournful howl toward the morning sky as our red wolf family trots around its enclosure before uniting to howl back. In another enclosure, our other two red wolves pause to check out each other's "marks." This is a good sign - it's mating season and we're hopeful that this pair will breed this year; there are only about 300 red wolves in the world. Outside of the enclosures, an elusive woodpecker announces his (her?) lofty presence, while several loudly gobbling turkeys strut by the base of the trees.  Yup, just another morning...

    Mexican gray wolf surveys her world
    Male red wolf investigates his mate's scent

    I'm sure this turkey has no idea how it got there

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    A Victory for Wolves and the Endangered Species Act!

    Atka celebrates with a victory dance!

    VICTORY! Less than an hour ago the U.S. Senate shut down HR 1! This budget bill, a Continuing Resolution, had numerous riders attached to it, including Section 1713 which would have removed wolves from the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and would have also banned the issue from any future judicial review.

    Thank you to all the people who contacted their Senators!!! The battle over wolves on Capitol Hill continues, but today is a VICTORY day for wolves. Please try to follow up and thank the Senators you contacted for today's outcome :)

    Atka: Ambassador and Muse

    Atka visited Connecticut's Clinton Child Care last Friday and inspired an enthusiastic group of children about the importance of his wild brothers and sisters.  Atka was a huge hit!  The kids especially enjoyed watching a wolf delicately remove individual crayons and markers from their cubbyholes before tossing them on the floor.  Perhaps Atka's antics inspired 8-year-old Kaitlyn to pick up a pencil and sketch a fabulous rendition of the visitor.  If you have an artist in the family or in your classroom, please let them know that this month begins the WCC's first Art contest!  We LOVE when WCC supporters share their wolf artwork with us and we look forward to sharing some of our favorites with the masses. Email a photo of your artwork to or send the original (if you are willing to let us keep it) to WCC Po Box 421 South Salem, NY 10590.  The winners will receive a WCC "goodie bag" later this season.  Grab a crayon and get busy!