Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Great Wolf Taxonomy Debate

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A flurry of news articles about wolf taxonomy hit the press today based on new research published by Bridgett M. vonHoldt, et al in Science Advances.

Wolf taxonomy, a messy topic for sure, will continue to be the subject of a lengthy, ongoing scientific debate. This latest genomic analysis is the newest chapter.

An Overview:

On taxonomy: There is general agreement that (1) there were at least three waves of migrant wolves from Eurasia during the Pleistocene, and (2) coyotes are endemic to North America.

The Debate:

  • Those in the 2-species camp (gray wolf, coyote), Bridgett M. vonHoldt, et al, believe that all wolves evolved in Eurasia. The waves of immigrant wolves during the Pleistocene were the ancestors of Canis lupus, the gray wolf. Under this scenario, Algonquin wolves and red wolves are of hybrid (gray wolf-coyote) origin.
  • Those in the 3-species camp (Algonquin wolf/red wolf, grey wolf, coyote), Linda Rutledge, et al, believe that a lineage of large canid originally arose in North America. Some members of this canid lineage migrated to Eurasia, where they were geographically isolated from the North American wolves and evolved into another species: Canis lupus. At the same time, back in North America, Algonquin wolves, red wolves, and coyotes also evolved from this canid lineage. When gray wolves returned during the Pleistocene era, they colonized western North America. But Canis lycaon (Algonquin wolves) and Canis rufus (red wolves) remained separate, viable species in eastern North America. Linda Rutledge's genomic research published in Biology Letters in 2015 supports the 3-species model which concluded Algonquin wolves and red wolves represent a separate species.

Common Ground:

When it comes to conservation and management, the scientists from both camps agree that the role canids play in ecosystems should be the focus, not just the evolutionary history of a species. 

“Conservation focuses on a very species-specific model,” Rutledge stated in an interview in The Nature Conservancy's Cool Green Science. “Agencies often want to know first whether a species is taxonomically valid, but that may not be an efficient way to approach conservation in general. Our research shows that what species are can be very difficult to pin down."

In her paper, Bridgett M. vonHoldt concludes, "Our findings provide a critical heuristic lesson in endangered species management. The overly strict application of taxonomy to support endangered species status is antiquated. Species and taxonomic concepts are varied, complex, and difficult to apply in practice. We maintain that the Endangered Species Act could be interpreted in a modern evolutionary framework, devaluing the Victorian typological concept in exchange for a more dynamic view that allows for natural selection to occur on admixed genomes and to evolve phenotypes that are adapted to human-altered habitats and changing climates. These suggestions follow the “ecological authenticity” concept, in which admixed individuals that have an ecological function similar to that of the native endangered taxon, and that maintain a portion of the endangered genetic ancestry, warrant protection."

Conclusion:

While the debate on wolf taxonomy continues, we acknowledge there is critical need for common ground among members of the scientific community when it comes to guiding decision making. Ecosystems need top predators. Their importance to a balanced and resilient ecosystem is undeniable. In other words, as Rutledge sums it up, "Let’s quit trying to make wolves fit into our neat little taxonomic boxes. Let’s focus instead on how to protect and restore their critical role as top predators."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How Fast do Wolves Run?

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As a generalist carnivore, wolves hunt prey that can range from the bite-sized and agile rabbit to the massive bison. Regardless of the prey size, a meal is generally the hard-won reward of extensive traveling and a chase.

Wolves are not known for their speed but they can achieve 36-38 miles per hour in short bursts in pursuit of prey. Wolves are, however, known for having great endurance. They can travel long distances at a lope around 5 mph.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mexican Wolves Facing Extinction at the Hands of Politicians

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The Wolf Conservation Center is one of 54 facilities in the U.S. and Mexico participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan – a bi-national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.

Because the entire existing Mexican wolf population descended from just seven founders rescued from extinction, genetic health is the primary consideration governing not only reproductive pairings, but also captive-to-wild release efforts. Although both components are equally critical to Mexican wolf recovery, release events are far less frequent than successful breeding.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has a responsibility under federal law to facilitate recovery of the critically endangered subspecies and releases are a central part of that effort. But because state politics continues to block release efforts, wolves bred specifically to help boost the genetic health of the fragile wild population remain in captivity.

To add insult to injury, earlier this month the U.S. House of Representatives passed two riders to the Interior Appropriations bill that aim to strip Endangered Species Act protection from all gray wolves nationwide - including critically endangered Mexican gray wolves.

Hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the initial extinction of Mexican gray wolves in the wild. Wild lobos may face extinction again, but this time at the hands of politicians.

The clock is ticking on the lobos’ chances for survival.  Thus it's critical that we stop allowing political considerations to govern endangered species recovery so necessary management actions urgently required for the long term survival of Mexican gray wolves can be implemented as soon as possible.

The wolves are ready and the wild is calling. Please follow the link below to urge Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to have USFWS release more wolves!

Take Action

Background

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 97 individuals – a decrease from 110 counted at the end of 2014. #MoreWolvesLessPolitics

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How do wolves stay cool in the summer heat?

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Wolves are built to withstand extremely cold temperatures, but summer heat can be a challenge. Wolves (like dogs) will stay cool by panting to evaporate heat and moisture off their tongue. Panting is especially effective for wolves.  A wolf’s elongated muzzle and the shape of the inner nose ensure optimal oxygenation and an efficient cooling system. Wolves also alter their patterns of activity, staying hunkered down during the hottest times of day.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Land Ho for the Lobo!

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FASCINATING FACT: Did you know that the Mexican gray wolf is not only the most genetically distinct of North American gray wolves, its ancestors were likely the first gray wolves to cross the Bering Land Bridge into North America during the Pleistocene era? So the Mexican wolf is North America's original gray wolf!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mexican Wolf Pup Shower

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Double Your Donation for the Lobo Pups - Today Only!

Please join the Wolf Conservation Center in celebrating the birth of four critically endangered Mexican gray wolf pups and their role in recovering their rare and at-risk species!

All gifts (up to $10,000) made TODAY will be matched 1-to-1 through a generous gift from WCC Board President Martha Handler. Please help us to meet this match! Bonus: all donors of $50 and more will receive a 5 x 7 copy of a photo of f1505 (nicknamed "Trumpet" for her loud wolf pup squeals)

Please Donate HERE Today!

Mexican gray wolf F1143 (affectionately nicknamed Rosa) gave birth to an adorable baby girl on May 4th. Three weeks later, F1226 (a.k.a. Belle) welcomed her adorable threesome to the world. Beyond being cute, the pocket-sized predators represent the WCC's active participation in an effort to save a species from extinction. The WCC is one of 54 facilities in the U.S. and Mexico participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, a bi-national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.

Background

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 97 individuals – a decrease from 110 counted at the end of 2014.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ben Zino: A Youth Wildlife Ambassador Working to Save Red Wolves


Meet Ben Zino from Salisbury, North Carolina. When the West Rowan High School Sophomore learned that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the very agency charged by federal law with protecting endangered species, is walking away from recovering the last wild population of critically endangered red wolves, Ben had questions. He submitted a two-page report inquiring about the future of the red wolf recovery program in North Carolina, but never received a reply.

Ben was thus compelled to roll up his sleeves and start his own petition on Change.org and successfully collected over 120,000 signatures! This being said, Ben feels that most of the public, even in North Carolina, still doesn't even know what a red wolf is. So he made this video.

Thank you, Ben! You exemplify the amazing potential of your generation to make this world a better place!

Add your name to Ben's petition HERE.

Learn more about the contemporary threats wild red wolves face today HERE.

Background

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 45 red wolves roam the wilds of northeastern North Carolina.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Wolf Mother's Love

When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand and nothing, nothing is going right. Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest nights. ~ Carole King

When it comes to wolves, it's all about family.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Mexican Wolf Pup Trio Get A Visit from the Vet

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Just before midnight on May 25th, Mexican gray wolf F1126 (a.k.a. Belle) gave birth to three beautiful pups - two boys and a girl. In addition to being adorable, the critically endangered kiddos are valuable contributions to the recovery of their rare and at-risk species.

Under Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) protocols, captive born pups must be checked during certain milestones in their development. The pups had their first health check at 10 days old to determine the size of the litter and take stock of their health. Today, near the pups’ two-month mark, WCC volunteer veterinarian Paul Maus, DVM from North Westchester Veterinary Office, joined Wolf Conservation Center staff and volunteers to record each pup’s heart rate and weight, and administer wormer and the first of a series of Distemper/Parvo vaccinations.

The pup trio looked good overall, but the smallest has a case of conjunctivitis (pink-eye) and was thus treated with antibiotics. The smallest male weighs 7 lbs and his siblings 9 lbs each.

 

Furthermore, in our efforts to raise awareness for Mexican gray wolves and our efforts to recover them, the Center invited a global audience to join the wellness check in real-time via Facebook’s new live streaming application. So unbeknownst to the pups, their global fan base have helped them become powerful players in the fight to restore Mexican wolves to their rightful place in on the wild landscape!

Background

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 97 individuals - a decrease from 110 counted at the end of 2014.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Atka and the Ocean


The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction. ~ Rachel Carson

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

U.S. House Passes Two Anti-Wolf Amendments to Interior Spending Bill

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The U.S. House just passed two anti-wolf amendments to the Interior Appropriations bill. Newhouse National Wolf Delisting Amendment was came up to a vote first. This rider will block all Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves (with the exception of the Mexican wolf) in the continental United States by 2017. This species is currently listed as endangered in most of the lower-48 states. While the return of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes has been an incredible success story, this iconic American species still only occupies a small portion of its former range and wolves have only just started to re-enter areas like northern California, where there are large swaths of suitable habitat. A national delisting for wolves would reverse the incredible progress that the ESA has achieved for this species over the past few decades and once again put the gray wolf at risk of extinction.

Minutes later the House passed the Pearce (R-NM) Mexican Gray Wolf Delisting Amendment. This rider will block federal funding for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf even though a mere 97 remain in the wild. It will also limit recovery to “historic range,” a range that the political community interprets as "90% in Mexico."

The final House appropriations package will next be sent to the Senate for consideration. After changes made by the Senate are reconciled by the House, the package will be sent to the President to sign it in to law.

Tune in for developments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Urgent - Wolves Need You To Take Action Today

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The Interior and Environment Appropriations bill is expected to be brought to a vote on the House floor tomorrow and and the must-pass spending bill is loaded with dozens of toxic riders taking aim at our air, water, climate, wildlife and public lands. The bill also includes three wolf-related riders. Please contact your House representative today and leave a message urging him/her to:
  • Vote NO on the Newhouse (R-WA) National Wolf Delisting Amendment: This amendment would block all Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the continental United States by 2017. This species is currently listed as endangered in most of the lower-48 states. While the return of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes has been an incredible success story, this iconic American species still only occupies a small portion of its former range and wolves have only just started to re-enter areas like northern California, where there are large swaths of suitable habitat. A national delisting for wolves would reverse the incredible progress that the Endangered Species Act has achieved for this species over the past few decades and once again put the gray wolf at risk of extinction.
  • Vote NO on the Pearce (R-NM) Mexican Gray Wolf Delisting Amendment: This amendment would block federal funding for the endangered Mexican gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) even though there are fewer than 100 of these rare wolves left in the United States and fewer than 25 in Mexico. It would also limit recovery to “historic range,” even though the extent of that range is far from clear, and scientists say the wolves must be restored to new habitats to recover. Blocking federal funding to help recover these wolves and keeping them out of suitable habitats they need to recover is a recipe for extinction.
  • Vote YES on the Beyer (D-VA) Strike Anti-ESA Riders Amendment: This amendment would effectively strike three damaging riders in the underlying bill that attempt to block recovery efforts and Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections 3 species including wolves.

Find your Representative here.

Monday, July 11, 2016

9-Yr-Old Auctions Artwork to Make a Difference For Wolves



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By giving endangered species a voice via her artwork, Bria of Faces Of The Endangered is making a difference one painting at a time.

 “I read about all of the endangered animals and I couldn’t believe what is happening to these wonderful creatures. I want to paint all the endangered animals and donate the money to give them a face so they don’t disappear.”

Bria has a deep love for wolves. In honor of Ambassador wolf Atka's birthday last May, the conservation-minded 9-yr-old gave the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) a beautiful portrait of the arctic beauty.


By means of her passion and creativity, Bria continues to make a difference for wolves. Via an online auction on Facebook, Bria is inviting supporters to bid on her latest wolf painting, "Celestial Cry," in an effort to support the WCC!

"The Red Wolf is critically endangered because of habitat loss, human conflict, climate change and poaching. There are less than 50 left in the wild and they need us to protect them! They are disappearing fast! I don't want a world without wolves."

The auction will remain open through July 23rd. Keep up the great work, Bria! You exemplify the amazing potential of your generation to make this world a better place.

Visit Bria's Celestial Cry Auction Page Here.

 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Do you live in a state that’s a top killing ground for predators?



Wildlife Services is a strategically misnamed federal program within the USDA that wastes millions of tax dollars each year killing wild animals with traps, snares, poisons, gas, and aerial gunning. According to their official reports, they have slaughtered over 34 million animals in the last decade. 

The new analysis released by the Center for Biological Diversity identified the states where the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services killed the most black bears, mountain lions, wolves, and bobcats in 2015.
 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mexican Wolf Snuggles and Grooms Her Pups


Unbeknownst to the five week old Mexican wolf kiddos, the terribly cute trio has been warming the hearts of a global audience via the Wolf Conservation Center's remote webcams. But beyond being adorable, the pocket-size predators represent the Center's active participation in an effort to save a species on the brink of extinction.

The WCC is one of 54 facilities in the U.S. and Mexico participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan - a bi-national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.

Background 
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 97 individuals - a decrease from 110 counted at the end of 2014.

Mexican Wolf Webcam

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Oppose Riders Taking Aim at Wolves and the ESA

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Last week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees finished work on their respective versions of the 2017 federal spending bill for the Interior and Environment.

Annoyed by the fact that endangered species protection decisions are by federal law based on science rather than politics, some congressional leaders are trying to slip a legislative noose around some of the nation’s most imperiled species by loading the must-pass spending bills with dozens of toxic riders - including some that eliminate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for wolves.

There is a very serious threat that some of these anti-species riders could become law, unless leaders in Congress stand firm in rejecting them.

Please urge your representatives to oppose all riders that take aim at wolves and imperiled wildlife.

Take Action Here

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day

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We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. ~William Faulkner

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Please Be Mindful of Wildlife on Independence Day

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Celebrating Independence Day is, and should be, a lot of fun. But please remember that those bright colors and thunderous explosions can have a real impact to wildlife. Please be mindful. Here are some tips for watching out for wildlife!

TIPS FOR WATCHING OUT FOR WILDLIFE from U.S. Fish and Wildlife. This post originally appeared in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Open Spaces blog

Celebrating Independence Day is, and should be, a lot of fun. Barbecues, beaches, parades and fireworks can be great ways to celebrate our country’s tremendous journey since the Continental Congress made that declaration July 4, 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident... “ But please remember that those bright colors and thunderous explosions can have a real impact to wildlife. Here are a few ways you can help mitigate the harm to wildlife and their habitats while you celebrate the Fourth of July.

Be alert: The shock of fireworks can cause wildlife and pets to flee, ending up in unexpected areas or roadways, flying into buildings and other obstacles, and even abandoning nests, leaving young vulnerable to predators. If you’re out driving, please be on the lookout for animals.

Help prevent fires: The threat to wildlife doesn’t stop at startling lights and sounds, fireworks also have the potential to start wildfires, directly affecting wildlife and destroying essential habitat.

Keep it clean: Litter from firecrackers, bottle rockets and other explosives can be choking hazards for wildlife and may even be toxic if ingested.

If you’re on the beach, watch out for nesting birds: Fireworks are very disruptive to piping plovers as well as many other nesting birds so be on the lookout for signs. We can work together to protect nesting shorebirds.

Cut back on using plastic or disposable utensils: During holiday celebrations we tend to break out the plastic utensils, plates and cups. Avoiding plasticware can easily reduce the amount of waste we create and inevitably help wildlife and their habitat, especially given the growing concern of plastic waste.

Properly dispose of fishing gear: Anglers can reduce the injuries or deaths to wildlife simply by properly discarding fishing line and hooks. Retrieve broken lines, lures and hooks and deposit them in trash containers or take them with you.

Follow laws and use caution: Federal law requires professional shows to be at least three-quarters of a mile from protected habitat. As you celebrate, choose fireworks shows that keep a respectable distance from wildlife habitat. If you plan to set off your own fireworks, make sure it is legal, use caution and you pick up any resulting debris. Stay away from wildlife habitat and avoid dry areas. Keep in mind that fireworks can’t be brought onto federal lands. Violations can come with stiff penalties, including fines costing thousands of dollars to jail time. Law enforcement officers are on the lookout for possession of illegal fireworks and use of fireworks in prohibited areas.

Alternatives to Fireworks:If you are looking to celebrate without using fireworks, there are a number of alternatives. Here are a few ideas, but we’d love to hear other ideas.


  • Laser light shows
  • Gathering around a firepit
  • Participate in a parade or block party
  • Bubbles (for kids afraid of loud noises)
  • Glowsticks
  • Noisemakers and more
Stay safe this Fourth of July and thanks for keeping wildlife in mind as you celebrate!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Global Audience Joins Endangered Wolf Pup's Health Check Via Facebook's Live Stream Application

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On the morning of May 4th, Mexican gray wolf F1143 gave birth to a single pup (f1505) – a robust little girl nicknamed “Trumpet” for her loud squeals. In addition to being adorable, the critically endangered kiddo is a valuable contribution to the recovery of her rare and at-risk species.

Under Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) protocols, captive born pups must be checked during certain milestones in their development. Wolf Conservation Center staff checked in when the pup was 10 days old to determine the size of the litter (in this case a single pup) and take stock of the pup’s health, and again today at her two-month mark to record her heart rate and weight, and administer wormer and the first of a series of Distemper/Parvo vaccinations.



Dr Renee Bayha VMD, a veterinarian who donates her time and expertise to the WCC, led the health exam and confirmed Trumpet to be in great health! Furthermore, in our efforts to raise awareness for Mexican gray wolves and our efforts to recover them, the Center invited a global audience to join the wellness check in real-time via Facebook’s new live streaming application.

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So unbeknownst to Trumpet, her global fan base has helped her become a powerful presence in the fight to restore Mexican wolves to their rightful place in on the wild landscape!

Background

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 97 individuals - a decrease from 110 counted at the end of 2014.