On March 29, 1998, 11 captive-reared Mexican gray wolves were released to the wild for the first time. Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the rarest and most unique subspecies of gray wolf was once again greeted by the mountains of the southwest. This month marks the 17th anniversary of this historic event, a significant milestone for the lobo and wildlife conservation. In honor of this “wild holiday,” children and adults alike are opening their hearts and howling loud for the Lobo! Happy #LoboWeek!
The Wolf Conservation Center participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Recovery Plan for the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupis baileyi) – North America’ most endangered gray wolf. Prior to the Mexican wolf’s return to the wild 17 years ago, the species was completely extinct in the wild. But under the aegis of the Endangered Species Act, reintroduction efforts in the past two decades have established a small, wild population of 109 between Arizona and New Mexico.
Presently, there are approximately 400 Mexican gray wolves remaining in the world, the majority living in captivity within the network of facilities like the WCC participating in the SSP.
We hope you enjoy our story as we carry out the work of their recovery. Happy #LoboWeek!
On March 29, 1998, 11 captive-reared Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) were released to the wild for the first time in the Blue Range Recovery Area of Arizona and New Mexico. Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the rarest and most unique subspecies of gray wolf was once again greeted by the mountains of the southwest. This week marks the 17th anniversary of this historic event, a significant milestone for the lobo and wildlife conservation! On this first day of #LoboWeek, we’re revisiting an important study that reflects what is needed to keep the subspecies going. Happy #Loboweek!
Study Reveals What Mexican Gray Wolves Need to Survive
Originally posted on Defenders of Wildlife Blog “Wolf Wanderers” on March 20, 2014 by Dan Thornhill, Eva Sargent and Courtney Sexton.
Mexican gray wolves are one of the rarest and most critically-endangered animals in the U.S. This subspecies of wolves – known in the Southwest as lobos –descended from the first wave of wolves to cross the Bering Straits from Asia to Alaska many thousands of years ago. Mexican gray wolves have a long history of wandering across the landscape. Over time, they made their way south into the southwestern U.S. and central Mexico where they adapted to life in the forested “sky island” ranges in a sea of grassland and desert, and from where they draw their common name. In spite of their uniqueness, adaptability, and long history, very few lobos remain today. Deliberate persecution drove Mexican gray wolves to the brink of extinction; in the late 1970s and early 80’s the last handful of wild Mexican gray wolves was captured to begin a captive breeding program.
Of these five surviving lobos, only three were unrelated. Along with four pure Mexican gray wolves already in captivity, these 7 “founders” were all that stood between survival and complete extinction of the Mexican gray wolf. After many years of work to restore the lobo in the southwest U.S., there are currently about (109) wolves in one wild population in Arizona and New Mexico, and another 300 living in captivity.
But continued recovery of these unique wolves is far from certain. Small populations of animals face genetic problems from inbreeding that can undermine their recovery. This problem is particularly pronounced in Mexican gray wolves because there were so few survivors when recovery efforts began. For Mexican gray wolves to have a chance at survival in the wild, there must be “genetic exchange” or migration of wolves between populations and reproduction across those populations. But how many populations, and how much migration and reproduction are needed to make sure Mexican wolves can sustain themselves in the future? All too often, wildlife managers guess at the answer.
Thanks to Drs. Carlos Carroll, Richard Fredrickson, and Robert Lacy, however, we don’t have to guess any longer. These well-respected scientists (and members of the lobo Recovery Team) designed a complex model that brought together information on Mexican gray wolf genetics, habitat and demography to measure just how much flow between populations is needed to keep the subspecies going. Their results demonstrated that the fewer wolves moving between populations, the more likely it is that Mexican gray wolves will go extinct. To stave off extinction, about one wolf from each generation must access another population. And, for the model to work, there must be at least three populations with this movement happening between them. The good news is that this is possible, provided that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establishes two additional populations and lets lobos move from population to population.
Still, movement across the landscape, by itself, is not enough to solve the crisis. The migrating wolves also have to find a mate and have pups. This is a special challenge for wolves because of their unique pack structure – in a typical wolf pack only the pack leaders, or “alphas,” reproduce. In order to be counted as an “effective migrant” in this model (and thus lessen extinction odds), wolves had to both migrate and become a reproducing pack leader. When this requirement is added to the fact that there is currently only one small population (which is suffering from a lack of genetic diversity), and only a few areas with sufficient wolf habitat, the conservation challenges for Mexican gray wolves become formidable.
But knowing what these challenges are allows us to help the wolves overcome them. This latest study by Dr. Carroll and colleagues enables us to move beyond generalities and to get really specific when it comes to wolf conservation. We now know precisely what Mexican gray wolves need to recover. With this information, there is no room for excuses. For these wolves to succeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs follow what science tells us – begin building two additional populations, release more wolves, and implement a viable recovery plan (explaining why the Recovery Team hasn’t met since 2011 would be nice, too). The clock is ticking on the lobos’ chances for survival. No species should have to face extinction at the hands of humanity, much less twice.
The Wolf Conservation Center joins #LoboWeek, an annual effort that will harness the collective power of a WILD group of partners to educate people about the importance of wolves on the landscape of the southwest.
On March 29, 1998, 11 captive-reared Mexican gray wolves were released to the wild for the first time in Arizona and New Mexico. Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the rarest and most unique subspecies of gray wolf was once again greeted by the mountains of the southwest. This week, #LoboWeek, marks the 17th anniversary of this historic event, a significant milestone for the lobo and wildlife conservation! In recognition of the anniversary, wildlife organizations, zoos, advocacy groups, businesses, and individuals are coming together with one common purpose – to educate people about the Mexican wolf or “lobo” and our efforts to successfully restore this critically endangered wolf to their ancestral homes in the wild.
“#LoboWeek is not only a unique holiday, it’s an awareness raising tool that allows us to educate people about America’s most endangered gray wolf,” explained Wolf Conservation Center’s Maggie Howell. “Mexican gray wolves remain critically endangered due to natural and political challenges they face. Via the #LoboWeek movement, we aim to discuss our critical efforts to recover Mexican wolves and mobilize support for these essential creatures who cannot speak for themselves. With the WCC’s over 2 million followers on Facebook alone, our #LoboWeek howls are sure to be heard!”
On March 29, 1998, 11 captive-reared Mexican gray wolves were released to the wild for the first time. Missing from the landscape for more than 30 years, the howl of the rarest and most unique subspecies of gray wolf, was once again greeted by the mountains of the southwest. This month marks the 17th anniversary of this historic event, a significant milestone for the lobo and wildlife conservation.
Learn how you can celebrate and download the free #LoboWeek Badge and photos HERE
Red wolves are among the world’s most endangered species; with just a few hundred animals in existence (and less than 100 in the wild), they are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “Critically Endangered.” Only one place on the planet are wild red wolf populations viable and secure – North Carolina. But the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission has asked the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to terminate the entire red wolf recovery program in North Carolina which would inevitably result in the loss of the last wild population of red wolves and render the species “Extinct in the Wild” and set an extremely dangerous precedent that will negatively impact all endangered species.
Continued support of the Recovery Program in eastern North Carolina is vital to the long-term prospects of the species. And so we ask for your help.
There is a perceived notion that red wolves are a local or regional issue. Endangered species recovery, however, is a matter of pride and concern for all U.S. citizens. Wildlife and other natural resources are a public trust. The public trust is a legal concept that implies that we all share equal, undivided interests in America’s wildlife. Thus, decision-making and resulting wildlife policy should be developed based on sound science and carried out in a democratic manner responsive to the voice of ALL people.
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES ABOUT RED WOLVES
Here’s how you can help:
1) Find your representatives here.
2) Look for a contact link and enter your information, write your letter, and send – it’s that easy!
3) If you’re not sure what to say, check out this example letter from Point Defiance Zoo.
Alaska Representative Don Young recently suggested that we should let wolves “solve” the homeless problem in the country. In an interview with Discovery News, Wolf Conservation Center’s Maggie Howell helps to set the record straight. Read more – Wolf Attacks More Myth Than Reality.
Dear WCC Friends,
It is with a heavy heart that I share sad news about a special wolf. Mexican gray wolf F810, nicknamed “Scarlet” by her adoring fans, passed away today. Although F810 resided off-exhibit, the beautiful loba crept into our homes and hearts via webcam, opening the door to understanding the importance of her endangered kin and our efforts to recover them. Her necropsy (autopsy for animals) revealed that she died of a pyometra – a uterine infection not uncommon in older intact canids.
Just last night I shared video of F810 howling on the WCC Facebook Page. I loved her howl. She sounded just like her littermate, M806, whose howl once echoed within Arizona’s canyons. He fell victim to a poacher in 2012 after six exciting years running free on the landscape of the wild southwest. Perhaps he’s sharing wild tales with his sister now…
R.I.P. sweet loba. We’ll forever remember your song.
Thank you for your support,
WCC Executive Director
Listen to F810 sing:
Listen to her brother’s song here.