Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mexican Wolf Makes Priceless Contribution to Species Recovery


Yesterday we took an unusual step in our mission to preserve the endangered Mexican gray wolf - a spaying!

Early in the 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 F749, one of the 13 critically endangered lobos that call the WCC home. The 12-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. 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.

Our team was confident that the capture would be a success, but we knew staying nimble in over a foot of snow 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.) One would think corralling the 12 year old loba would be a cinch, but she floated atop the snow easily outfoxing our team for some time. After we successfully crated F749, 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.

WCC Team with Norwalk Veterinary Hospital's Dr Charlie Duffy

Dr Charlie Duffy VMD, who has been an invaluable friend to the WCC for years, successfully spayed F749 without a hitch. Her 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 will be extracted and preserved cryogenically. Within a few hours of her capture, the beautiful loba was returned home where she and her companion M1198, reside on exhibit.

Big thanks to F749 and the Norwalk Veterinary Hospital for their contributions to the recovery of a critically endangered species.

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