Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Ravens: The Wolf's "Wingman"



Why do wolves tolerate ravens as dinner companions? Could it be that wolves and ravens are hunting partners who share the spoils?

Research by Bernd Heinrich of the University of Vermont demonstrates that ravens and wolves are close collaborators. In fact, his research from Yellowstone Nation Park revealed that during the winter season ravens were located near wolves up to 99.7% of the time! Moreover, at wolf kills, an average of 30 ravens would be present and over 100 have been recorded to share the leftovers. So, wolves do a great job of keeping ravens fed. But what do wolves get out of the relationship?

Heinrich notes instances in Yellowstone in which ravens helped wolves find their next meal by using their raucous calls to alert wolves of nearby injured animals, like elk. Ravens find the prey, ravens alert the wolves, and the iconic predators go in for the easy kill. Both wolves and ravens are rewarded with a meal for their team effort.

Learn more about these clever wolf associates in Heinrich's book, "Mind of the Raven". It's a great read!

Join the feast via live webcam.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Cat Watches Wolves on Webcam



The Wolf Conservation Center's (WCC) live webcams have been wildly popular among people - and cats - all around the world!

The WCC 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.

Wolves are naturally fearful of people and maintaining their timidity around people is essential if we want them to have a good chance of survival if released into the wild. The WCC's SSP facility provides a natural environment where these most elusive creatures can reside with minimal human contact. Although this setting safeguards the wolves' natural behavior, it also poses a great husbandry challenge for WCC staff - how does one care for animals that are rarely seen?

Unbeknownst to the 47 wolves who call the center home, the WCC uses webcams to observe food and water intake, monitor breeding behavior, and assess the physical well-being of each wolf. The cameras also allow WCC staff to study family dynamics and thus make the best recommendations with respect to which wolves are most suitable for release.

Moreover, the cameras give an unlimited number of viewers an opportunity to learn about these critically endangered wolf species and WCC's efforts to recover them.

Tune in to the webcams here!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Wolf Is So Chill, He Howls Lying Down



Why get up when you can howl lying down?

If you want to watch Zephyr (featured), Alawa, or Nikai or the Wolf Conservation Center's critically endangered Mexican gray wolves or red wolves in live time, visit the WCC's webcams here. If you see something cool, let us know!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

One of the Original Three Original Mexican Wolf Packs Released into the Wild is Gone

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The Hawks Nest pack, one of the original three families of lobos released into the wild, is gone.

The Hawks Nest pack was established in 1998, when the original alpha male and his mate were among the first eleven lobos released from captivity. Throughout the years they've experienced glorious triumphs, always working together as a cohesive family unit to perform valuable ecological roles and rise above various challenges. But eventually their obstacles grew too numerous to easily overcome, and the family began to dwindle in number until the female, F1473, was killed in January. While tragic on its own, her death represents the loss of a Mexican wolf dynasty.


We mourn the end of a brilliant lobo family, but also mourn for one of the Wolf Conservation Center's very own wolves - Mexican gray wolf M1564 (Lighthawk), a former member of the Hawks Nest family. M1564 spent most of his young life roaming the vast terrain of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests with the Hawks Nest Pack but his life as a wild lobo came to a devastating end when he was removed from the wild in the fall of 2016 for attacking livestock.

In another striking blow, Lighthawk's sister, F1565, was killed after being illegally trapped in wilds of New Mexico.

Although Lighthawk now resides at the WCC with his new family (mate Trumpet and pups Babs, Kral, and Joe Darling), we think of the wild life, and wild family, that was so cruelly taken from him. The legacy of the Hawks Nest pack will live on through the elusive, endangered spirit of one of its last remaining descendants.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Critically Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves Engage in Copulatory Tie




It’s an exciting time for wolves — it’s the season of romance! Hormones are racing and yesterday afternoon we witnessed Mexican gray wolves Trumpet (F1505) and Lighthawk (M1564) engage in a copulatory tie via webcam!

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 Trumpet and Lighthawk are a great match on paper with an extremely low inbreeding coefficient.

Sometimes saving a species isn’t very romantic, but it turns out Trumpet and Lighthawk are also a perfect pair "off paper". The playful couple earned their badge of parenthood on April 30, 2018, when the first-time parents welcomed two boys and a girl.

The gestation period (length of pregnancy) is 63 days. So, for now, keep your paws crossed that Trumpet and Lighthawk will be welcoming priceless (and adorable) contributions to the recovery of their rare species later this spring!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Mexican Wolf Newborns Alone to Receive "Call of the Wild" According to USFWS Proposal




The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has a responsibility under federal law to facilitate recovery of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf and captive-to-wild releases are a central part of that effort.

The wild Mexican gray wolf population in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in New Mexico and Arizona currently faces a genetic crisis.

According to USFWS's Initial Release and Translocation Proposal for 2019, the wild population’s mean kinship (MK) is approximately 0.25. This means that, on average, "individuals within the population are as related to one another as full siblings."

Addressing the Mexican wolf’s genetic imperilment requires an active program of releasing wolves from the more genetically diverse captive population to mitigate further inbreeding. Thus, every year USFWS details its plan for the year to address the genetic status of the wild Mexican gray wolf population.

To improve the genetic diversity of the wild population in 2019, USFWS proposes to take up to 12 newborn pups from captive families to insert them into the dens of wild wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. This "cross-fostering" initiative is a coordinated event where captive-born pups are introduced into a similar-aged wild litter so the pups can grow up as wild wolves.

While cross-fostering is an effective tool for augmenting the genetic health of the wild population, members of the scientific community argue that we mustn't rely on cross-foster events alone. Mexican gray wolf recovery demands releasing more family groups - well-bonded adult pairs with pups - into the wild too.

Geneticist Rich Fredrickson explains the importance of releasing more endangered Mexican gray wolves from the captive population into the wild. His webinar on the topic is available via the button below.



USFWS's Proposal Summary

USFWS's proposes the following release and translocation actions in 2019:
  1. Cross-foster up to 12 pups from captivity into wild wolf packs throughout the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in New Mexico and Arizona.
  2. Temporarily remove any female wolf that is paired with a full sibling during USFWS's annual population survey in January/February to prevent a brother/sister mating event. During the temporary period of time in captivity, the female may be allowed to breed naturally with a captive male. At breeding season's close (late March) USFWS would translocate the female wolf back into its home range to maintain pack dynamics, and potentially produce pups with increased genetic diversity and lower inbreeding coefficients. (USFWS was unaware of any full sibling pairs upon crafting its proposal, however, the service proposes to have the option of managing a full sibling paring(s), if documented, during the population survey.
  3. Provide for the translocation of wolves for management purposes as needs arise during 2019 (primarily wolves that disperse outside of the MWEPA, onto tribal lands and removal is requested, or if other packs are determined to be brother/sister pairings).
Read the plan in full below:




Submitting Comments

USFWS is providing the public an opportunity to comment on its "Initial Release and Translocation Proposal for 2019"- responses must be received by February 28, 2019.

To comment, you may submit written responses by one of the following methods:
  1. Electronically: You may email mexicanwolfcomments@fws.gov.
  2. By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, Attn: 2019 Proposed Releases in NM; 2105 Osuna Rd NE; Albuquerque, NM 87113.

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 Mexican gray wolves 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 114 individuals - a slight increase from the 113 counted at the end of 2016.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Red Wolf Pups Nuzzle and Kiss



This 10-month-old red wolf pup's grooming efforts are gestures of intimacy - they reaffirm the unique emotional bonds that shape the foundation of the family. Join the family now via live webcam.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Coyote sightings surge, but wildlife expert says there's room for all

coyote_logo_bAt the tail end of a storm that has left our local roads sheeted with ice, it is difficult to imagine that spring is, proverbially, just around the corner. Yet the wildlife in the area is wise to this fact and they are quietly, or not so quietly, preparing. It is mating season for coyotes.

To some, the sound of a coyote’s yips and howls in the night is a thrilling reminder of the wild wonders surrounding us. Others, however, find the sound to be eerie and chilling. Regardless of our perception, the coyotes are communicating with one another and preparing themselves for a new generation.

Typically living in family units or packs, coyotes are for the most part monogamous beings. The breeding pair (“mom and dad”) are assisted by their offspring from previous years in raising the newest litter. Within a stable pack structure, the offspring do not reproduce, and thus each year’s new offspring are limited and the population size is naturally maintained with little need for management by humans.

Highly adaptable animals, coyotes have become quite adept at living in close proximity to humans. Oftentimes we unintentionally encourage them to do so. Humans, purposely or not, provide ample attractants to coyotes. Think for example of a bird feeder. Though the seeds themselves are not necessarily alluring, they attract birds and small mammals to your backyard feeders. Coyotes, subsisting on small animals, may follow. In the springtime months, with wriggling 1lb pups tucked into their dens, coyotes are required to increase their foraging efforts.

These are the times when reported sightings surge.

As you might expect from any animal with young offspring, coyotes will defend their dens from perceived threats. Sometimes, however, they misconstrue who is an actual threat and may startle a passing hiker or dog-walker. For the most part, they are simply employing scare tactics to discourage passersby from approaching the den. To them, instinctually anticipating a predator to raid their dens and kill their vulnerable pups, they are just trying to give us the perception that it’s not worth our time. Asking us to “move along, please”. To us, it appears aggressive and alarming. This miscommunication is simply a matter of language barrier.

These misunderstandings contribute to coyotes’ maligned public perception. Having manipulated our environments so much so that its native inhabitants strike fear in our hearts, communities feel unprepared to coexist with the species that naturally occur here.
The spring brings with it an increase in frenzied phone calls and hysterical news headlines, all feeding into the perception that coyotes are vicious creatures scheming to attack our children or pets. Yet the reality is, you are more likely to be killed by a golf ball than you are to even be bitten by a coyote.

We can peacefully coexist with coyotes. For one, coyotes – like the other predator species before them – offer extremely valuable ecosystem services. Among other benefits, we profit from their presence as they provide natural rodent control in residential areas. Regulating the rodent population through predation, they effectively limit the spread of Lyme disease and other zoonotic diseases to humans.


Though we do benefit from sharing our landscapes with these animals, it is important that we reinforce their natural wariness of humans. Animals that have become acclimated and emboldened can unlearn the problematic behaviors. If you see a coyote lingering too close to human establishments, maintain eye contact with the animal and make exaggerated noises and motions. Utilize nearby items to encourage the coyote to leave the area. Varied hazing (the use of a variety of tools, noisemakers, and people) helps to ensure that the coyote has a negative association with an assortment of items and humans.

If you happen to be lucky enough to spot a coyote out and about, I hope you take a moment to marvel at how adaptable these creatures are and how fortunate we are to live beside such a resilient species.

Written by Dana Goin, Wolf Conservation Center Wildlife Outreach Specialist.

For questions, please reach out to Dana at DGoin@nywolf.org

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Love is in the air for the Red Wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center

Love is in the air for the Red Wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center in Salem, New York. Regan Downey, the Director of Education at the WCC explains how wolves show signs of affection with their partners, in remarkably human ways.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Trapped and Killed on Federal Land

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According to Defenders of Wildlife, four critically endangered Mexican gray wolves were caught in traps on national forest land in southwestern New Mexico over the last two months.

"One wolf, a female — possibly a mom — died after she was removed from the trap. Another, a young male, had his leg so severely injured it had to be amputated. Yet another had two legs caught in two separate traps, but it and the fourth wolf were re-released to the wild and their fate is unknown."

The latest count reveals that at least 42 Mexican wolves have been caught by traps in Arizona and New Mexico since 2002.

While licensed trapping of other animals is legal in New Mexico, the state's Legislature is currently considering legislation that would address commercial and recreation trapping on public land or in areas where the non-discriminate hunting tools can cause death or injury to non-target species.

The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team is currently leading its annual wolf population survey in New Mexico and Arizona. At last count in January of 2018, the wild Mexican gray wolf population in the U.S. was estimated to be 114 individuals.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Love is rare. So are wolves.

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Sponsor a critically endangered mating pair for a wildly romantic gift!

 There's still time to share your love for wolves this Valentine's Day! Show someone you really love them by sponsoring a critically endangered red wolf or Mexican gray wolf mating pair.

 After all, wolves mate for life!


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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Wolf Kiss Interrupted



As soon as Mom and Dad try to sneak a kiss, the kids barge in...

This critically endangered Mexican gray wolf family represents the Wolf Conservation Center’s active participation in an effort to save a species on the brink of extinction. The Mexican gray wolf 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.

Join the family now via live webcam.



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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Blueberry-picking Wolves?



Blueberry-picking wolves?

Yep! The wolves living in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota eat blueberries - lots of them! Most of the wolf families have been found to spend extended periods of time in July and August, during peak blueberry season, foraging in blueberry patches.

Wolf diet during the summer is highly variable and constantly changing. This animation created by the Voyageurs Wolf Project shows the diet of a single pack at weekly time intervals from June 24-October 10 (15 weeks) in 2015.


What is the Voyageurs Wolf Project?

The Voyageurs Wolf Project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park. The project was started in 2015 to study the ecology of wolves and their prey (moose, deer, and beavers) during the summer in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem, which comprises Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota and the area southerly adjacent to the park. The ecology of wolves during the summer in southern boreal ecosystems such as the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem has remained elusive due to the challenges of studying wolves in densely forested habitats during summer.

Learn more about the Voyageurs Wolf Project.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Fewer than 30 Red Wolves Are Left, What Happens Now



Last spring, the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) celebrated the birth of ten critically endangered red wolf pups. Every one of them adorable, and all valuable contributions to the recovery of their rare and at-risk species. But they were born into a world that currently has only one place for them in the wild – North Carolina – and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) seeks to take that place away.

Recipe for Extinction

In June, the USFWS released its proposal for managing the last wild red wolves – a single population in eastern North Carolina consisting of fewer than 30 individuals. The Service proposed to reduce the red wolf recovery area by nearly 90 percent and limit the wild population to just 10 – 15 wolves. The proposal would also eliminate protections for any red wolves that wander off the newly-designated recovery area, effectively allowing anyone to kill red wolves on private lands, for any reason.

Americans Overwhelmingly Support Red Wolf Recovery

Endangered species recovery is a matter of pride and concern for all U.S. citizens. When USFWS solicited public comments on its draft proposal, the plan was met with near-unanimous opposition from the American public. Out of 108,124 comments submitted between June 28th and August 28th, 99.9 percent favored the need for strong federal protections for red wolves.

Only 19 comments explicitly supported the agency’s plan to eliminate red wolf protections and shrink the recovery area. Thirty additional comments – with 13 of these coming from a single real estate developer – expressed general opposition to red wolf recovery.

Red Wolf Victory

With the opportunity to comment closed and USFWS’s decision poised to be finalized by November 30, the future for red wolves remained on shaky ground. Without a renewed federal commitment to save the last wild red wolves, one of the few apex predators to roam the U.S. Southeast would be relegated to the history books.

Enter Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), a non-profit law firm representing a coalition of conservation groups who initiated a lawsuit against USFWS in 2015 for authorizing the capturing and killing of non-problem red wolves, and abandoning conservation measures that had been used for decades. In an October court hearing, SELC asked the federal judge to intervene as USFWS’s imminent plan would hasten the animal’s extinction and be a further violation of federal law.

Examining USFWS’s decisions to allow private landowners to shoot and kill red wolves, to end captive-to-wild release events, and to end efforts to prevent hybridization with coyotes, the court ruled on November 5 that USFWS violated legal requirements to protect and recover the world’s last wild red wolves. The Judge also made permanent the court’s September 29, 2016 order stopping the USFWS from capturing and killing red wolves and authorizing private landowners to do the same.

USFWS Announces Delay Decision

On November 29, just three weeks after a federal judge ruled that USFWS has a duty under the Endangered Species Act to implement proactive conservation measures to achieve species recovery, USFWS announced its decision to delay any action re its proposed rule change.

“In light of a federal court ruling issued earlier this month in the Eastern District of North Carolina, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is extending its review of a proposed rule to adapt its management of red wolves in the state. The additional review time will provide the Service the opportunity to fully evaluate the implications of the court decision.”

What’s Next?

We don’t know. So now, while we wait for USFWS to make the next move, this is what we know:

1. Americans overwhelmingly support red wolf recovery.

2. The federal court ruling makes clear that the USFWS must bring its efforts back in line with the conservation mandate of the ESA.

3. Only 24 wild red wolves are known to remain.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Best Football Games Include Wolves


And the MVP (Most Valuable Predator) Award goes to...wolves!

Wolves are a critical keystone species in a healthy ecosystem, living up to their "MVP" moniker.

By regulating prey populations, wolves enable many other species of plants and animals to flourish. In this regard, wolves have a trickle-down effect on other populations, a phenomenon known as a “trophic cascade." When present in an ecosystem, wolves “touch” songbirds, beaver, fish, and butterflies.

Without predators, such as wolves, the system fails to support a natural level of biodiversity and may cease to exist altogether.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

Nine-Month-Old Mexican Wolves Use Den as a Playground



A wolf pup's first home is usually a den - it's like a nursery!

Varying in size and design, a den is simply a cave or hole dug under a boulder, among tree roots, between rocks, or in the ground. Dens are often reused by generations of wolves; sometimes wolf families look for new dens every year. Occasionally wolves will use abandoned dens of other animals, such as bear, coyote, or fox dens or even a beaver dam. Although pups might emerge from the den at about 3 weeks old, pups tend to spend most of their time in or around the den for about 2 months.

Mexican gray wolf Trumpet (F1505) with her pups in May 2018
All the enclosures at the Wolf Conservation Center offer at least one man-made den; most of them (like this Mexican gray wolf den) are made from culverts. The culverts offer shelter and allow wolves to stay dry in stormy weather, avoid insects during "buggy" seasons, and sneak away from pesky family members when some "me time" a priority. They also serve as great playgrounds when wolves are feeling frisky!

Although the WCC provides these no-hassle dens for all resident wolves – some expectant moms prefer their personal touch and opt to engineer some really fantastic nurseries on their own!

Tune in to see what the frisky lobos are up to via live webcam!


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