Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Busy Season Ahead - Prepping For Endangered Wolf Pups


The Wolf Conservation Center participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for two critically endangered wolf species, the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) and the red wolf (Canis rufus). The Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf are among the rarest mammals in North America; both species were at one time extinct in the wild.

While the WCC has been a vocal and visible advocate in trying to secure protections for critically endangered wolf species, we have also naturally been quite active in physically safeguarding the representatives of the rare species that have been entrusted to our care.

Organizations participating in the SSP are tasked with basic husbandry, collaborating in the carefully managed captive breeding program, recommendations for release, and research.

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 five breeding pairs - four Mexican wolf pairs and one red!

Because the entire existing populations of Mexican wolves and red wolves are derived from such limited founding populations (just seven individuals for the Mexican wolf and 14 for the red wolf), genetic health is the primary consideration governing decisions re reproductive pairings and captive-to-wild release events. It is also the reason that the SSP programs for both wolf species pursue extraordinary conservation measures to save these species including semen collection, gamete cryopreservation, and artificial insemination (AI).

Below is a summary of the red wolf and Mexican gray wolf breeding plans:


Red Wolves Charlotte (F2121) and Jack (M1606)

First-time parents Charlotte and Jack will be given an opportunity to breed again this year. The pair welcomed their first litter of pups on April 19, 2018 - three boys and a girl.

Mexican Gray Wolves Trumpet (F1505) and LightHawk (M1564)

Trumpet and LightHawk are also getting a chance to renew their badge of parenthood – the first-time parents welcomed their first litter, two boys and a girl, on April 30, 2018.


Mexican gray wolves Belle (F1226), Rosa (F1143), and Magdalena (F1435) could welcome pups this spring, but not with their respective mates. The three lobas will be artificially inseminated using semen preserved by cryopreservation - the use of very low temperatures to preserve structurally intact living cells and tissues. Belle and Rosa have each welcomed two litters; potential pups will be a first for Magdalena.

During breeding season, we are tasked with separating each pack's non-breeding males and females.

Wolf families usually consist of the breeding pair (parents) and their offspring of varying ages. In the wild, wolves employ behaviors and other techniques to avoid inbreeding, an innate behavior that decreases the risk of adverse mutations. For young pack members looking to breed, an option in the wild is dispersing from the pack. Options are limited for captive wolves, thus it's necessary that all male family members be kept apart from the females until hormones subside. All of our enclosures have a dividing fence line through their interior so packs will remain in their original territories, but males on one side and females on the other. We temporarily separated males and females in the following family groups:

Red wolves Sam (M1784) and Veronica (F1858)

The seasoned parents are getting a well-deserved rest this season. After welcoming pups in the past two consecutive years, their paws are full managing their ten offspring. Because the yearlings are reaching sexual maturity, the males and females are separated for the breeding season.

Mexican gray wolves M1198 (Alléno) and F1143 (Rosa)

The males and females within the family of eleven have been separated to prevent natural breeding between the parents. Although the nine pups born on May 8, 2018, are not yet sexually mature, the brothers have been split from their sisters, so all females are residing with Rosa, and males with their father, Alléno (M1198).

Mexican gray wolves M1133 (Rhett) and F1226 (Belle)

The males and females within the family of six have been separated to prevent spontaneous breeding involving those who have reached sexual maturity.

Mexican gray wolves M1059 (Diego) and F1435 (Magdalena)

The Mexican wolf pair has been separated for the season to prevent natural breeding.

We don't know if any of the above breeding plans will prove fruitful, but we need not wait long to find out. Breeding season has begun and the gestation period (length of pregnancy) for a wolf is only sixty-three days.

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Wolf's Nose Knows Bounds

Wolf families (or packs) maintain territories in which they hunt and live. Members of the pack take their territory very seriously - they’ll aggressively defend it from all non-pack members.

Without using geographical markers, as we do, how do wolves know where their territory begins and ends? Wolves will communicate the boundaries of their territory through territorial scent marking. By marking the boundaries with urine and feces, wolves are telling other wolf packs "no trespassing" - the area is already occupied!

When researchers from the Voyageurs Wolf Project charted the locations of six wolves from different northern Minnesota wolf packs throughout the summer, the findings reveal just how effective invisible fences can be!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Endangered Plant Garden Named in Honor of Ambassador Wolf Atka


The Wolf Conservation Center, in partnership with Sacred Warrior, is proud to announce the creation of an endangered species and medicinal plant garden at the WCC. The garden, named "Atka’s Garden: Sacred Warrior & Wolf Conservation Center Sanctuary," has been granted botanical sanctuary status by United Plant Savers.

 Many wild plant species face the same misunderstandings and threats as wolves; some are becoming endangered due to habitat destruction, imported diseases or pests, and over-harvesting. Reintroducing endangered and at-risk plant species through the garden and wild lands of the WCC aligns with the WCC’s mission of ecological awareness and environmental stewardship.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Federally Protected Wolf Mistaken for Coyote and Killed in South Dakota


A hunter mistakenly killed a gray wolf in South Dakota, claiming he believed it was the "biggest coyote he had ever seen." This tragedy points up a problem that concerned citizens have been warning against for years: the possibility that wolves will be shot by hunters who mistake them for coyotes.

South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks doesn't recognize a wolf population within the state, informs hunters that transient wolves are very uncommon, and offers very little information to assist hunters in distinguishing federally endangered, protected gray wolves from unprotected coyotes.

"It's a MUST that federal and state wildlife authorities provide the public with appropriate information and guides to recognize wildlife, as gray wolves have been spotted in South Dakota intermittently over the last few years," states Maggie Howell, Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center. Two gray wolves, one from the Great Lakes Region and one from Yellowstone National Park, were found dead in South Dakota in 2012.

Wolves are wanderers, venturing out in search of new territory, food, and mates, so it's crucial that hunters not only know wolves are protected by Federal law and killing one is a crime, but also know how to properly identify an endangered gray wolf.

Should federal and state wildlife authorities best support the Endangered Species Act, and the endangered wildlife within their state, and educate the public about wolves and coyotes?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Peace is always beautiful. Wolves are too.

Meet Alawa and Nikai!

Beyond being beautiful, they're powerful players in the fight to preserve wolves’ rightful place in the environment. As Ambassador wolves, Alawa, Nikai, and their brother, Zephyr, help people realize that, contrary to popular belief, wolves aren't vicious, scary creatures; they're simply wild animals that are misunderstood and play important roles in the environment.

Thank you, Zephyr, Alawa, and Nikai, for opening minds, rewilding hearts, and raising awareness for the importance and plight of your wild kin. These are the animals we fight for every day.

Join them now via live webcam.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Keep Howling

Today we remember the extraordinary Martin Luther King Jr, who was born on January 15 in 1929.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Sunday's Programs at the Wolf Conservation Center Cancelled Due to Weather

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Due to the impending weather forecast, all of Sunday's education programs have been canceled at the Wolf Conservation Center. We apologize for any problems this might create! For those who were registered to attend one of these programs, please reach out by emailing or calling the WCC at 914-763-2373, and WCC staff will happily work with you to either issue a refund or reschedule your group to the program of your choice (pending availability).

The wolves will be hunkered down - you should too!

Love the relaxation that comes with snow days? Wolves do!

When snow falls, wolves chill out, according to a recent study from the University of Alberta. Over two winters, researchers looked at the movements of grey wolves in Alberta in conjunction with data on snowfall in the area.

"We found that on the night that it was snowing, wolves rested more than they traveled, and when they traveled, they traveled slower than on other days when there wasn't any snowfall," Amanda Droghini, one of the researchers involved with the study. Scientists hypothesize that the falling snow could alter wolves' hunting strategies, causing them to resume normal activity the day after the snowfall.

So if you're expecting an upcoming snowstorm, act like a wolf and hunker down!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

To Understand How Earliest Predators Hunted, Scientists Look at Ears


Have you heard?

The size and structure of a species' inner ear are correlated to its hunting techniques!

As faster species evolved, their inner ears grew in size. Larger inner ears help cheetahs, lions and wolves keep their head stable while moving at high speeds.

By analyzing the makeup of the three bony canals, researchers were able to estimate whether a specific predator species -- including extant species -- relied on high-speed pursuit, pouncing, ambushing or some combination of the three.

Can you guess which technique the earliest known dog species used?

For the answer and more.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Found Dead - At Least 18 Mortalities in 2018


January 14, 2019 -- The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) announced in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Monthly Update that a critically endangered Mexican gray wolf - yearling m1661 of the Saffel Pack - was found dead in Arizona in December 2018. "The incident is under investigation."

The status of the Mexican gray wolf population in New Mexico is unknown, according to the update from AZGFD, "December mortality data for New Mexico was not available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at the time this report was prepared due to the federal shutdown."

Last month, wildlife officials announced that five critically endangered Mexican gray wolves were found dead in November. The deceased wolves were all located in New Mexico. All of these incidents were under investigation by USFWS Law Enforcement before the federal shutdown.

The death of wolf m1661 brings the total of documented wolf mortalities in 2018 to at least 18.

While their deaths alone are devastating, the implications could be far-ranging. A recent study found that USFWS 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.”

At last count in January of 2018, the wild Mexican gray wolf population in the U.S. was estimated to be 114 individuals.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Fifty Wolves Howling

Ambassador wolves Zephyr (featured), Alawa, and Nikai; plus red wolves Charlotte, Jack, Maple, Ben, Marley, Deven, MJ, Tyke, Veronica, Sam, Martha, Rich, Max, Shane, Hunter, Skye-Rae, Notch, Tom, Gilda, and Penny; along with Mexican gray wolves Magdalena, Diego, Belle, Rhett, Maus, Jean, Max, Nita, Rosa, Alléno, Hélène, Lek, Mittermeier, Beattie, Carson, Goodall, Bria, Craighead, Diane, Trumpet, Lighthawk, Babs, Kral, and Joe Darling - forty-seven wolves howling, to be exact.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Best Available Predator Science and the Law

On December 18, 2018, the Wolf Conservation Center hosted Dr. Adrian Treves for a special webinar, "Best Available Predator Science and the Law." Predator conservation in North America is split along several fault lines that make it difficult to restore many large carnivores to native habitats. One of the fault lines is the legal basis for U.S. predator preservation. In the webinar, Dr. Treves summarizes two views of the U.S. public trust doctrine and compares how differently proponents of those views might make decisions with a case study of Wisconsin's gray wolves.

To learn more about Adrian's work, please visit the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Visit the WCC's Scientific Webinar Library for more educational presentations.
Adrian Treves earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1997 and is now a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In 2007, Dr. Treves founded the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Adrian’s research focuses on how to balance human needs with wildlife conservation and he has authored more than 150 scientific papers on predator-prey ecology or conservation.
January 7, 2019, Adrian P. Wydeven, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Cable, WI, Timothy R. Van Deelen Ph.D. CWB®, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI, and Nathan M Roberts, PhD., Furbearer, Wolf and Bear Research Scientist, WI DNR, Rhinelander, WI submitted comments in response to the webinar re wolf management in Wisconsin. View them here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

First Wolf Legally Killed in Northeastern Montana Since Losing Federal ESA Protections


A female gray wolf was shot Monday in northeastern Montana - the first wolf to be killed in that area since 2011. She was, quite literally, a trailblazer; venturing out into new territories but also, unfortunately, symbolizing a new dawn of wildlife management at the hands of state agencies.

No wolf packs are known to exist in the eastern side of the state; she was the first wolf to be killed in that region since wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Montana in 2011.

Under Montana's wolf management plan, hunters may shoot wolves from September - March, resulting in the deaths of roughly 225 wolves on average each year. The state recorded a population of approximately 633 wolves in 2018.

Montana's wolf management policies have a devastating impact not only on wolves within the state but on wolves across the United States, as the policies can influence expectations about wildlife management in other states. For example, if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) were to issue a national wolf delisting rule -- meaning all wolves in the lower 48 states (except Mexican wolves and red wolves) can lose protection at a time when they have claimed less than 10% of their historic range -- state wildlife agencies might look to Montana as a model of state management.

Is this what state management looks like?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Alaska Asks US Interior to Roll Back Safeguards for Endangered Species, National Refuges


The State of Alaska’s wildlife management program targets drastic reductions to apex predators like bears and wolves, and because this intensive management program operates in areas including federal National Wildlife Refuges, Alaska’s wildlife management program has been a flashpoint in an ongoing battle between state and federal officials over who has authority over federal lands.

According to correspondence posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Alaska's incoming governor wants the U.S. Department of Interior to drop an array of its policies protecting wildlife, habitat, and wilderness in the State of Alaska. The wide-ranging demands would also roll back safeguards for endangered species, marine mammals, and predator-prey balance.

In the letter, Alaska’s acting commissioner of Fish and Game, Doug Vincent-Lang, asks Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary Bernhardt to suspend a series of regulations and policies governing national park lands, wildlife refuges, as well as habitat protections for federally listed threatened and endangered species.

“If I were a wolf or a bear in Alaska right now, I would be headed for the Canadian border, ASAP,” stated Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member.

Read PEER's full press release here.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Nine-year Old From Connecticut Honors Atka With A Poem

Ambassador wolf Atka was many things: a teacher, a leader, but most importantly, a friend. Throughout his 16 years, Atka inspired many to advocate on behalf of wolves and although his passing will forever be tinged with grief, we take comfort in knowing the impact he had on all he met.

Nathan met Atka on his 8th birthday in 2017 and was immediately drawn to his charismatic personality and striking appearance. After learning of Atka's passing, he wrote a poem to honor his wild friend.

Piercing eyes shine through the night
Howling with all his might.
Thunder roaring through the clouds
There is no wolf just as proud.
Atka, Atka, white as snow,
I tribute to him all I know.
Atka, Atka, greater than a lion,
Yet stronger and prouder than Orion.
A birthmark on our eyes shows a bond that will never die.
A friend only a brother could compare.
A friend that is great is very rare.
~9-year old Nathan Hinton from 
Connecticut, Atka’s biggest fan

Very rare, indeed. Thank you to all of Atka's friends for continuing his mission.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Wolves Naturally Limit Their Own Numbers

The idea that state-sanctioned killing of wolves is necessary to control wolf populations is one of the most widespread assumptions in large carnivore management. However, research demonstrates that wolves limit their own numbers.

As apex predators wolves keep their own numbers in check.

Self-regulation in large carnivores like wolves ensures that the largest and the fiercest do not overexploit their resources.

According to a recent work published in OIKOS, population control is what distinguishes wolves and other “apex predators” from the rest. Wolves are highly social animals that live in well-organized family units called packs. Cooperative living gives wolf families a number of benefits. In addition to facilitating successful hunting, pup-rearing, and defending pack territory, cooperative living allows wolves to limit their own population - for example, they control the numbers within their group by only letting certain members breed. By self-regulating— they also help to keep their ecosystems in balance.

Wolf populations stabilize when carrying capacity is reached.

Since wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone over 20 years ago, the 2+ million-acre park has acted as a laboratory, offering scientists a deeper understanding of the complexity of that ecosystem, including the diverse pressures (beyond lethal control by humans) that manage wolf populations.

Because hunting wolves is not permitted within the Park boundaries, Yellowstone offers us a chance to see what happens to wolf populations when left undisturbed by humans.

National Park Service

In Yellowstone, wolf numbers have grown and generally stabilized. For the last decade, the wolf population has hovered around 100, which experts consider Yellowstone’s carrying capacity. Carrying capacity describes the maximum number of individuals or species that a specific environment's resources can sustain for an indefinite period without degrading it. Once a species reaches its carrying capacity, population numbers stabilize.

Factors that affect the carrying capacity include:
  • Food Availability
  • Disease (canine distemper virus, mange, etc…)
  • Intra- pack strife
  • Competition with other predators (bears, mountain lions, coyotes)

Protected Wolf Populations Stabilizing Beyond Yellowstone

New data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources suggests Wisconsin’s wolf population may be stabilizing too. After decades of growth, wolf numbers in Wisconsin were reportedly down by 2 percent last winter.

Wolves in Wisconsin are currently afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act, but this has not always been the case.

Federal ESA protections for Wisconsin's wolves were removed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011. The next year state lawmakers established a controversial trophy wolf hunt, which included the use of dogs. Hunters killed 654 wolves during three consecutive hunting seasons.

Via a federal court ruling, protections for wolves were restored in 2014, thus preventing the state to use hunting seasons to manage the population, and allowing the population to stabilize on its own - a natural development which occurs when generally left undisturbed by humans (not managed via hunting, trapping, and hounding).

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Killing of Oregon Wolf in California Leads to Criminal Investigation


Young Oregon wolf OR-59 found dead in California.

The yearling's venture across the California border may have led to his sudden, perhaps criminal and untimely death.

According to California Wildlife officials, the wolf's death is under a criminal investigation.


A Wild Homecoming - Wolves in California

When Oregon wolf OR-7 crossed into the "Golden State" in December 2011, he became the first confirmed wild wolf in California since wolves were eradicated from the state 1924. It was an epic journey for the then lone wolf, he wandered more than 300 miles from his original home in northeast Oregon.

During the spring of 2014, a future long-term wolf population in California was looking likely when close to the state border in Oregon's Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest, remote cameras captured photographs of OR-7 along with a female wolf, and later two pups. In response to the approaching wolf family, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect California's wolves under the state Endangered Species Act.

Although OR-7 was the first gray wolf to temporarily call California home in nearly a century, other wolves have since followed his lead. In 2015, the CDFW confirmed the Shasta Pack was in the state, a family consisting of two adults and five pups. In 2017, the CDFW confirmed a second wolf family, the Lassen Pack, which lives in Lassen National Forest.

In addition to being protected on the state level, all wolves in California are afforded federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Cheers to a New Year!


From our pack to yours, Happy 2019!