Friday, April 27, 2012

The WCC Is Planning For Pups!

For over a week now many Wolf Conservation Center supporters have been spying on our four breeding pairs via our new WildEarth.TV webcams. We've watched a red wolf family frolic in the spring breeze, heard several howling sessions, and have seen several bellies swell to remarkable sizes! All four females are displaying maternal behavior so now we're all just watching and waiting.

Mexican wolf F749
The WCC is so fortunate to have already welcomed critically endangered pups on two occasions. On Earth day (of all days) in 2008, six healthy and adorable Mexican gray wolves were born off exhibit. These pups were the first to ever be born at the WCC! We welcomed pups a second time 2 years ago this May when red wolves m1803 and m1804 were born in the dense thicket in our red wolf exhibit. Will the WCC be blessed with red or Mexican gray pups again this year? If so, what happens next?

In the case that any of or Mexican wolves or red wolves have pups, we'll do initial health checks on the newborns and then allow the parents to do their job. There is a chance, however, that some of the pups will receive the "call of the wild!"

The Red Wolf Recovery Plan employs a pup fostering program to introduce captive red wolves into the wild. Captive-to-wild fostering is a coordinated effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Red Wolf Recovery Program, and the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP). Fostering is a method which allows genetically valuable captive-born red wolf pups to become integrated into the wild red wolf population. The pup-fostering method has been extremely successful for nearly a decade, this video from the North Carolina Zoo depicts the first ever foster event from 2002!
Every spring, red wolf field biologists in North Carolina listen for the whines and peeps of wild red wolf pups as they search for dens. When biologists locate dens, each pup is counted and tagged and blood samples are collected before the pup is carefully returned. Some of these dens will serve as the foster home for captive born red wolf pups.
As soon as captive red wolves are born at the any of the participating RWSSP facilities, the host organization alerts the field biologists of their great news. If the captive born litter is robust and the date of births match those of wild red wolves, a couple of 7 to10-day-old pups (number of pups depends on the size of the litter) are removed from the litter and transferred to North Carolina. Ideally, each year a few captive born pups are blessed with this opportunity and are embraced by their wild foster parents. The pups then develop in thus gain survival skills required to mature and reproduce.
Thanks to our Webcams, we saw some very encouraging breeding behavior and now denning behavior too. So we might very well find out soon whether or not the WCC will be able to contribute to the wild red wolf population with some pups later this spring!

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