Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wolves of the Lower 48 Slated to Lose Endangered Species Act Protections

Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released a five year review for the wolf that recommends stripping Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves across the lower 48 states. The agency recently indicated that it will move forward with this action as soon as this next month.  

Will History Repeat Itself?
Wolves have been in the cross-hairs before. Wolves were persecuted so heavily in the past that by the mid-1900’s most lands in the lower 48 United States were void of this top predator. With the support of the American public, however, the wolf was able to return to some portions of its native range. In areas where wolves were restored like the northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes states, scientists have noted more diverse plant and wildlife thriving where they had been suppressed for decades. Wolf recovery has just begun in large portions of the Pacific Northwest and California and has yet to really start in the southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast. In these areas, wolves may never recover if the USFWS executes their plan to delist nationwide.

If your hackles are up, you're not alone. Congressmen Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ed Markey (D-MA) are urging Congress to sign a letter to Director Ashe of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requesting that the agency retain ESA protections for gray wolves in areas where they have only just barely begun to recover, including the Pacific Northwest, California, southern Rocky Mountains and Northeast. The deadline to sign has been extended to March 1st and although several members have signed, many have yet to do so. If this is something that is important to you, please consider contacting your Representative to urge him or her to support the recovery of this misunderstood predator by signing onto Reps. DeFazio and Markey's letter.

To date the signatories are: U.S. Representative's Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Jim Moran (D-VA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Cicilline (D-RI), Michael M. Honda (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), William R. Keating (D-MA), James R. Langevin (D-RI), James A. Himes (D-CT), James P. McGovern (D-MA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Ron Barber (D-AZ), Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-NV), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Shea-Porter (D-NH), Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), John F. Tierney (D-MA), and Steve Israel (D-NY)

 Locate your representative here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Remembering Ambassador Wolf Kaila

Kaila R.I.P. (May 1, 1995 - February 21, 2011)

Two years ago today we said goodbye to the WCC's quiet queen. Kaila pioneered our education program as the WCC’s first wolf and witnessed our organization flourish. We miss her deeply.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Project Citizen Science Lets Yellowstone Visitors Aid Wolf Research

The next time you visit Yellowstone and take a great wolf photo, you could also be helping researchers as they monitor everything from infectious diseases to breeding habits among the elusive animals.

Penn State University graduate student Emily Almberg set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise $7,000 for a website that will solicit, organize and archive wolf photos. This "Citizen Science Project" website will let visitors upload wolf photos along with additional data and observations creating a more robust resource for Yellowstone researchers. This project will be a valuable tool for the Yellowstone Wolf Project and also a great educational resource for the public.  It's a way for Yellowstone wolf watchers to contribute to scientific study of the beast they flock to see!

The campaign has already received more than $1,200 in pledges after five days, and runs through April 16th.  Please click here to learn more about how you can support this project.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Red Wolf Courtship (?)

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Best of luck wooing your mate. Red wolf M1483 needed some help with his timing back in February of 2010... Enjoy!

Video: WCC's Josh Lewis

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


It's an exciting time for wolves and the Wolf Conservation Center-- it's the season of romance! Hormones are racing and hopefully several courtships have already begun. We're keeping our eye on the WCC's three breeding pairs in hope that we'll see some of the following promising behaviors:

• nuzzling
• "prancing"
• wrestling
• parallel walking
• mounting
• rear sniffing
• tandem urination - this is true romance!

Most romantic activities occur behind closed doors, so our elusive wolves are unlikely to display amorous behavior for a crowd of spectators. Thankfully, we need not rely entirely on eyewitness accounts, our WildEarth webcams help WCC staff, volunteers, and supporters, keep an eye on Mexican wolves F837 and M805 in real time! If you see anything interesting, please let us know by emailing

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Atka at the GRAMMYs

 Atka rocks out with some of his favorite artists

Billy Idol
Gene Simmons
Tony Bennett
Willow Smith (I Whip My Hair)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mexican Wolves Make Sizable Investment

Mexican gray wolf F613
Winter is here and it’s an exciting time for wolves and the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC)! Wolves are “mono-estrus” -- breeding only once a year during the winter months. In addition to being a time for wolf romance, winter also provides facilities participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP) an opportunity to take progressive measures to enhance the health and recovery of a rare species.

In order to maintain genetic diversity within the Mexican gray wolf population, older captive females are often spayed. This measure benefits the health of the wolf, permits 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. Last month Mexican gray wolf F613, one of the 15 lobos that call the WCC home, unknowingly made the a priceless contribution, and she wasn't alone! The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Wildlife Contraceptive Center reports that 632 oocytes were extracted from 12 different Mexican wolves. This represents the largest "harvest" and number of donors in the history of the Mexican Wolf SSP. This valuable investment for the future was deposited at the Mexican Wolf Gamete Bank at the Saint Louis Zoo.

 Big thanks to the eight institutions that made this effort possible: The Wildlife Science Center, the Albuquerque Biopark, the Sedgwick County Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, the Wolf Conservation Center, the El Paso Zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wild Mexican Wolf Numbers Increase to 75

U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) delivered some encouraging news on the lobo front! During its annual year-end surveys, the Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team counted at least 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2012. This number demonstrates a significant increase in the known population in the wild. The 2011 count was 58.

Benjamin Tuggle, the USFWS’s Southwest Regional Director, credits the increase to their implementation of a "...number of management actions – in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders – that have helped reduce conflicts related to recovering a sustainable population of wolves on a working landscape.” In 2013, USFWS plans to “increase the genetic viability of the wild population, and implement management activities that support more wolves in the wild." Tuggle also stated that "releases are one of the important tools we use for improving the genetic viability of the wild population,” a strategy that bodes well for a special faction of captive Mexican wolves that are candidates for release into the wild. Let's hope that 2013's end of year count continues this upward trend!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Runaway Groom? Mexican Wolf's Wild Life Short-Lived

AZGFD photo
Last month we celebrated the first new Mexican wolf release in over 1500 days. Now we're counting his days in captivity before he gets a second chance -- 7 days.

M1133 was born in captivity in 2008 and lived at New Mexico's Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility since his puppyhood. Like most of the Mexican wolves at the WCC, M1133 was cared for in a way to best prepare him for a future in the wild. At last count in 2012, there were approximately 58 wild Mexican wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico and some have died since that tally. In order to ensure the genetic health of this terribly limited population, it's vital that the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program grant's new wolves an opportunity to join their wild kin. And what an amazing gift to bestow - freedom!

Last month U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved the release of M1133 in hopes that the 4-year-old male would fill a void within Arizona's Bluestem pack created after alpha male M806 was illegally shot and killed a few months ago. M1133 was released on January 8th in the Apache National Forest of east-central Arizona, however, his stint in the wild was short lived. After just 3 weeks in the wild, M1133 is back in captivity. USFWS captured the lobo because he failed to catch the attention of the Bluestem Pack's alpha female. Shortly after his release, M1133 headed east crossing the state border into New Mexico. When it became clear to USFWS that he was heading increasingly further away from all wild lobos (likely in search for a mate) it was decided that the genetically valuable wolf can better contribute to the recovery of this rare species by being introduced to a mate in captivity. M1133 has since paired with a wild-born female at a captive breeding center and the couple is slated to be released sometime in the future. Let's hope we doesn't have to wait another 1500 days until the couple gets the "call of the wild."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Atka Reacts to Predictions from Punxsutawney

"That rodent predicts an early Spring? I'm swimming to Greenland."

Friday, February 1, 2013

Trapping Hits Too Close to Home

They found us on the road walking towards them. State Troopers, the EMT squad and the ambulance people surrounded us. My canine girl Annie and I were a bloody sight. Being blonde, the blood was vivid on her fur. Splattered all over her. My right hand was completely blood red. The right side of my face was blood red. Blood splattered all over my coat, sweatshirt, pants, boots, everything.

The blood was all mine. She hadn’t been cut. The leg-hold trap she stepped in did not break her skin. Small consolation considering the misery and agony and anguish the trap inflicted on her. I saw the trap spring up and close on her leg. She was on a leash so we were right next to each other. And immediately she freaked out. She tried running out of it, tried running away from it, tried jumping out of it. But she couldn’t.

I grabbed the trap almost right away. I knew the trap had to come off ASAP. But I didn’t know how they worked. So I couldn’t get it off right away. But with me having grabbed the trap right away, Annie thought I was responsible for the pain. Or, she was simply out of her mind. One or the other. Because nothing else would explain why she was biting my hand. And biting my face. I was vaguely aware of this biting. My focus was on the trap and how to open the jaws. Peripherally I was aware of her ripping my flesh. Of her canine teeth puncturing my hand and cheek. I remember feeling her teeth penetrating my cheek to the muscle and thinking she could just rip my cheek off. And I said to her, nonchalantly even, “don’t honey, I’m busy here.”

Being in the trap made her attack me. Me, who walked her 6 days a week at the shelter for 5 months. Me, who then adopted her from that miserable shelter life. Me, who gave her a home and car and yard of her own again. Me, who feeds her as well as any animal. Who gave her the home where she can sleep on the couch or bed or orthopedic dog bed or yard, anywhere. Who gives her so much exercise that she crashes asleep for the whole night. Who never raised a hand to her in almost 2 years of knowing each other.

Some people seem to wonder now about her temperament, hearing that she attacked me while I was trying to get that trap off her leg. People who think she should have known I was trying to help her, rather than thinking I was causing her pain. And not attacked me. Reality is that she couldn’t think of anything but the anguish. She was just out of her mind. Did you ever grab a dog by the tail and hold it like you mean it? The dog freaks out. Even your own dog. Being in the trap is a hundred times worse.

And remember, we’ve all heard that some animals will chew their own leg off, just to get free of that trap. Endure the pain and agony of chewing THEIR OWN leg off. Another dog recently broke 17 of his teeth trying to chew the trap off his leg. Trying to get out of that evil trap. And they are evil. I can now attest to that personally.

I hated traps before. I hate them even more now. I work with The Wolf Conservation Center, helping people understand and appreciate wolves. And stop the persecution. Killing with high-powered rifles, from planes and helicopters, with poison, snares, hunting dogs, and yes, traps. Now that Annie stepped in one herself, I’ve seen the cruelty myself. Up close and personal.

I eventually figured out how to open the jaws. She pulled her leg out. We headed to the road as I called 911. I knew I couldn’t treat my wounds myself. Annie was walking good. No broken bones, no fractures. Her leg swelled up for two days.

They spend hours in the trap. Out of their mind. Struggling, fighting that trap. Emotional agony. Mental anguish. Insane fear. Going mad. Mad enough to chew off their own leg. Or attack their human daddy. And trappers say that these leg-hold traps don’t cause serious injury. The human capacity for bull is boundless.

And the animal will endure that agony and anguish for hours and hours until the trapper comes. And shoot the poor animal in the head, dead. Enduring hours and hours of agony and anguish, until some human comes and shoots them dead.

Traps are evil. How can a civilized society still allow such a thing?

Guest Blogger David Forjan currently lives in Schroon Lake, NY and is going on his second year as a volunteer for the Wolf Conservation Center. His work ethic and commitment to our mission are among the reasons we consider him a valuable member of the WCC team. David never fails to demonstrate the promise of making our world a better place. Just ask Annie!

 There is currently an active Anti-Trapping petition. If the petition gets 100,000 signatures by February 19th, the Obama administration will have to address it.