Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WCC's Mexican Gray Wolves Get a Visit from the Vet


This time of year Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) staff and volunteers are often prying into the private lives of the critically endangered wolves that call the WCC home. It's the season for annual medical exams.  People often ask us how we monitor the health of our wolves. Needless to say, the well-being of our wolves is a top priority, so we constantly take stock of their health, monitoring the shy animals as much as we possible in person and also via webcam. We also conduct periodic veterinary checks for hands-on assessments, vaccinations, and blood-work. Under Species Survival Plan protocols, our Mexican Gray Wolves and Red wolves must be checked by a veterinarian on an annual basis.

Late last month we "processed" (administered vaccinations, took blood, and weights) of the five red wolves that call the WCC home without a hitch.  It was the first of  three "check-up capture days" scheduled this season. Early this morning, the WCC crew gathered for the second scheduled event to meet the challenge of catching six elusive Mexican gray wolves. In order to examine each wolf, we calmly herd the wolves through their spacious enclosure and into capture boxes - wooden doghouse-like structures with removable roofs. Once a wolf is captured in the box, our volunteer veterinarian proceeds with the exam. The actual exam takes only minutes, the real challenge is capturing the frightened wolves.

Thankfully, Mexican wolves F810, M807, M804, F628, and M904 ran into their boxes without too much hesitation.  Eleven-year-old Mexican wolf F749 was the only one that gave us the run around.  Definitely a good sign that she's feeling pretty great!  Fourteen-year-old F628 was also especially impressive, she might be one of the oldest wolves at the WCC but she's as spry (and dare we say feisty) as ever! All six wolves appeared to be in good health and we'll have confirmation of this once their blood test results return from the lab.

 

In addition to doing health exams in the fall, we also prep for the oncoming season of romance! Every summer the Species Survival Plan management group for the Mexican gray wolf determine which wolves should be bred each year by using software developed for the population management of endangered species. Wolves are “mono-estrus” -- breeding only once a year during the winter months, so autumn is the season to make some introductions between our match-made couples.

Two pairs of Mexican gray wolves will be given the chance to breed this season:  M807 and F986, and, for the second consecutive year, M804 and F749.  Of course if we expect any of the couples to prove fruitful, we'll have to make sure that at the very least they've met one another!  After completing M807's check up, we transferred the lovely lobo to a new enclosure to live with his new mate-to-be, F986 who just arrived at the WCC earlier this fall from the Utica Zoo.  The pair will live off exhibit side by side with a fence-line between them for a few weeks before we formally introduce them. Only time will tell if they're a "love connection," but we're hoping they fall head over paws!

Big thanks to all the WCC volunteers including Dr Renee Bayha from the Pound Ridge Veterinary Center for volunteering their time, expertise, and labor this morning, and also to the lobos that are a part of something much bigger than they might ever realize - the recovery of their rare species.

Some moments from today’s event captured by WCC’s Diane Bentivegna.

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