Akron, here I come! Remember last year’s meeting? Click here to learn more about the SSP meeting. More news when I return.
I cannot wait to see their red wolf exhibit at the Grizzly Ridge Exhibit area.
The red wolf SSP meeting took place the end of July. About 20 folks from institutions that house red wolves were able to make it to the meeting. Becky Bartel, the Assistant Coordinator of the Red Wolf Re3cvoery Program wrote a great post on their Blog about the meeting. I highly recommend checking out their blog ( http://trackthepack.blogspot.com) for information about the red wolf recovery program and the red wolves that roam free in the wild.
Our two wolves- 1414 & 1287 – will be here again for next breeding season.
We’re really hoping for some puppies as this is really the last chance female 1287 has as she is just about over-the-hill.
Will Waddell makes bets, or bargains, or threats… every year. He’ll do something crazy if a certain pairing of wolves has puppies. This year it’s our pair:
In 5-6 weeks I hope to be writing about WOLF PUPPIES.
Ranger Greg has been blogging and tweeting about what he’s seen our wolves up to. We certainly hope it’s about puppy-making. We won’t know for sure until we actually see pups since the past two years our female has gone through pseudopregnancies. We have a new male this breeding season, so with 1414 we’re hoping for some renewed hope of actual pups.
Every summer I go to the Red Wolf SSP master plan meeting. I didn’t write about this past summer’s meeting, but did take a photo of our new pair of wolves as drawn during the meeting. You also heard about our shipping out of our former male wolf (1369), including a detailed quiz about my 16 hour drive with Aaron to get 1369 to the airport in Atlanta for his trip out to WA.
Our former wolf, 1369, is doing fine out in Tacoma. I learned he sits outside the den while his new “girlfriend” sits inside the den. He was seen “snuggling” next to her during breeding season. The folks at Tacoma are going to catch him up this week and collect semen on him. (We are not sure if he is able to make pups…understand?)
So, hopefully we’ll have wonderful little additions to blog about in April. Stay tuned.
We’ll be keeping our two red wolves and hoping they make some babies.
My main job on day two, during the “matchmaking” and “moving” stage, is to document what is going on on big paper for all to see. I write down what breeding pairs have been made and keep track of how many we make. I also keep track of wolves moving (how many “transfers” we make) and if cars/airplanes are needed to make the moves. The chart below gives you an idea of my messy writing and my poor art skills, but you get the idea (I hope). Someone else keeps track of the same thing I do and we compare notes to make sure that we got everything right.
Day two is a fun, overwhelming, exciting, tiring, and stressful day as there is so much to consider and take in. Please ask questions- I am happy to try to answer them.
I head out next week for the annual Red Wolf SSP meeting. Every July I head to the master plan meeting for the red wolf species survival plan. This is when people from institutions that have red wolves get together and talk about “red wolf stuff”. It’s at this meeting when we typically learn what wolves we’ll have next year.
I’ve probably spent part of my July for the last 10+ years with many of the same people who are passionate about red wolves. It’s always nice to reconnect in person with old friends who love to talk about poop quality and bizarre red wolf behavior.
Check out posts about previous year’s meetings below, and ask any questions you may have. I’ll report back from Roanoke or soon after I return.
The 2010 meeting was in Springfield, Illinois. It’s well worth reading about last year’s meeting and my interesting trip home. In 2009 the meeting was in Tacoma Washington. We met in Chattanooga Tennessee in 2008 and talked about all sorts of interesting things.
Well, we are currently at the height of the breeding season for red wolves. I figured since I haven’t done a post about red wolves in a while, I would write about the fostering program. Fostering takes red wolves born at captive red wolf Species Survival Plan(SSP) institutions and relocates them to wild red wolves out at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR). Both the captive and wild red wolves are crucial parts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Red Wolf Recovery Program (RWRP).
Fostering is important because it not only increases the wild population, but it also helps to keep the genetic diversity as high as possible. If you remember from a previous post, genetic diversity is a constant battle when managing the red wolf breeding program.
There are many variables that have to fall neatly into place for a successful foster to occur. To start, red wolf field biologists must be able to follow the movements and actions of a wild, radio-collared female wolf and try to determine if she is pregnant. Now maybe that doesn’t sound too difficult, but read the post I wrote a while back on red wolf field biologists and you may gain a new appreciation for what a large feat this is.
Similarly, captive facilities are monitoring their own wolves and are assessing whether females are pregnant and when they think births will occur. Again, this may sound fairly easy, but it’s not! It requires diligence in observing breeding pairs and noticing behavioral changes that may indicate that a female wolf is pregnant. (I.e nesting behaviors, pulling out belly hair to prepare for suckling, etc).
So, the platform is now set for, well, maybe, a possible foster. If a wild wolf has a litter around the same time as a captive wolf, the plan now becomes a possibility. The wolf in the wild also has to have a small litter, and the captive wolf has to have a large enough litter that the parents are not left “pupless”. Communication and transportation arrangements also need to be ideal.
But I say that there is potential for a foster to take place, because it still isn’t “in the bag” so to speak. The captive born pup (or foster pup) must be placed with its new wild mother before its eyes open, so that the only thing the pup ever knows is the wild surroundings it is in. That means there is only a two week window for the swap to occur!
The brunt of the work to make a successful swap falls on the field biologists. They must track the wild mother, and once they locate where she is denning with her new litter, they must quickly insert the foster pup into the den while the mother is away. Again, not an easy task! Often times the field biologists find that after they locate the wild mother’s den, in the time it takes them to go get the foster pup and bring it back, the wild mother has relocated to a new den and is nowhere to be found! How frustrating!
When the field biologists do luck out, and the mother has not relocated by the time they arrive with the foster pup, they wait until she leaves the den temporarily and then place the pup into the den with the others. They will rub the wild born pups against the foster pup to make it smell like them. This technique increases the chances of the mother accepting the foster pup as her own. If you notice in the picture above, the biologists make sure to wear gloves when handling the pups so they also do not transfer their smell onto them.
There has been amazing success with this technique when everything actually falls into place! The wild mother either doesn’t seem to realize, or doesn’t seem to care, that there is now an extra unrelated pup in her litter. She raises the foster pup as if it were her own and the new pup becomes an important addition to the wild population!
With red wolf births starting in as little as a month from now, there could be a foster in the near future. We will be getting in touch with Will Waddell, the RWSSP coordinator, periodically to get updates on any fosters that take place this year. If there is, I will make sure to post about it. In the mean time, keep your fingers crossed for our two red wolves, who are a potential breeding pair. We haven’t noticed any mating so far, but just because we don’t witness it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. We will find out in about a month if we have pups!
I told you last week I would let you know about wolf stuff that happened at the wolf meeting. Thanks for being patient.
On the second day of our Red Wolf SSP (Species Survival Plan) Master Plan meeting we look at all the wolves in the captive population (there are 178 at 40 different institutions). You can get a general idea of where the institutions are on the map below.
The goal is to make sure every wolf has a home with a companion and that we make “GOOD” breeding matches for the wolves. Sarah Long, from AZA’s Population Management Center, leads us through the match making process. The goal is to not just pair wolves but pair wolves that will give us the best genetic outcome- the best possible gene diversity, the least possible inbreeding… Sarah does it all on her computer, but she passes out a list of the red wolves- males listed down the left and females down the right column. The studbook number, age, and location of the wolves are listed. The wolves at the top are the most important in the sense that they are the least related to all the other wolves. If you look closely you can see that our current two wolves are right at the top (1369, 1227).
You can also see my handwriting making lines with “hearts”. To cut to the chase, our current wolves have been paired together for two years and have not breed so it is time to find them other mates. If the recommendations from the SSP meeting hold, our male (1369) will stay here and female 1287 who is a 7 year old wolf at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island will come to us. Our female (1227) will head to the NC Zoo and be paired for breeding with a 3 year old make (1606 or 1605- they are brothers and it is unsure at this point which brother she will make her home with)
You can barely see Sarah sitting at her computer. Jay is the man in the red shirt (He’s from the Miller Park Zoo). There are a lot of white pages on the wall with pink and blue post-it notes. Each white page represents an institution and each post it represents a wolf (I am sure you get the pink and blue idea, but if you don’t just ask in the comment section). This paper system is really helpful because as we make good matches we can move the post-its (the wolves) around the room to different institutions and visualize what’s happening and see if somewhere ends up with too many or too few wolves.
By early September we’ll know for sure what the plan is and then we’ll make arrangements to “swap” wolves likely during October when it is cooler. So, pay attention to future posts, and as always, ask if you have questions.
I am back, a day later, and much more tired then expected from the red wolf SSP master plan meeting. I know you likely just want to hear about wolf stuff but I am going to make you listen to my travel woes and show you some non-wolf photos.
I arrived in Illinois with little issue. I found it interesting to see this vending machine at the hotel. Almost all the items were sold out too!
I met up with my red wolf friends in the morning and then we went to the Henson Robinson Zoo. The folks there were hosting the meeting. I entered the zoo and was greeted by some penguins. I love the fact that other people use colored cable ties to ID animals too!
Right before the meeting began Kim informed Will that she had an extra pen at her facility for red wolves. I made sure to document the event as any extra space for red wolves is an amazing gift.
We visited a wolverine- we stayed a long time because it was air conditioned in his house!
This last photo, for now, I share as I seem to be having a good hair day. Since Marilyn commented on my hair in a previous post, I thought I would share this photo.
I really do have red wolf news for you, but I will write that up later and post it. I had incredible travel woes getting home, from being stuck in car traffic for a few hours, a few hours waiting for a plane at the airport, our pilots “timing out” of their ability to fly us home, sitting on the tarmac for 3 hours because of the lightning storm, an extra 20 hours in the airport due to the weather. And, finally, after being ticketed on 7 different flights, to five different cities, all in an attempt to get me back home, I am indeed back in NC.
As much as I love red wolves, Sherry often times sends me updates on the happenings inside the red wolf Species Survival Plan and Recovery Program. Sometimes she sends me good news about the breeding program, or maybe just cute pictures of our wolves like the one below. But recently she sent me an email about a news release that was disturbing.
The release discussed the increase of a reward to anyone who has information about two missing red wolves. Officials suspect that in late April, two radio-collared wild red wolves were killed and taken illegally from the protected land in which they roamed. The first red wolf was located on April 23, 2010 in the eastern part of Hyde County. The second red wolf was located on April 27, 2010 in the western part of Hyde County. Neither wolf has been located since, and there is a reward for anyone who has information that leads to the criminal conviction or arrest of the subjects that illegally took them. The Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, and Humane Society National Council member Cathy Kangas have all donated to the reward, which is currently $10, 500.
With so many other obstacles that the red wolf population faces, it’s sad to think that intentional killing now has to be added to the list. There have always been random shootings of red wolves in the wild population, but officials usually believe most of those shootings to occur accidentally by coyote hunters.
There is still a long way to go before the public becomes fully educated about the value that red wolves hold on ecosystems, as well as realizing that they are not nearly as dangerous as people think them to be. Hopefully, with continued dedication to the cause, we can eventually convince the public that red wolves deserve to be roaming freely in the wild without any interference from us or the judgments we unfairly cast upon them.
If you would like to make a donation to the Red Wolf Coalition, please go to www.redwolves.com or click on the link above. There is also a short video on the website about the investigation into these red wolf killings.