Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack


Because of you, 2014 was an exciting year for the Wolf Conservation Center and we are humbled by the incredible support from our pack - supporters like you. Some highlights include:
  • Continued Success: onsite and offsite education programs and a special events reached over 35,000 people,
  • Launched the Northeast Wolf Coalition: A new initiative that explores the vision of wolf recovery in the Northeast,
  • Ambassador Wolf Pup Nikai: another powerful presence in the fight to preserve wolves’ rightful place in the environment,
  • Call of the Wild: released captive-born critically endangered red wolf M1804 to his ancestral home on the wild landscape,
  • Challenged the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in collaboration with Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife and others to secure the future for endangered Mexican gray wolves,
  • #LoboWeek: Our second annual educational movement with global participation in honor the Mexican gray wolf’s return to the wild,
  • Family Walk for Wolves: our second annual event that gave hundreds of local supporters an opportunity to celebrate the wildlife and wild lands of the Empire State,
  • Top-Rated: winning the prestigious “2014 Top-Rated Award” from GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations,
  • Robust Support on Social Media: WCC is approaching TWO MILLION supporters on Facebook - expanding our educational reach far beyond the boundaries of our facility.
None of this would have been possible without your support. So as we close 2014, we thank you for this success and rededicate ourselves to our mission. Because many challenges remain…

Wolves continue to be subjected to aggressive hunting and trapping in states where their federal protections have been lifted. Wild Mexican wolves and red wolves face serious recovery challenges that will affect their future success. Finally, if USFWS’ proposed national delisting rule is passed, it will threaten the recovery of recolonizing wolves that are just beginning to make a comeback in parts of their historic range.

But we won’t give up.  The WCC sees a world where vibrant populations of wolves roam wild landscapes across the continent; where no species of wolf cowers on the edge of extinction; and where every child learns of, and respects, these essential creatures.

As a pack, we will make a difference.

See you in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Will Killer of Protected Wolf Get Away Scott Free?



Yesterday, Utah wildlife officials confirmed that a protected 3-year-old female collared gray wolf was mistaken for a coyote and killed by a hunter near Beaver on Sunday.   It is also possible that this wolf could be the female wolf, affectionately named "Echo" in a recent worldwide contest, that was found to roam around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon earlier this year.  Today Federal wildlife officials are using DNA to determine if the animal slain is indeed Echo.

Either way, a protected wolf has been illegally killed and it's likely the crime will go unpunished. The the U.S. Justice Department's 16-year-old McKittrick policy prohibits prosecuting individuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be PROVED that they knew they were targeting a protected animal.

The McKittrick policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors as well as dozens of federally protected Mexican wolves including two released from the Wolf Conservation Center.

What can we do?
"Ultimately, the criminal provisions of the Endangered Species Act will not be applied as Congress intended until the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) directive prohibiting the use of the jury instruction upheld in U.S. v. McKittrick is rescinded. Who can order the DOJ to rescind the directive? Certainly, the U.S. Attorney General, as could someone higher in the Executive Branch. Perhaps additional Congressional inquiry or action is necessary to reaffirm Congress’s intention with regard to criminal culpability in ESA cases... It may fall to the public to assert its will with lawmakers to ensure that the ESA is applied as intended for the benefit of the American people." Learn more.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Howl-Worthy News from Wolf Conservation Center's Species Survival Plan Facility


 Recent proposals and subsequent decisions affecting the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf and red wolf had a direct impact on the scope of the WCC’s focus in 2014. The Center’s expert testimony in two federal hearings and our decision to unite with other organizations to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were among the WCC’s efforts to help secure the necessary protections required to re-establish viable, genetically diverse self-sustaining populations for these iconic symbols of the wild.

While the WCC has been a vocal and visible advocate for both species, we have also naturally been quite active in physically safeguarding the endangered wolves that have been entrusted to our care.

'Tis the Season... For Wolf Romance!
January marks the beginning of the 2015 breeding season! Wolves are “mono-estrus” -- breeding only once a year during the winter months. This winter promises to be a romantic one at the WCC, eight of our critically endangered wolves have been selected to breed! 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. Today’s Mexican wolf population descended from just 7 founders, and the red wolf only 14. Thus, genetic health is the primary consideration in pairing.

We won’t know the outcome of any of these unions until “pup season” in April or May. So until then, keep your fingers crossed and an eye on the lovebirds via WCC’s webcams!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ho, Ho, Howl... Merry Christmas!



From our pack to yours, Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Howlidays from the Wolf Conservation Center


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


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice



New York's own Daniel Pinkwater read his book Wolf Christmas on "Weekend Edition" this morning. This first aired on 12/25/10, but NPR appears to be making it a holiday tradition.

Listen here.

Enjoy and if you have any kiddos in the family, please be sure to share!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Federal Protections Restored for Great Lakes Wolves



Breaking News! Federal judge Beryl A. Howell overturned decision to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections from wolves in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in 2012 and under state management, annual hunting and trapping seasons followed (only in 2013 for Michigan).

In the court order the Judge Howell ruled that the removal was "arbitrary and capricious" and violates the federal ESA.

Big thanks to The Humane Society of the United States and the coalition of wildlife protection groups that made this happen!

Learn more here.

Read the Judge's order here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Red Wolf Homecoming!


 Early one morning in May of 2010, red wolf F1397 quietly gave birth to two beautiful boys, M1803 and M1804 (a.k.a. “Moose” and “Thicket”). Thanks to our webcams, a global audience enjoyed watching the elusive boys grow up and then joined our celebratory howls when both wolves were chosen to embark on new adventures beyond the WCC’s boundaries.

Red wolf M1804 received the “call of the wild,” and was released on an island off the Florida peninsula. M1803’s adventure kept him closer to home, he was transferred to Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo where he struck a love connection and fathered 3 daughters!

The fruitful couple now require larger accommodations so with open arms the WCC welcomes back M1803 with his new lady and kids! With an opportunity for these parents to breed this winter, we hope M1803’s daughters get some siblings this spring. We invite you to meet the family of five as they live on exhibit to educate WCC guests about the importance and plight of their rare species.

The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the 1960s due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat. A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. After being declared an endangered species in 1973, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program. Consequently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.

By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. Today an estimated 90-100 red wolves roam the wilds of northeastern North Carolina and another 200 or so comprise the captive breeding program, still an essential element of red wolf recovery. The WCC is currently home to seven red wolves, 9-year-old F1397 and her new 7-year-old companion M1566, living on exhibit is 4-year-old M1803 and his family of females. We invite you to watch this beautiful pack via our LIVE webcam!
Red wolf M1803 (all grown up) on WCC's LIVE webcam

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grand Canyon Wolf Named “Echo” in World-Wide Contest



GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz.— The endangered female gray wolf recently confirmed north of Grand Canyon National Park now has a name-Echo. Her name was chosen from over 500 entries in a contest sponsored by conservation groups across the western U.S. and by facilities who house and breed wolves for endangered species recovery. Ten-year old contest winner Zachary Tanner from Milwaukie, Oregon, said he chose the name Echo "because she came back to the Grand Canyon like an Echo does."

DNA tests from scat show that Echo traveled hundreds of miles from the Northern Rockies to the Grand Canyon region, an area that scientists identified as one of the last best places in the Southwest for wolves. A government extermination campaign in the early twentieth century wiped out the region’s native wolves by the early 1940’s. Echo is the first wolf confirmed in the area since. She is currently fully protected under the Endangered Species Act, but could be left completely vulnerable to shooting and trapping under an Obama administration plan to strip legal protections for gray wolves nation-wide, ignoring the majority of 1.6 million public comments calling for continued protections.

In his winning contest entry, Zachary said he cares about wolves because "they are a part of the food chain, and they are so beautiful and we need them. All of them. All of every creature. We need them. "

Since the news of her presence on the north rim became public in October, Echo has been celebrated all over the world, including close to home. Contest entries were received from throughout the U.S. and Canada, and from South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia.

Local business woman Ellen Winchester, whose family has owned and lived at the Kaibab Lodge five miles north of the Grand Canyon North Rim for the past ten years, said she and her family feel blessed to have heard and seen this wolf.

“This is our home and business and we who live in the forest have a healthy respect for the animals. The Kaibab National Forest, The Grand Canyon North Rim and the animals that live there are a legacy for our children and our children's children. I was thrilled to hear wolf song. I welcome Echo to the Grand Canyon, which is my back yard. There is plenty of room for all to live together safely.” said Winchester.

Conservation organizations and wolf species survival plan members across the U.S. collaborated on the naming contest (see list at end).

“This is an exciting, historic development that affirms both the peer-reviewed science that identifies this area as excellent habitat for wolves and the need to maintain Endangered Species Act protections for wolves.” said Emily Renn, executive director for Flagstaff-based Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.

Kim Crumbo, conservation director for Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, said. “That a determined wolf could make it to the Grand Canyon region from the northern Rockies is greatly hopeful and cause for celebration, and every effort must be taken to protect Echo and to continue the work to protect the wildlife corridors she used to get here.”

Many contestants said Echo’s story gave them hope as well. Students from Flagstaff and Phoenix, Arizona; Evergreen, Colorado; and Coventry, Rhode Island submitted the second place entry, “Esperanza,” Spanish for hope. The Flagstaff students said they chose Esperanza because “we believe the wolf will give hope to the ecosystem.” Several students also submitted the name “Hope.”

She came, she saw, she made history, and now she has a name!” said Maggie Howell with the Wolf Conservation Center in NY, a facility that houses and breeds endangered wolves for species recovery. “Echo’s wild milestone is a demonstration of the great potential for wolf recovery in areas where this keystone species has yet to take hold.”

It is likely that Echo’s travels led her through Utah to get to Grand Canyon. “In spite of political and physical obstacles, Echo traveled hundreds of miles to demonstrate that Utah and northern Arizona are home to wolves! We should welcome this and future wolves home, and let them live in peace,” said Kirk Robinson, Executive Director for Western Wildlife Conservancy in Utah.

Pacific Wolf Coalition coordinator Alison Huyett said "Just like Oregon's Journey (Wolf OR-7), who took an unprecedented trek down to California and was the first wolf to enter the state in nearly 90 years, Echo's story shows that wolf recovery has just begun in many places throughout the West. Both of these treks highlight the ample amount of suitable habitat for wolves and the need for connected Western landscapes for recovery. Neither Journey nor Echo would have been able to make these landmark journeys without federal protections granting them safe passage."

National WolfWatcher Coalition’s Northern Rockies regional representative Kurt Holtzen said “As well documented by Journey’s travels, wolves disperse widely and over long distances, often through natural and political boundaries. The arrival in Arizona of a northern Rockies wolf, appropriately named Echo, illustrates specifically why wolf recovery is not complete, and why we should maintain federal protection.”

Background The Obama Administration’s planned national wolf delisting would remove federal Endangered Species Act protections across most of the continental United States, and would give individual states, many of which are extremely hostile to wolves, the authority to manage wolves. Without federal legal protections, wolves would not be able to safely move across state lines to suitable habitat, as this one has.

Currently, wolves have returned to less than ten percent of their historic range in the lower forty-eight states. Wolves from the north and south historically met, interbred and thrived in the Southern Rockies and today’s science tells us there continues to be an abundance of suitable wolf habitat in southern Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, including the Grand Canyon area.

Naming Contest Collaborating Organizations • California Wolf Center • Center for Biological Diversity • Endangered Species Coalition • Grand Canyon Wildlands Council • Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project • Great Old Broads for Wilderness • Mexicanwolves.org • National WolfWatcher Coalition • New Mexico Wilderness Alliance • Northeast Wolf Coalition • Pacific Wolf Coalition • Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter • Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter • Southwest Environmental Center • Western Wildlife Conservancy • White Mountain Conservation League • WildEarth Guardians • Wildlands Network • Wolf Conservation Center ###

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Senator Gillibrand Sends Letter to Secretary of Interior in Support of Wolves

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Sends Letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell Supporting Wolf Recovery

Expresses Concern for Impending Decision to Remove Wolves from Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release: December 10, 2014

Recently, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell urging her to continue critical protections for endangered gray wolves. The letter acknowledges the independent peer review that found the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) failed to use the “best available science” when it drafted a proposed rule that would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states with the exception of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf.

The Senator stated, “Specifically, the Northeastern ecosystems are lacking a top carnivore as evidenced by large deer populations. A necessary element for maintaining healthy ecosystems is the presence of large carnivores at ecologically effective population densities.

“I couldn’t agree with the senator more,” said wildlife biologist Dave Parsons, a science advisor for Project Coyote and the Northeast Wolf Coalition. “She has a keen understanding of the ecological importance of wolves and the ESA mandate for the use of best science in making decisions about their recovery and future conservation.”

Senator Gillibrand is not the only elected official to express such concerns. In December, 2013, Congressman Raul Grijalva and 83 colleagues wrote and urged Interior Department officials to “listen to the many wildlife and conservation scientists who believe this proposal is premature.” In March, 2014, following an independent peer review of the scientific basis for delisting gray wolves, Congressman Peter DeFazio and 73 colleagues also wrote expressing concerns about the proposal. They recommended that the proposed rule be rescinded immediately. In addition, in 2013, a team of scientists wrote about in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, “[The USFWS] entirely ignores a significant body of scientific knowledge... the proposed rule would set an unfortunate precedent with far-reaching consequences, including dramatically limiting recovery efforts for other species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”

“These Congressional letters reflect the intent of Congress in drafting the ESA and the will of the U.S. citizenry who want the spirit and letter of our most powerful environmental law to be upheld for the gray wolf,” said Adrian Treves, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison, Science Advisor for Project Coyote and Northeast Wolf Coalition.

“It is apparent that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presided over a process in which political and economic considerations were at the forefront - not science,” stated Maggie Howell, coordinator for the Northeast Wolf Coalition and Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center in New York.

The Senator added, “The 2011 gray wolf delisting, specific to the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes region, has already lead to dramatic reductions in wolf populations, partially due to inadequate regulatory mechanisms and post-delisting monitoring as mandated explicitly by the ESA.”

The Senator concluded by recommending that the Secretary “not delist the gray wolf…further evaluate the scientific material used for this determination… and develop a recovery plan for wolves that includes continued legal protection in order to enhance restoration and recognizes the need to restore and protect the important ecological role for wolves across the United States.”

Read Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Secretary Jewell here.
Read Congressman Raul Grijalva’s Congressional sign-on letter to Secretary Jewell here.
Read Congressman Peter DeFazio’s Congressional sign-on letter to Secretary Jewell here.
Read Bruskotter et al. in Conservation Letters here.

Contacts:
  • David Parsons: Science Advisor for Project Coyote and Northeast Wolf Coalition; 505-908-0468; ellobodave@comcast.net
  • Maggie Howell: Coordinator for the Northeast Wolf Coalition and Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center in New York; 914-763-2373; maggie@nywolf.org
  • Adrian Treves: Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at University of Wisconsin–Madison, Science Advisor for Project Coyote and Northeast Wolf Coalition; 608-890-1450;adriantreves@gmail.com
###

Northeast Wolf Coalition
Northeast Wolf Coalition is working group of partner organizations, and scientific advisers that collaborate on the critical issues that relate to wolf recovery in North America. Visit:http://www.northeastwolf.org/


Project Coyote
Project Coyote is a North American coalition of wildlife educators, scientists, predator friendly ranchers, and community leaders promoting coexistence between people and wildlife, and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy. Visit: http://www.projectcoyote.org/


Wolf Conservation Center
The Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY is an environmental education organization committed to conserving wolf populations in North America through science-based education programming and participation in the federal Species Survival Plans for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf and red wolf. Visit: http://nywolf.org/


Monday, December 8, 2014

Wolves at Our Door?

From: Adirondack Explorer 
November/December, 2014; "Viewpoint" p. 36 
by Maggie Howell and Diane Bentivegna

No other North American mammal inspires such a wide range of human emotions as the gray wolf. Feared and admired, cursed and revered, wolves are the stuff of legends and a symbol of America’s vanishing wilderness. Their reputation is larger than life; their role in the restoration of America’s wildlife heritage is bigger still. The passionate positive and negative responses that wolves inspire in people have left the issue of their recovery in suitable habitat throughout their historic range both contentious and undecided, but also full of promise.

The howl of the wolf has been silent in the Northeast for over a hundred years. Over three centuries, as the great eastern forest was turned into farmland, wolves were shot, poisoned, trapped, and burned. By the mid-1800s, wolves were eliminated in northern Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. By 1900, they were gone from the Adirondacks.

Today, scientists recognize the ecological importance of the wolf. As Aldo Leopold, Adolph Murie, and others argued eloquently decades ago, apex predators, especially wolves, are essential for resilient, healthy ecosystems. And with the support of the American public and the safety net of the Endangered Species Act, the wolf was able to return to portions of its native range in the Lower Forty-Eight.

Some wolves came back on their own. Minnesota wolves reclaimed adjacent states in the western Great Lakes region. Some wolves got help. In one of those rare moments when stars align in the political sky, the federal government gave the green light to return wolves to the northern Rockies. Here in the Northeast, there are no plans for a reintroduction. Wolves, however, are wanderers, and have demonstrated that they are capable of epic treks. In recent years, there have been several reports of wolves from Canada crossing the frozen St. Lawrence Seaway into Maine, of wolves traveling south from Yellowstone into Utah and Colorado, and of one wolf, OR-7, becoming the first wild wolf to enter California in over eighty years.

But just as wolves are beginning to reclaim territory, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing a plan to remove federal protections from nearly all gray wolves in the contiguous United States—a move that, if implemented, will threaten the fragile populations still trying to make a comeback on the American landscape.

In March, the Northeast Wolf Coalition submitted comments opposing this proposal. According to a peer-reviewed report by an independent panel of scientists produced by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the service’s move to strip federal protection nationwide is flawed. The peer-review committee reported that "there was unanimity among the panel that the [delisting] rule does not currently represent the ‘best available science.'”

Nevertheless, the delisting seems imminent.

Studies have shown that the Northeast has enough prey and habitat to support wolf recovery, and public surveys demonstrate support as well. If wolves do return to the region, however, their long-term survival will depend on their official status at the state level.

Presently, none of the five states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York) affords wolves any protection beyond a prohibition on hunting or trapping. None of the states has a management plan to address the potential return of wolves. None promotes wolf recovery, and none has a plan to protect wolves from being killed, whether accidentally or intentionally. Growing evidence suggests wolves are attempting to naturally recolonize the region. But because all five states sanction policies that encourage the unregulated killing of wild canids (i.e., coyotes), this evidence is in the form of dead wolves.

The State & Tribal Wildlife Grants Program is federally appropriated monies dedicated to the prevention of endangered species listings. The program provides funding to state fish and wildlife agencies in every state, territory and the District of Columbia and is matched with state and private funds. State and Tribal Wildlife Grants have funded the development, revision and implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans. Updating these plans will enable state wildlife agencies to integrate the latest information about wolves and leverage more state wildlife grant funding to promote their return. New York and other states will have a chance to improve the chances for the wolf’s recovery when they update their wildlife-conservation plans by 2015.

The value of conserving endangered species and preserving biodiversity is an axiom of the twenty-first century. The ecological importance of a top predator such as the gray wolf is undeniable. The return of the wolf will reflect a more fully functional and wild ecosystem in Northeast, with wolves fulfilling a dynamic and evolving ecological function in the changing environments that comprise the region. We have known for years that wolves disproportionately affect their environment relative to their abundance. As top-level predators, they are influential in shaping and maintaining the structure of their natural communities. Their presence and activities benefit numerous other species, helping determine the numbers and kinds of mammals, birds and plants in an area. For example, bears, weasels, ravens and eagles often scavenge on deer carcasses left by wolves. Wolves alter the feeding behavior of deer, which limits over-browsing and prevents the destruction of plants and habitats vital to many species of birds. When wolves recolonize areas, they induce vegetative changes allowing for the return of beaver and migrating birds previously driven out of denuded habitats. Predation by wolves also removes animals that are weaker genetically or harbor sicknesses.

The effects of predators on ecosystems do not operate in isolation but interact in complex ways with other factors, such as the productivity of ecosystems and the diversity of species within them. To enable wildlife managers to best harness the ecosystem services that wolves and other predators provide, there is a need for better knowledge of the processes that govern the strength of their interactions with other species and the complexities of their effects. The Coalition recommends (1) the wolf - C. lupus, C. lycaon, and/or their hybrids - be considered a species of highest priority; that is, it is extremely vulnerable and rare with immediate limits to its survivability based on known problems and known impacts to the population in the region; (2) the states and the federal government work cooperatively to develop and implement a trans-boundary Northeastern Wolf Recovery Plan that affords the protection needed to enhance natural recolonization of wolves to the Northeast; (3) the states work cooperatively to implement comprehensive public education and outreach programs to promote knowledge of the species and the regulations and laws as they relate to the protection of wolves across the Northeast.

The Northeast has unique opportunities and challenges. Without a plan for its recovery, the wolf will continue to be challenged by factors that will preclude its natural return to the region. Many ecologists fear we may not realize the full ecological impacts of the absence of wolves for generations to come. We thus have an obligation to the environment, to the wolf and to future generations to restore the wolf to its rightful place niche on the landscape, in our hearts and in our culture.

Maggie Howell is the executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, and coordinator of the Northeast Wolf Coalition. Diane Bentivegna serves on the WCC’s Advisory Board and is a member of the Northeast Wolf Coalition.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

You Heard Our Howls!



Yesterday the Wolf Conservation Center invited you to be a part of Giving Tuesday and you heard our howls! Thanks to you, the WCC raised over $60,000! We are humbled by your support and incredibly grateful for the generous matching grant provided by the Toscano family which gave your gifts an even bigger impact.

Thanks again for your support and your commitment to wolves, ecosystem education, species preservation, and environmental advocacy!