Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wolf Conservation Center Welcome Newest Red Wolf Residents

Today marks the beginning of what we hope will be a great adventure for red wolves M1921 and M1922. At this very moment, the two young males from the Trevor Zoo are busy exploring their new digs at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC)!

It's wolf breeding season, a time of romance and a time for facilities participating in the red wolf Species Survival Plan to separate each pack’s non-breeding males and females. We do this as a precaution to prevent inbreeding during the winter months. If an organization is without supplementary enclosure space, dividing wolves during the winter months requires more than a fence. This is when fellow participants in the red wolf SSP step in to lend a helping paw.

The great folks from the Trevor Zoo arrived at the WCC in the early afternoon in a van packed with critically endangered cargo. It was the first road trip for the two wolves and likely just the first of many exciting experiences they'll face in the coming months. Ambassador wolf Atka, WCC's self acclaimed CEO, was behaving like a busybody as he watched us carry the kennels into the enclosure adjacent to his home. With hackles and tail raised, he clearly aimed to assert his position to the rookie reds. Once we arrived in their new temporary home, we opened the kennel doors to allow their adventure to begin. The boys were very cautious, both unwilling to exit their carriers at first. But when prompted with a little poke, they both dashed into the unknown, a vast enclosure full of Nature's furniture for them to mark and claim as their own. Have fun boys!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ambassador Wolf Atka's Snow Song

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Neighbors Have the Wolf Conservation Center Seeing Red

January marks the beginning of the 2013 breeding season. This means romance is in the air, but not for everyone. The Species Survival Plan (SSP) management groups for both the Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf determine which wolves should be bred each year by using software developed for the population management of endangered species. The WCC is elated that three wolf couples at the Center are getting a chance to increase the genetic diversity of their rare species. All they have to do is prove fruitful. But what about the other red wolves and Mexican wolves that call the WCC home?

During wolf breeding season, we are tasked with separating each pack's non-breeding males and females. In the wild, wolves naturally avoid breeding with pack members, an innate behavior that decreases the risk of adverse mutations. For this reason, it's common for young pack members to disperse from their natal pack in order to breed. Winter intensifies emotions in both wild and captive wolves, but limited by the boundaries of their enclosure, captive wolves are unable to disperse. With such restrictions, it's necessary that all male family members be kept apart from the females until hormones subside.

Due to such captive pack complications that arise during breeding season, the WCC will be lending a helping paw to the Trevor Zoo, a participant of the Red Wolf SSP that doesn't have the luxury of supplementary enclosure space to divide wolves during the winter months. It's only temporary, but on January 30th, Westchester's wolf population will increase by two!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mexican Wolf Doing Well After Making Priceless Contribution

Wolf F613 and her pup in 2007 at Cincinnati Zoo
Early yesterday morning, a small team of Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) staff and volunteers ventured to the WCC's endangered species facility on an important mission: to catch a wolf. It was the first step to help preserve an endangered species. The subject of our undertaking was Mexican gray wolf F613, one of the 15 critically endangered lobos that call the WCC home. The 13-year-old female is beyond her breeding years, but this does preclude her from contributing to the future survival of her species. Maintaining genetic diversity within the Mexican gray wolf population is a challenge so members of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP) management group 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 team was confident that the capture would be a success, but we knew staying nimble with outdoor temperatures hovering around 0°F would be a challenge. Naturally ill-equipped for the cold, we bundled up to the max. All our layers made us appear especially menacing as we lumbered through the spacious enclosure in order to herd the wolves into capture boxes (wooden doghouse-like structures with removable roofs.) Thankfully, we did not need to move much at all, our mere presence prompted the shy lobo to take refuge in the box.

After we successfully crated F613, we carefully brought the kennel down from our remote endangered species facility to load into our van. After a short drive, we were greeted by the friendly and accommodating team at the Norwalk Veterinary Hospital in Norwalk, CT.

Dr Charlie Duffy, who has been an invaluable friend to the WCC for years, successfully spayed F613 without a hitch. The ovaries were then put on ice, packed in a special canister, and rushed to the airport to catch the next flight to Missouri! By late afternoon, we received word that the special cargo arrived safely at St Louis Zoo where all oocytes were extracted and preserved cryogenically. Within 4 hours of her capture, F613 was returned home where she and her three daughters reside off exhibit. Thanks to F613 and the Norwalk Veterinary Hospital, the future of the lobo is looking brighter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saving a Wolf Species One Egg at a Time

Mexican wolf F613 in her summer coat
This week we'll be taking an unusual step in our mission to preserve the endangered Mexican gray wolf - a spaying! In order to maintain genetic diversity within the Mexican gray wolf population, older captive females are often spayed. By having this procedure, 12-year-old Mexican gray wolf F613 will unknowingly make priceless contribution allowing her species to persist. Norwalk Veterinary Hospital's Dr Charlie Duffy VMD will remove her ovaries and then we'll send them to the St. Louis Zoo where all viable eggs (oocytes) will be extracted and preserved cryogenically. This measure will benefit the health of the F613, will permit her to remain with male companions during breeding season, and gives the Mexican wolf SSP an opportunity to conserve the wolf's remaining viable eggs for future use in the Mexican wolf in vitro fertilization program.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Never Stop Howling

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lone Lobo M1133 Doing Well in the Wild

Mexican gray wolf F749 at the WCC
Sending recently-released Mexican wolf M1133 WILD wishes! The captive born 4-yr-old was released in AZ’s Apache National Forest last week to fill the void within the Bluestem pack created when alpha male M806 was illegally shot and killed. Arizona's KJZZ and other media sources report that the lone lobo is doing well since his release. We can’t wait to tell Mexican wolf F749, one of the fifteen Mexican wolves that currently calls the Wolf Conservation Center home, that her son received the call of the wild. Perhaps she’ll howl, “Run free, be safe, and best of luck contributing to the recovery of our rare species!”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wolf Conservation Center Sends Supporters Howls of Gratitude

 Last week Chase Bank's Carol A Olech visited the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) to make a very special delivery - a check for $50,000 for the Wolf Conservation Center Foundation (WCCF)! The WCCF, a foundation to provide public and financial support to exclusively benefit the WCC, won a $50,000 grant through the Chase Community Giving Fall 2012 program.

WCC supporters who voted on Facebook (fully 4,917 of them) enabled us to win the stunning prize. The funds are earmarked to help the WCC Foundation buy the last remaining lot of our 27-acre site that we do not already own. Securing ownership of this lot will ensure our ability to stay in our beautiful and nearly ideal home. We are so grateful to those of you who turned out on Facebook again to vote for us. We placed a remarkable 44th in the Chase contest in which charities nationwide vied for $5 million in grants. Further, our tally of nearly 5,000 votes made us one of only 46 organizations to be awarded $50,000 or more. A margin of only 360 votes made the difference in placing contestants over to “top 46” threshold, so every one of your vote mattered in keeping the WCC in the running for $50,000 award instead of seeing our cause drop to the $20,000 level.

Ms. Olech was serenaded with howls of gratitude when visiting the wolves that grant will support. Atka, Zephyr and Alawa also send howls to our wonderful supporters who made this victory possible. Thank you!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hunting and Trapping to Resume Outside Yellowstone

On December 10th, Yellowstone wolves got a temporary reprieve. Montana wildlife commissioners closed down the gray wolf hunting season in some areas outside Yellowstone National Park after several collared wolves were shot when beyond the safety of the park's reach. This move came just days after Yellowstone Wolf “06″ fell victim outside the park in neighboring Wyoming. The closures prohibited hunting and trapping and included areas north of the park around the town of Gardiner.

This decision was celebrated by wildlife advocates but criticized by Citizens for Balanced Use, Big Game Forever, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, and Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and soon thereafter these anti-wolf extremist groups filed a restraining order. On January 2nd, Judge Nels Swandal issued an injunction overruling the commission’s decision, thus allowing hunting & trapping to resume.

On Jan, 14th at 3PM, a hearing will be held in Livingtson, MT to determine whether the injunction will remain in effect. Some friends from the National Wolfwatcher Coalition (NWC) will be there show their support for Montana FWP's decision to close these zones to wolf hunting and trapping and they're encouraging all interested 'wolfwatchers' in the area to attend too.

6th Judicial District Court
414 East Callender Street
Livingston MT, 59047

(For more information, contact us at

For those who will not be in the area, we encourage you to contribute to the discussion and NWC makes it easy. Please send in a quick and short comment to the MT Commissioners and representatives in support of its decision to close two subunits to wolf hunting near Yellowstone's northern border.

Talking points and email addresses are available via the NWC's website:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Captive Mexican Wolf Release Scheduled for this Month

Mexican wolves M806, F838, and their two 12-week-old pups moments before their release on 7-6-06

This year's death of Mexican wolf M806 weighed heavy on our hearts. The eight-year-old alpha male of the Bluestem Pack had survived numerous natural challenges in the wild, so news that his untimely end was at the hands of a criminal, was downright heartbreaking. The Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) family has had a special connection to M806. It began on July 6, 2006 when he and his first family, the Meridian Pack, were released into the wild. The Meridian pack's alpha female, Mexican wolf F838, connected us to M806. The special loba called the WCC home before receiving the call of the wild on that special day in July. Although F838 didn't survive long once released (she too was illegally killed by poachers), we continued to closely follow reports on her mate. We celebrated when M806 joined the Bluestem pack, when he welcomed his first litter, and when he, against all odds, survived the largest wildfire in Arizona's history as it swept through his new pack's den site. On July 6, 2012, on the six year anniversary of his release, M806 was found dead. He was one of the four wild Mexican gray wolves illegally killed in 2012.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the Bluestem Pack. New packs organically emerge and also collapse, it’s Nature’s way. But when critically endangered wolves fall victim to criminals, a helping hand is needed.

Today, Arizona Fish and Game announced that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved to release captive Mexican gray wolf M1133 in to the wild. His release is scheduled for later this month in hopes that he will fill the void created by M806's death. He will be released in the Apache National Forest of east-central Arizona, adjacent to the current territory of the Bluestem pack . Let's hope that M1133 finds a place in the pack and gets a chance to contribute to the family and the recovery of his rare species. Best of luck, M1133, and enjoy the WILD!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Visiting Yellowstone Wolves Evokes New Emotions

“…the best wolf habitat resides in the human heart. You have to leave a little space for them to live.” - Ed Bangs (Former Wolf Recovery Coordinator U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Yellowstone: The "little space" wolves were given in 1995 and 1996 when the federal government gave the green light to return wolves to portions of their native range in the West. The reintroduction of gray wolves to our first national park has been described as a near-miracle, having occurred at one of those rare moments when stars align in the political sky.

A wildlife conservation effort with such positive environmental impact (and ongoing controversy) will likely go unmatched for a long time. But with the support of the American public almost two decades ago, a new chapter in Yellowstone's history began, with a homecoming that changed the Park.

Many people are familiar with “The Yellowstone Story:” the remarkable rejuvenation of the Yellowstone landscape since the reintroduction of this keystone species. Wolves were exterminated in the Park by the mid-1920s but, since wolf populations were restored, scientists have noted more diverse plant and wildlife thriving where they had been suppressed for decades.

Articles and books for children and adults alike have recounted this narrative and wildlife enthusiasts have flocked to Yellowstone to behold the "wolf-effect" first hand. Since the arrival of those first 14 wolves, the species have thrived in the park, inspiring those who spy them through their scopes. I've been to the park a half a dozen times in recent years, but my October outing with the National Wolfwatcher Coalition was full of "firsts."

I brought my 5-year-old daughter with me, and for the first time I was given the amazing opportunity to experience Yellowstone first hand and through her eyes as well. We watched a Rough-Legged Hawk tirelessly plummet from the sky into the tall grass to come up empty handed time and time again. "Good for the mouse, bad for the bird," she said. We watched wolves pursue elk and emerge victorious. "Good for the wolves, bad for the elk," she said. Nature's balance.

It was also my first visit to the park during wolf hunting season. A piece of Yellowstone is located in Montana, another in Idaho, but the majority of the park falls in Wyoming - a state that permits wolves to be killed by any means, at any time, without a license in all but its northwest corner. Wolves sheltered in the park have always known threats. Wolf populations regulate themselves by natural forces such as intra-pack strife, competition with neighboring packs and predators, and ailments like distemper and mange. Packs continuously emerge and collapse; it’s Nature’s way. But with authorized wolf hunts in every state that borders the park, Yellowstone wolves face countless threats and some not lawful. During our stay a dead horse was staged just outside the northern border of the Park to lure members of the often observed Blacktail pack beyond the safety of Yellowstone's reach. Many of the Park's neighboring communities are avidly anti-wolf and sometimes the more popular the wolf, the bigger target they become. With so many unnatural threats, will the balance my daughter so easily recognized be lost?

How is it that wolves can be considered so worthless, when they alone have drawn an abundance of tourists to Yellowstone since their return to the West? National Parks Service estimates that wolf watchers bring $35M tourism dollars to the greater Yellowstone area annually. Sadly, the economic and ecological value of wolves remains ignored. By the end of December 2012, the Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming hunts claimed 338 wolves including at least 10 wolves from Yellowstone. I do encourage young and old to visit Yellowstone, to be touched it's dynamic landscape and it's well adapted beasts. But be mindful to support those who do not aim to destroy the very purpose of your visit.

WCC Acting Director, Maggie Howell

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Adaptations That Put Arctic Wolves At Ease

Wild Arctic gray wolves (Canis lupus arctos) live primarily in the Arctic, the region located above 67° north latitude. These fascinating creatures are designed by the pressures of nature and are well adapted to survive on the icy landscape. Atka, like his wild counterparts, has two layers of fur: the long guard hairs that form the visible outer layer of of the coat and the soft dense undercoat. The coarse guard hairs determine a wolf's appearance/color and works like a raincoat, protecting a wolf from rain, snow, and sleet. The insulating undercoat is usually gray in color and keeps the animal comfortable in cold temperatures. Additional adaptations to reduce heat loss include slightly shorter nose, ears, and legs than other gray wolf subspecies, and hair between the pads of his snowshoe-like feet. His fluffy tail can also keep this nose warm and cozy. Thanks to these special features, Arctic wolves can survive in temperatures as low as minus 70° Fahrenheit.

See if you can spot Atka on the snowy terrain now via LIVE webcam