Monday, December 31, 2018

Counting Down to a New Year


Looking back and preparing for what's ahead.

Once again, we’re on the cusp of a new year. As we count down to 2019, we get to reflect on the year’s highlights and hardships and prepare for what’s ahead.

We faced some extraordinary challenges in 2018, none bigger than saying goodbye to Atka after he died peacefully in his sleep on September 22.

Although losing Atka leaves an enormous hole in our hearts, his larger-than-life influence on the world persists. His legacy lives on in an empowered public who will continue the fight to safeguard his wild kin. Atka taught us that each of us can make a difference, and all of us ought to try.

We know that we have our work cut out for us in the months and years to come, but like Atka, we’re not going to shy away from the tough challenges.

So as we close 2018, we thank you for your support and rededicate ourselves to our mission.

Atka worked to create a better world for wolves, and so will we.

See you in 2019!

Friday, December 28, 2018

On Its 45th Anniversary, Feds Wage War Against The Endangered Species Act

Forty-five years ago, on December 28th, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) into law. Sadly, despite its success and public support, the ESA is under attack like never before.

The ESA was passed in 1973 because Americans believed that protecting our wildlife was an obligation to future generations, our nation’s environmental health, our fellow creatures, and the heart of the American way of life. It included wildlife ranges and habitats irrespective of political boundaries because these habitats, which are vital to species survival, cross arbitrary lines.

With extinction, there is no turning back, no second chance. Thankfully, the ESA has given thousands of at-risk species like the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf (pictured) a second chance. For over four decades the ESA has worked successfully to prevent the extinction of 99% of the species placed under its protection. A national poll conducted in 2015 found that the ESA is supported by 90% of American voters.

Today, the ESA is more important than ever before. New research suggests we are in the midst of a period of heightened biological extinction, with rates several orders of magnitude higher than background rates estimated from the fossil record. Moreover, a shocking 60% of the earth's mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have been lost since 1970, according to WWF's 2018 Living Planet Report.

Given that science has concluded that we have entered an unprecedented period of climate change and human-caused Sixth Mass extinction, one would think the government would pull out all the stops to help imperiled species heal and flourish. Instead, it's rolling out a series of regulatory changes that threaten to cripple the ESA.

The Fed's "Extinction Plan" would weaken endangered species protections by:

  • Making it more difficult to extend protections to threatened species, delaying lifesaving action until a species' population is so small it may be challenging or impossible to save
  • Exempting climate change from key parts of the law, making it more difficult to protect the polar bear, the bearded seal, and many other imperiled species that are impacted by the effects of climate change
  • Requiring economic factors to be analyzed when deciding if a species should be saved
  • Making it easier for companies to build roads, pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects in critical habitat areas that are essential to imperiled species' survival

When President Nixon signed the ESA into law he said, "Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed."

Today, it's essential to remember the values that the government embraced four decades ago by withdrawing its regulatory proposals which seek to undermine the most successful bipartisan pieces of legislation our country has ever adopted.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Peace on Earth

Goodwill to all.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Deck the Halls!

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Giving Endangered Wolves the Gift of Flight

Karen, Tom, and WCC Curator Rebecca Bose

Critically endangered Mexican gray wolves M1506 (Duffy) and F1508 (KB) first received the celebrity treatment when they grew up, unknowingly, in the eyes of thousands of global fans through the Wolf Conservation Center's live webcams, but the siblings were elevated to a new level of stardom this week! Thanks to the generosity of pilot Tom Haas, the pair flew across the country on a private plane - talk about an adventure!

The Species Survival Plan (SSP) management group for the Mexican gray wolf determines which wolves should be bred each year by using software developed for the population management of endangered species. This is necessary because all Mexican wolves descended from just 7 founders rescued from extinction. Genetic diversity is the primary consideration in the selection of Mexican wolf breeding pairs, and Duffy and KB were found to be excellent matches, genetically, with Mexican wolves at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

With breeding season approaching, we needed to get Duffy and KB from New York to their new homes. But how?

For occasions such as this, we call upon a very special group to help – one with wings!

Enormous thanks to LightHawk, a volunteer-based environmental aviation organization that donates flights for conservation, and pilot Tom Haas for flying the critically endangered lobos to New Mexico and Ohio earlier this week. While we're sad to see the siblings leave, we're excited for the future - perhaps they'll fall in love with their new lobos and have pups!

Learn more about Mexican gray wolves:

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Ready or not, here comes Nikai!

Meet Ambassador wolf Nikai!

He’s a powerful presence in the fight to preserve wolves’ rightful place in the environment.

Learn more!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Juvenile Wolf Killed to Protect Sheep Grazing on Public Lands

In September, federal officials killed a male wolf pup in Idaho to protect a private business - the Flat Top Sheep Company. What's especially disconcerting is that that the private company grazes its sheep on public lands, and protocols that call for minimum measures to prevent conflict were ignored.

Instead, Idaho officials used tax-payer dollars to hire Wildlife Services, the strategically misnamed federal agency within the USDA, to kill the young wolf.

The public lands of the United States harbor some of the greatest resources of our nation and are owned by all Americans, not this private enterprise.

This begs the question, should we allow the killing of wildlife on our public lands to benefit the profit margins of a private business?

George Wuerthner, a former ecologist botanist with the Idaho Bureau of Land Management, discusses in The Wildlife News the ecological costs of grazing on public lands and why killing public wildlife for private profit is wrong.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Wolf Conservation Center Named Among "25 Most Interesting Webcams" of 2018!

Webcam lovers’ favorite tradition returns with the 2018 edition of EarthCam’s 25 Most Interesting Webcams. EarthCam's 2018 list of winning webcams includes everything from breathtaking scenery to scientific experiments and even wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC)!

The 20th annual list spans 8 countries and features engaging live webcams that entertained millions of people around the world in 2018.

Year round, visitors to the WCC enjoy meeting Ambassador wolves Alawa, Zephyr, and Nikai, but the WCC is actually home to 48 wolves! Most of the WCC’s “other” 45 wolves, both Mexican gray wolves and red wolves, reside off-exhibit, but not necessarily out of view! Unbeknownst to the wolves, live webcams invite an unlimited number of viewers to enter their private lives.

In the spirit of George Orwell’s “1984,” the WCC uses webcams to observe food and water intake and monitor the physical well-being of each wolf without the animals’ knowledge. The cameras also allow staff to study family dynamics and thus make the best recommendations with respect to which wolves are most suitable for release.

The cameras also give a global audience an opportunity to learn about these critically endangered species and our efforts to recover them. Thanks to the webcams, the Center’s educational reach far exceeds the boundary of its gates in South Salem, NY! The webcams have been wildly popular all around the world!

Tune in to our webcams here!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

NPS Reports Six Yellowstone Wolves Killed By Humans in 2017

Last week the National Park Service (NPS) its Yellowstone Wolf Project Annual Report, a detailed report of wolf activity within the park during 2017.

According to the report, four radio-collared wolves died in 2017 (table 2): one was killed by other wolves, one kicked and killed by an ungulate, one died of canine distemper virus (CDV), and one died of unknown natural causes (necropsy was delayed due to remoteness and exact cause of death could not be determined). All ranged from six and a half years to eight years old.

Wolf populations regulate themselves by natural forces such as intra-pack strife, competition with neighboring packs and predators, and ailments like distemper and mange.

Packs continuously emerge and collapse; it’s Nature’s way.

But with authorized wolf hunts in every state that borders the park, Yellowstone wolves face unnatural threats too, and some not lawful.

According to the report, staff recorded six uncollared adult wolf deaths and they were all caused by humans. Five were killed during the wolf hunting season in Montana (one old adult, three adults, and one pup) and one, the 12-year-old white matriarch of the Canyon Pack, was illegally shot inside park boundaries and had to be euthanized by park staff.

Wolves are more valuable alive than dead

Hunting wolves in the greater Yellowstone region conflicts with Yellowstone’s mission to protect the animals for study and for people to view.

NPS estimates that wolf watchers bring $35M tourism dollars to the greater Yellowstone area annually. Moreover, a 2013 NPS report shows that 3,188,030 visitors to Yellowstone National Park that year spent almost $382 million in the surrounding communities. That spending supported 5,300 jobs in the area.

A 2017 scientific visitor survey found that the number one draw to Yellowstone is wildlife - specifically wolves and grizzly bears.

Should communities surrounding Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho give greater consideration the economics of wildlife watching? Perhaps then would they would understand that wolves are more valuable alive than dead, and their current policies are indeed killing the "golden goose."

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wolf Conservation Center Welcomes New Red Wolf to the Pack!

The Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) family just got a little bigger!

Yesterday, red wolf Everest (F2204) arrived at the WCC from the Tallahassee Museum. Once she settles in, the dark beauty will be introduced to red wolf brothers Moose Jr (M2119) and Tyke (M2118) in hope that Everest will fall in love with one of the brothers and make a valuable contribution to the recovery of their rare species by having pups in the spring.

Genetic diversity is the primary consideration in the selection of Mexican wolf breeding pairs. The Species Survival Plan (SSP) management group for the red wolf determines which wolves should be bred each year by using software developed for the population management of endangered species. This is necessary because all red wolves descended from just 14 founders rescued from extinction.

We won’t know the outcome of a potential union until “pup season” in April or May. But in the meantime, throw back your head and let out a long welcoming howl for the newest member of the WCC family!

Check in on her via live webcam!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Five Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves Found Dead Last Month in New Mexico

Wildlife officials announced in their Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update that five critically endangered Mexican gray wolves were found dead in November, bringing the total of documented wolf mortalities so far this year to 17.

The deceased wolves, all located in New Mexico, include AM1447 of the Frieborn Pack, fp1826 of the Prieto Pack, AM1038 of the Hawks Nest Pack, m1680 of the Saffel Pack, and Single M1486.

All of the incidents are currently under investigation by USFWS Law Enforcement.

While their deaths alone are devastating, the implications could be far-ranging. A recent study found that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials who manage the Mexican wolf recovery program are underestimating the rate of poaching by up to 21%.

Between 1998 and 2015, there were 155 deaths and disappearances in New Mexico and Arizona of radio-collared Mexican wolves. Of these wolves, 53 had “unknown fates.” Today, the wild U.S. population hovers around 114 individuals.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Red Wolf Ancestry Re-discovered Along the American Gulf Coast

Rediscovering species once thought to be extinct or on the edge of extinction is rare. Red wolves have been extinct along the American Gulf Coast since 1980, with their last populations found in coastal Louisiana and Texas.

In a paper published yesterday, researchers report the rediscovery of red wolf ghost alleles in a canid population on Galveston Island, Texas.

This could be groundbreaking for the species and broader conservation efforts!

Find more scientific papers re red wolves.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Aldo Leopold's Epic Question

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.”

~Aldo Leopold, Foreword to A Sand County Almanac (1949)

Do the needs of big industry trump the need to conserve our wilderness and those that inhabit it?

Saturday, December 8, 2018

How many wild wolves remain throughout the United States?

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By the 1960s, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all wolves in the Lower 48 states.

Only a small population of gray wolves remained in extreme northeastern Minnesota and on Isle Royale.

The last handful of wild red wolves remained in the U.S. southeast.

After passage of the federal Endangered Species Act in 1973 and protection of both wolf species as endangered, federal recovery programs resulted in the rebound of wolf populations in limited parts of the country.

Due to changing state and federal legislation and policies, wolves face continued challenges in the wild.


Friday, December 7, 2018

The Best Sunsets Include Wolves

Thursday, December 6, 2018

High Beaver Numbers in Voyageurs National Park Benefit Fragile Moose Population

The abundance of beaver in Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota may be taking some of the predator pressure off of the park's moose herd. Research has revealed that that many wolves in the park choose to hunt and eat beaver instead of moose and deer. As a result, the park's moose numbers have remained stable while populations of moose are declining across nearly all of Minnesota's moose range.

Learn more about the Voyageurs Wolf Project.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Wolves: Vital. Not Villainous.

Critically endangered Mexican gray wolves can help the bring back the balance in the American Southwest.

Beyond being beautiful, wolves are critical keystone species. By regulating prey populations, wolves enable many other species of plants and animals to flourish. Without predators, such as wolves, an ecosystem fails to support a natural level of biodiversity and may cease to exist altogether.

The recovery of the gray wolf after its eradication from Yellowstone National Park, nearly a century ago, serves as a demonstration of how critical keystone species are to the long-term sustainability of the ecosystems they inhabit. In the 70-year absence of wolves in the Park, elk had become accustomed to grazing tender, native willows along stream banks without much predation risk. The consequences of an elk population without a top predator included a decline of the deciduous trees elk eat, a decline of beavers due to the decline of willow and aspen, and a decline in songbirds. These consequences indicate that changes in the wolf population have trickle-down effects on other populations, a phenomenon known as a “trophic cascade.”

With the support of the American public two decades ago, the federal government gave the green light to return wolves to portions of their native range in the West in 1995 and 1996 - including Yellowstone. The wildlife conservation event opened a new chapter in Yellowstone's history, with a homecoming that changed the Park.

After wolf reintroduction, scientists documented the return of willows and other vegetation. And where the willow returned, the researchers noted more diverse wildlife. Beaver dams and dried up wetlands returned, and wetland birds, waterfowl and other wildlife thrived again where they had been suppressed for decades. Over-grazed grasses flourished anew on upland prairies.

As Mother Nature's wildlife managers, wolves initiate trickle-down effects that improve ecosystem function and resilience.

Fate of Wolves To Be Decided By Politicians by December 21

Republican and Democratic leaders on Monday agreed to a two-week stopgap spending measure through Dec. 21, a move that pushes Friday's deadline for funding the remaining seven unfinished spending bills (and a possible partial government shutdown) to within a few days of Christmas.

Among the seven bills remaining on the table is the 2019 Interior/EPA appropriations bill, in which damaging anti-wildlife amendments (riders) that undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) remain in play. One provision in the House goes as far as to remove protection for gray wolves nationwide, a move which will open trophy hunting of wolves in several states as early as 2019.

In a positive move, the Senate moved its FY2019 Interior-Environment bill (S. 3073) without the addition of anti-wildlife budget riders poised to threaten wolves. Moreover, thirty-two Senators, ninety-seven House Members, and 252 groups all agree: government spending bills are no place for attacks on our nation’s imperiled wildlife.

It's critical that these Endangered Species Act champions on the Hill and remain strong in support of wolves and the ESA. If not, wolves won't have anything to celebrate come Christmas this year.

Monday, December 3, 2018


Conservation Community Supports Penalty for Violating Federal Law 

ALBUQUERQUE, NM-- Last week, the Gila National Forest served rancher Craig Thiessen notice of a decision to cancel the grazing permit for the Canyon del Buey allotment near Reserve, New Mexico. Thiessen had pleaded guilty to intentionally trapping and bludgeoning a Mexican wolf with a shovel on public lands in 2015. Forest Service grazing regulations authorize the agency to revoke the permit of any permittee who is convicted of failing to comply with federal laws relating to the protection of wildlife, including, in this case, the Endangered Species Act.

“The victim here was a 10-month old wolf pup, named ‘Mia Tuk’ by Jaryn Allen of Albuquerque, from the Willow Springs pack, a family that no longer exists in part because of Mr. Thiessen’s actions,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project. “We’re glad that the Forest Service is showing that it takes wolf recovery seriously and won’t let ranchers get away with illegally killing these important predators.”

"I’m happy to hear this news that the US Forest Service took action. I’m still sad that Mia Tuk was killed in such a brutal manner, but it now seems as though his death is bringing about change that could better protect wolves. Many years ago, wolves thrived on this land then people came in and took the land from them. I hope wolves will be able to thrive on this land once again," said Jaryn Allen, 12, Albuquerque.

“There is no justice for Mia Tuk but there is some measure of justice for our public lands when those who act so brutally face consequences,” said Christopher Smith, Southern Rockies Wildlife Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Public lands ranching is a privilege. Thiessen abused that privilege violently and so we’re grateful the Forest Service took action to revoke his permit.”

“The Forest Service got it right and upheld the rule of law,” says Madeleine Carey, Greater Gila Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “Far too often, these heavily subsidized ranchers, like the Bundys or Hammonds, are enabled rather than held accountable. We applaud the Forest Service for exercising its authority to protect the public interest on our public lands.”

“Thirty-three organizations and twenty individuals joined a letter last June calling for the Forest Service to take this very action, and hundreds of wolf supporters expressed outrage to the agency through phone calls and letters,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “The Forest Service’s decision to take this action is a powerful affirmation that wolves belong on public lands and violent permittees do not.”


A copy of Mr. Thiessen’s guilty plea is online here. A copy of the conservation community’s June 2018 letter urging the agency to take this action is also online. A copy of the Forest Service email to Congressional representatives is pasted here.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Happy Hanukkah!

Chag Sameach from the Wolf Conservation Center family to yours!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Boopiest Snoot And So Much More

Mexican gray wolf Craighead (m1746) - the teeny tiniest wolf at the Wolf Conservation Center

Beyond being among the boopiest snoots in the animal kingdom, a wolf's nose is a powerful organ.

With over 200 million olfactory cells housed in the nose, the wolf’s sense of smell is its most acute sense.

Scent plays a very important role in the life of the wolf, by smell alone wolves can locate prey, family members, or enemies. It can tell them if other wolves are in the area, if those wolves are male or female, and how recently they visited.

Learn more!