Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack

It's been an exciting yet challenging year for the Wolf Conservation Center and our small staff and dedicated board of directors are humbled by the incredible support from our pack - our donors, volunteers, and advocates.

Because of you, 2013 was an exciting year for the WCC. Some highlights include:

“Tracks to the Future,” a thematic interdisciplinary education curriculum using the wolf as its integrating theme,

•  Family Walk for Wolves gave kids of all ages the chance to participate in varied activities on the National Day of Action to Support Wolf Recovery

Atka in Action: Atka traveled to Washington D.C to encourage those on the Hill to become champions for his wild kin,

Newborn Lobos: Two new Mexican Gray Wolves were born, and your support ensured their survival and safety,

Calls of the Wild: Two wolves born at the WCC reclaiming their ancestral homes in the wild to bring their ecosystems back to balance,

Expert Testimony: WCC Staff spoke at two public hearings (in Washington D.C. and Albuquerque, NM) opposing the government’s national wolf “delisting rule”,

Awareness and Action Center: Amassing over 2000 votes, actual emails sent directly to our respective senators, via our NEW Popvox campaign in support of the Endangered Species Act,

National model in SSP: Promoted citizen participation in species recovery and lead initiatives encouraging SSPs to expand their role beyond captive wolf recovery.

Top-Rated: We achieved the prestigious “2013 Top-Rated Award” from GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations

None of this would have been possible without your support. So as we close 2013, we thank you for this success and rededicate ourselves to our mission. Because many challenges remain…

Wolves continue to be subjected to aggressive hunts despite opposition from prominent scientists and concerned citizens like you. The USFWS’s national delisting draft rule and proposals that affect Mexican wolf recovery in the Southwest may deny wolves the opportunity to fulfill their biological role in ecosystems where they are just beginning to make a comeback. Finally, on 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act becoming a law, newly introduced attack bills threaten the future of the landmark legislation and the thousands of species it safeguards.

With both the natural and political challenges facing wolves, our work ahead has never been more important. But as a pack, we will make a difference.

If you haven't already done so, please consider a year-end tax-deductible donation to ensure that the Center’s first-rate educational programs, our species survival work, and our advocacy, will continue.
Thanks again for your support and we look forward to working with you in 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wolf Conservation Center Launches 'Tracks to the Future'

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

One of the Wolf Conservation Center's most important priorities includes providing exceptional on site as well as traveling wolf ambassador educational programs that teach people about wolves and the human role in protecting their future.

Today, we are happy to announce that our mission has expanded! Beginning in January, the WCC's Education Team will be piloting a new collaborative partnership with the teachers of Haviland Middle School (Hyde Park, NY).

The WCC's “Tracks to the Future” curriculum enables students to learn many of the required common core skills in Reading, Writing, Science and Social Studies while using the theme of wolf conservation as its integrating theme. The unit also provides service learning opportunities that enable students to participate in real-world community-based projects related to wolf and wildlife issues.

Other schools have expressed similar interest in partnerships, and we will be sharing our progress with you in future updates throughout 2014.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Endangered Species Act is 40 Years Old


Will We Celebrate Extinction or Recovery?

"Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans...a heritage which we hold in trust to countless future generations of our fellow citizens. Their lives will be richer, and America will be more beautiful in the years ahead, thanks to the measure that I have the pleasure of signing into law today." ~ President Nixon's Endangered Species Act Signing Statement December 28, 1973

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been more than 99% successful at preventing extinction for wildlife under its protection for 40 years. Today, on this important anniversary, this landmark legislation is at risk of going extinct. Many politicians have forgotten the values Congress embraced four decades ago and are now attempting to undermine the ESA's authority. Last month a new bill was introduced, Senate Bill 1731, which if passed will provide state governors with the power to ignore the ESA if it best serves political interests.

Please sign the Wolf Conservation Center's POPVOX legislative campaign to show your opposition to ‘Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act.’

When you sign the Popvox campaign, your vote goes directly to the lawmakers who represent you! If you like, you can also send a short *optional* message along with your vote.
Thank you for helping the ESA protect our nation's wild heritage for future generations!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wolf Voyeurism - 101

It's an exciting time for wolves and the WCC -- it's the season of romance! Hormones are racing and hopefully several courtships have already begun. We're keeping our eye on four breeding pairs (see SSP Update: Busy Breeding Season Ahead!) in hope that we'll see some promising behavior. Thankfully, we need not rely entirely on eyewitness accounts, our webcams may help staff, volunteers, and supporters watch some romance between red wolves F1397 and M1565 in real time and also Mexican gray wolf pair M804 and F749!

While many of us like to include flowers, candy, perhaps a little vino and Barry White in our romantic rituals, wolves have a different set of behaviors that we should watch for:
  • one wolf marking over the other's mark
  • nuzzling
  • following one another
  • parallel walking
  • "prancing"
  • wrestling
  • mounting
  • rear sniffing
  • resting one's chin upon another
  • tandem urination conveys the same message as a wedding ring!
  • wolves in a copulatory "tie" or stuck together -- please contact maggie@nywolf.org ASAP!
If you see any of the above behaviors or something else you find interesting, please share what you've witnessed on this blog or on the WCCs Facebook Page. And don't worry, it's okay to watch!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Howlidays!

‘Tis the night before Christmas
And Santa is prowling
We know that he’s close
‘Cause the wolves are all howling!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Blue Lagoon: A Red Wolf Adventure!

Imagine being flown for free to a sunny Florida island for the express purpose of hitting it off with the only other member of your species present so that you could make babies. Wolf Conservation Center curator Rebecca Bose found herself on such a flight in early December, except she was present only as a chaperone, escorting red wolf M1804 to St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, is already home to a pair of red wolves who were placed there in the hope that they would breed. Since they haven't, M1804, born at the WCC 3 1/2 years ago, was flown down to take the male's place. That male, captive-born M1565,  was in turn flown back to the WCC to be paired with red wolf F1397.

The situation presented abundant potential for jokes about spring break, arranged marriages, etc., but all the humans involved knew the importance of the endeavor. The number of red wolves in the wild is less than 100, and 9 members of this federally protected species have been illegally shot and killed this past year, so maintaining or increasing the number of genetically diverse wolves is crucial. If M1804 and F1729 successfully breed, their offspring would probably be placed with wild wolves in Alligator NWR in North Carolina, where the population of wild red wolves lives.
M1804's mission marked a continuing collaboration between the WCC and Lighthawk, a nonprofit organization of pilots devoted to mainly environmental causes. Thanks to Lighthawk and pilot Joe Howley, the WCC was able to fly M1804 down to St. Vincent NWR on short notice at no expense and make it back to the Center by the end of the day with M1565.

After being seen off from Westchester County Airport  by a small group of volunteers, M1804, accompanied by Bose, the pilot's enthusiastic family, and a couple of people doing stories about the WCC,  headed south.

At first thought they would just exchange the wolves, but instead had time for a short visit to M1804's new home, which turned out to be every bit as idyllic as it sounded.

There are a few formalities that needed to be addressed before M1804's release.  First, he needed a bit a bling - a new radio collar that the WCC was able to sponsor.  Bose was given the honor of adorning the handsome wolf with his new accessory and then releasing him into his new temporary digs, an acclimation enclosure within his soon to be territory. 

When it was time for the WCC to return, they didn't come home empty handed.  WCC resident red wolf F1397 was a lone wolf for a just a handful of hours until a new gent came into town, red wolf M1565.  He was released to an enclosure adjacent to F1397 so the two could get to know one another gradually, and on December 21, they were officially introduced!

Our friends from St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge will be sending us updates about the handsome New Yorker's adventure on the wild landscape so stay tuned!  As for F1397 and M1565, you'll need not rely on us for updates, you can spy on the couple yourself via our live red wolf webcam.  Let us know if you see anything interesting! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

SSP Update: Busy Breeding Season Ahead!

It’s shaping up to be one of our busiest seasons since the WCC first started participating in Species Survival Plans for critically endangered red wolves and Mexican gray wolves a decade ago. While the WCC has been a vocal and visible advocate in trying to secure legal protections for these rare species, we have also naturally been quite active in physically safeguarding the representatives of these rare species that have been entrusted to our care. This work is literally “behind the scenes” as visitors rarely get to see the wolves because they are generally kept off-exhibit to maintain their healthy aversion to humans.

This winter promises to be an exciting one as it features not only our normal husbandry, but also breeding pairs, releases, collection of genetic material, and even an unprecedented medical procedure.

Two pairs of Mexican gray wolves will be given the chance to breed this season:  M807 and our fall arrival from the Utica Zoo, F986, and, for the second consecutive year, M804 and F749. If the latter pair is successful, the pups will be removed and initially hand-reared, a practice that is followed when there are serious concerns about a specific female’s ability to successfully raise the pups. The couple had two genetically valuable pups last breeding season, but they were removed to another facility because F749 had previously lost almost all of her pups. While we dislike having to remove the pups, we are happy to report that this time there is a chance that any pups born to the pair will be hand-raised at the WCC. Naturally the breeding pair will remain off-exhibit, but our webcams will be trained on their enclosure, so lobo-lovers will get a chance to monitor these lobo lovers from home and share their observations with us.

Two pairs of red wolves will also be given the chance to prove fruitful!  Red wolf F1397 has been given the opportunity to breed every year since her arrival in 2009 and welcomed  two sons, M1803 and M1804, in 2010.  Last year, however, she spent the season alone after losing her companion and mate, M1483.  Earlier this month, a new fellow joined the WCC family, red wolf M1565.  He is currently living adjacent to F1397, with only a fence between them.  We  introduce new wolves to each other gradually allowing them to acclimate to their new surroundings. In a few weeks, you can join us in watching the couple's potential romance bloom via LIVE webcam.  Red wolf F1291 was the WCC's very first red wolf, she has been a part of the WCC family since 2004 when she arrived as a mere yearling.  Last year she was introduced to red wolf M1394, littermate of red wolf F1397.  They pair is well bonded, but no pups thus far.  F1291 is the most genetically valuable wolf in the red wolf SSP program so we hope that this will be her year.

As our ultimate goal is to increase the number of wolves in the wild,  we are extremely happy to have recently sent M1141 to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) facility in New Mexico to be paired with a mate and released into the wild in Sonora, Mexico.  M1141 was part of the first litter of SSP pups born at the WCC five years ago, so his release into the wild after living here off-exhibit represents an exciting milestone for us and, more importantly, for him.  USFWS is also considering similarly sending one of M1411’s three female littermates (F1143, F1144, and F1145) to their facility for pairing and release, but this pair would be released into U.S. territory! We're also happy to report that red wolf M1804 also received the call of the wild!  He was released in the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, a remote barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, to be introduced to a potential mate. We're so thankful to be able to grant these special wolves born right here at our Center in NY, with these wild opportunities.  Good luck, kiddos!

Not every genetically valuable wolf in the SSP program has the chance to successfully breed, so we’ll be collecting semen from all our male lobos during prime breeding season in mid-winter. The genetic material will be stored for potential future use, an important option when trying to maintain diversity with a species that was once extinct in the wild. In what is understandably a medical first, lobo M904 will undergo a reverse vasectomy in order to obtain his semen. He was given the vasectomy years ago in order to allow him to live year-round with his female companion.

Whew.  A busy and exciting season lays ahead!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nearly One Million Americans Speak Out Against Stripping Federal Protections From Wolves -- Most Public Comments Ever on an Endangered Species Act Decision

Federal Proposal Would Halt Wolf Recovery, Allow More Wolf Killing

Washington, DC— Approximately one million Americans stated their opposition to the Obama administration’s proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves in a comment period that closed today. This is the largest number of comments ever submitted on a federal decision involving endangered species and reflects broad dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s politically driven move to turn wolf management over to states across most of the lower 48.

“Americans overwhelmingly oppose removing protections for wolves, and for good reason. Wolves have recovered to just a fraction of their range and are severely threatened by state-sanctioned hunts intended to decimate them,” said KierĂ¡n Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the Obama administration will hear the pleas of hundreds of thousands of citizens and maintain these still critically needed protections for wolves.”
The 750,000 + comments, being delivered today to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by multiple conservation groups, will bring the total number to well over one million.

There were once up to 2 million gray wolves living in North America, but the animals had been driven to near-extinction in the lower 48 states by the early 1900s. After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973 and protection of the wolf as endangered, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country. Roughly 5,500 wolves currently live in the continental United States - a fraction of the species’ historic numbers.

“The North American gray wolf’s recovery in certain areas of the United States is something to celebrate, but an abundance of evidence shows the work is not yet complete,” said International Fund for Animal Welfare president and CEO Azzedine Downes. “I applaud actions to help protect this critical species, and I strongly urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not go through with this proposal.”

The Obama administration’s proposal would remove existing protections for wolves everywhere except Arizona and New Mexico, where the Mexican wolf is struggling to survive with an estimated population of just 75 wolves.  This proposal would abandon protections for wolves in places where wolf recovery is just in its infancy, such as Oregon and Washington, and would prevent wolves from recovering in other places where good wolf habitat has been identified, including northern California, the southern Rocky Mountains, and the Northeast.

“Oregon wolves have taken the first tentative steps towards recovery in the last few years," said Sean Stevens, executive director with Oregon Wild. "If the Obama administration takes away the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act, we pull the rug out from the fragile success story here on the West Coast and leave the fate of wolves in the hands of state agencies in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming who have proven incapable of balanced management."

The restoration of the gray wolf could be one of the great American wildlife conservation success stories if Secretary Jewel would just finish the job.” Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition.

Maggie Howell, Executive Director, Wolf Conservation Center said: "Without realizing the serious ecological consequences, we already came close to totally exterminating wolves from the lower 48 states.  But the ESA gave us a second chance to right this wrong.  Let's not let history repeat itself.  For the sake of wolves, the environment, and the integrity of science, we must continue to urge USFWS not to kill 40 years of recovery."

Nicole Paquette, vice president of Wildlife Protection for The Humane Society of the United States said: “Anti-wolf sentiments nearly led to the extermination of America’s wolves, and just when populations are starting to bounce back, the federal government is considering a plan that could place them in jeopardy. Rather than catering to interests from trophy hunters and fear mongering, we hope the federal government rejects this proposal and works towards the recovery of this species.”

“The incredible volume of comments give voice to a sad fact: the delisting proposal is a radical departure from the optimism and courage we need to promote endangered species recovery in this country. The comments show that Americans believe the Fish and Wildlife Service’s  proposal falls well short of the conservation ideals this country stood for 40 years ago when the Endangered Species Act was signed.” said Defenders of Wildlife President Jamie Rappaport Clark.

"The national wolf delisting scheme is simply too much, too soon," said NRDC President Frances Beinecke. "It is a potential death sentence for new populations and prevents wolves from ever reaching areas where they could be a boon for habitat in need of their stabilizing influence. The return of wolves to the continental United States still stands as one of the greatest conservation stories ever written and we stand ready to fight to prevent it from being undone by this short-sighted policy move."

"Americans are outraged and hundreds of thousands are saying it loudly and clearly; the job of wolf recovery is not done," said John Horning Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians. "The Fish and Wildlife Service is not only wildlife wrong on the science of wolf recovery but also wildly out of step with the desires of most Americans who want to see federal protections for wolves maintained."

"The number of public comments is a testament to the importance of wolves to our American story. Now is the time we should be pressing in to continue the job of wolf recovery, not abandoning wolves to the same kinds of destructive forces that endangered them in the first place," said Dan Chu, director of Sierra Club's Our Wild America Campaign.

"You don't spend 40 years nursing a species back from the brink of extinction, only to suddenly declare 'open season' on them. There are only a few dozen viable packs in an area that used to be home to over a millions wolves. There's plenty of room in America for wolves, people and an abundance of other species. But If Secretary Jewell allows this plan to go ahead, she'll be responsible for the destruction of one of the most amazing, intelligent and iconic species in America."  said Drew Hudson, Environmental Action

Camilla Fox, Executive Director, Project Coyote said:  "As wolves come under the gun in an upcoming wolf/coyote killing 'derby' in Idaho where prizes awarded for the largest killed, it is abundantly clear that the very practices that sent wolves to the brink of extinction still endanger their persistence."

“Fish and Wildlife Service is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of restoring wolves to their rightful places from coast to coast -- as it did for bald eagles -- the agency wants to abandon wolf recovery before the job is done,” said Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice president. “Today hundreds of thousands of citizens told FWS to go back to work and protect our wolves.”

If you have yet to comment online, we encourage you to join the Wolf Conservation Center and choose to #StandForWolves!

The comment period ends hours from now.
Oppose Nationwide Delisting
Support Mexican gray wolves

Monday, December 16, 2013

Deadline To Act For America's Gray Wolves

Only One Day Left to Submit Comments

Beyond its role as a living symbol of our natural landscape, the wolf is a keystone species. Its presence is critical to maintaining the structure and integrity of native ecosystems. Federal protections for wolves are essential to help this animal recover and expand into still-suitable parts of its former range, just as the bald eagle was allowed to do before having its federal protections removed.

Despite the vast effort, resources, and support invested in wolf recovery, USFWS is poised to make changes that will put the future of the gray wolf and its proven benefits to ecosystems at serious risk. USFWS is accepting comments re: the two separate proposals listed below:

1. USFWS proposes to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the gray wolf in the contiguous United States despite wolves occupying only about 5 percent of their historic range. Although USFWS director Daniel M. Ashe declared victory for gray wolf recovery by stating “Wolves are recovered and they are now in good hands,” U.S. scientists with expertise in carnivore taxonomy and conservation biology warn that the delisting rule is terribly premature. Removing ESA protections from wolves nationwide will no doubt open the door to more killing. And polls reflect that the majority of Americans support wolves as part of our wilderness and heritage.

2. Although the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf, or "lobo," is exempt from USFWS's nationwide delisting proposal, lobos will be subject to other provisions that are very problematic – including the recovery area’s artificial boundaries and their re-designation as an “experimental, nonessential” population.

Everyone has the ability and responsibility to affect the world, so we encourage you to join the Wolf Conservation Center and choose to #StandForWolves!

The comment period ends December 17 -- TOMORROW.

Oppose Nationwide Delisting
Support Mexican gray wolves
Thank you!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom


The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders. ~ Edward Abbey 

Be a defender - #StandforWolves

Despite the vast effort, resources, and support invested in wolf recovery, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is poised to make changes that will put the future of the gray wolf and its proven benefits to ecosystems at serious risk. USFWS is accepting comments re: two separate proposals until December 17th. Please take a few minutes to voice your support for this misunderstood predator.
Thank you!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shop For A Cause - The "I Am Essential" T-Shirts Are Here

The Wolf Conservation Center partnered with the great folks from FLOAT.ORG to help raise awareness for America's wolves!  Our "I Am Essential" T-shirts are on sale for just one week and FLOAT is donating $8 for each shirt sold to the WCC!

Shop here

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wolf Conservation Supporters Put Giving Back into the Holiday Season

The Wolf Conservation Center invited you to join #GivingTuesday, a national movement to change the calendar, and you heard our howls!

With your support, the WCC raised over $27,000 in our #GivingTuesday fundraising campaign! We are humbled by your support and grateful that a friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) contributed their generous matching grant to give yesterday's gifts an even bigger impact.
Thank you!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Critically Endangered Red Wolf Flies to Remote Island in Search of Romance

What's a healthy young red wolf to do to help perpetuate his critically endangered species? Fly to Florida to find a romantic partner, of course. On December 7, M1804, a three and a half year-old red wolf, will be flown by the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) to St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, a remote barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, to be introduced to a potential mate.

Born at the WCC in 2010, M1804 is one of 5 captive red wolves living there as part of its participation in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for this critically endangered canid. Currently less than 100 live in the wild, all of them in North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, while fewer than 200 are in captivity.

M1804 was selected to be paired with the female currently living in the refuge because of his genetic profile. "He's the best breeding match for her in the SSP program in terms of diversity," explained Rebecca Bose, WCC curator, "It's kind of like online dating except based almost exclusively on genetics. And of course the stakes - the survival of a species - are much higher."

It is vital that a healthy number of red wolves be maintained in the wild and captivity, especially since the species has literally come under fire recently. Nine wild red wolves have been illegally shot this year, six of them this fall. While the public can visit St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, access and usage are limited, so the pair should be free of any human threats.

The WCC will once again partner with Lighthawk, a nonprofit aviation organization devoted to environmental protection, to fly the potential Romeo to the refuge to meet F1729 who is currently one of two wolves living on the island. The other wolf, M1565 and a male that she failed to breed with, will be flown back to the WCC to live with a new potential mate.

M1804 has educated online viewers of the WCC's videos and webcams since he was a playful pup, but is now assuming his most important role. "We're excited for him because he'll get to roam around a new territory with his partner and hopefully have pups. He'll be living life the way a wolf should," commented Maggie Howell, the WCC's Executive Director, "This is precisely why we participate in the SSP program."

While M1804 may no longer be under its care, the WCC plans to help keep tabs on him by sponsoring his radio collar so that scientists can track his movements to gain valuable insights into his behavior.

There's no way to predict whether the pairing will be a love match, but it might not take long to find out. Wolves only breed in the winter, with pups born in the spring, so M1804's island sojourn may prove fruitful in just a few months. And if it doesn't? "Well, at least he'll get to enjoy warmer weather than we do," Bose said with a smile, "And there's always next breeding season. Sometimes these things take time."

Watch the WCC's educational video about the critically endangered red wolf: