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Mexican gray wolves F1143 (Rosa) with her daughter f1505 (Trumpet)

The Wolf Conservation Center (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.

An SSP is a breeding and management program designed to ensure the long-term sustainability of captive-based animal populations. The primary goal for the Mexican gray wolf SSP and red wolf SSP is to breed wolves for maximum genetic integrity for reintroduction into 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 housing and caring for the wolves, collaborating in the captive breeding program, research, recommendations for release, and engaging in the sometimes-unusual measures to save the species.

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.

Because the entire existing populations of Mexican wolves and red wolves are derived from such a limited founding populations (just 7 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).

Not every genetically valuable wolf in the SSP program has the chance to successfully breed, so WCC staff helps the wolves make an “investment” in the recovery of their rare species by collecting semen from the males during prime breeding season in mid-winter. Most of the genetic material collected is for cryopreservation for future potential use, an important option when trying to maintain diversity with such species that were once extinct in the wild.

Unbeknownst to Mexican wolves M1059 a.ka. “Diego,” M1198 “Alleno,” and red wolf M1803 “Moose,” their valuable contributions are poised to benefit their respective recovery programs in the not-so-distant future by fathering pups this season via AI.

F1568_logo_3_blogRemote Breeding Pairs (breeding via AI):

  • Mexican gray wolf M1059 x Mexican gray wolf F1362 (resides at USFWS’s Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge pre-release facility)
  • Mexican gray wolf M1198 x F1143 (Rosa) – both reside at the WCC but in different family groups
  • Red wolf M1803  x Red Wolf F1568 (Argo) – both reside at the WCC, but proved incompatible. Thus, they live in separate enclosures

 

 

To best prepare for the coming AI events, last week WCC staff inserted an Ovuplant in each of the participating female wolves. Ovuplant is a sustained release implant of a hormone called “deslorelin.” The hormone, used to induce estrus and ovulation in wolves, allows the WCC to best predict when the females are most receptive to fertilization.

WCC curator Rebecca Bose injecting the Ovuplant

WCC curator Rebecca Bose injecting the Ovuplant

WCC curator Rebecca Bose injected the Ovuplant pellet into the inner thigh (the right under the skin) of each of the three female wolves. WCC staff will revisit the wolves next week to confirm their status before next steps are taken.

Although these measures might seem extreme, we strive to make every effort to recover these two critical keystone species.

Sometimes saving a species isn’t very romantic… But extinction is worse.

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 BC GOVERNMENT ADMITS CULLING OF WOLVES IS INHUMANE, YET CONSIDERS CULL EXPANSION

January 20, 2017 (Golden, BC) – A recent provincial government document that recommends expanding aerial gunning of wolves, along with increased hunting of mountain lions and deer has been met with outrage by environmental and animal welfare groups.  The proposal to expand culling and hunting is a misguided attempt to recover caribou herds in the Revelstoke-Shuswap region.

The document’s authors, who are academic and government scientists of British Columbia’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Program, admit “There are no humane methods to directly reduce wolf numbers, but aerial removal is the only method of killing enough wolves (and entire packs) to reduce wolf densities with no risk of by-catch.”  

Aerial gunning fails to comply with ethical guidelines set by the Canadian Council on Animal Care, as it is not considered an acceptable form of euthanasia. The BC government also accepts strangling snares as a killing method in this and other management plans. Research shows that many wolves killed by aerial gunning and neck snaring die a slow and excruciatingly painful death.

Gunning wolves from helicopters and using strangling snares on the ground have been the main tools used in an ongoing experiment to recover caribou herds protected by federal law.  These herds were pushed to the brink of extinction not because of wolves, but due to continued destruction and fragmentation of their habitat by logging, resource extraction and mmmmmotorized recreation.

Chris Genovali, executive director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said:

Those involved in planning the expanded wolf and cougar kill disregard the considerable damage that scientists understand happens in ecosystems when top predators are removed, and callously exhibit an indifference to the suffering experienced by wolf families as pack members are killed.”

Recommendations made a decade ago (2007) by government and independent scientists to protect 34,000 hectares of habitat to recover caribou herds in the Revelstoke-Shuswap area have been ignored and eroded so much as to become meaningless. Virginia Thompson, a resident of Revelstoke formerly associated with the Mountain Caribou Project who has been monitoring land-use plans, logging, and caribou management in her local area, explains:

Ultimately, almost no land was retained in the Timber Harvesting Land Base in the 2007 Recovery Plan.”

“We are utterly stunned to see such a backward wildlife strategy out of the BC government,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director for Humane Society International/Canada. “The Liberal government seems to be stuck in the 19th century as wolves are still being scapegoated at the hands of wildlife mismanagement.”

BC’s caribou recovery plan is still pitched as a great conservation commitment at the sacrifice of industrial and recreational interests, yet it has never resulted in protecting sufficient habitat to support caribou in the long-term.

Attempting to recover caribou herds that have dipped well below the critical threshold for short-term survival in habitat that can’t support much growth is like trying to put humpty dumpty back together again,” said Sadie Parr, executive director of Wolf Awareness Inc. “It cannot be done! Killing predators, no matter how many, will not change this.”

Gross mismanagement of species at risk in BC, a province with no endangered species law, results in unethical culls of predators and competing species.  To avoid such conservation dilemmas, the BC government must adequately protect the habitat of at-risk species in the first place.

Your help is needed NOW to ensure that this misguided killing program does not get started!   Learn more details and take action at : http://wolfawarenessinc.org/engage-take-action/

  • Animal Alliance of Canada – Liz White, Director
  • Animal Protection Party of Canada – Jordan Reichert, BC Representative
  • Bears Matter –Barb Murray, Executive Director
  • Bear With Us – Mike McIntosh, Executive Director
  • Born Free – Barry Kent McKay, Canadian Representative,  Senior Program Associate
  • British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) -  Sara Dubois, Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Manager of Scientific Programs
  • Cochrane Research Institute – Clio Smeeton, Director
  • Coyote Watch Canada – Lesley Sampson, Founder and Executive Director
  • Earthroots – Amber Ellis, Executive Director
  • Humane Society International – Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director
  • National Wolfwatcher Coalition – Nancy Warren, Executive Director
  • Pacific Wild – Ian McAllister, Executive Director
  • Raincoast Conservation Foundation –Chris Genovali, Executive Director
  • Sierra Club BC – Bob Peart, Executive Director
  • The Fur-Bearers –Lesley Fox, Executive Director
  • Wilderness Committee – Gwen Barlee, Executive Director
  • Wildlife Defence League – Tommy Knowles, Executive Director
  • Wolf Awareness Inc. –Sadie Parr, Executive Director
  • Wolf Conservation Centre – Maggie Howell Executive Director
  • World Animal Protection – Beth Sharpe, Communications Director

Background documents

 

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“Alpha male” connotes the man who at every moment demonstrates that he’s in total control in the home, and who away from home can become snarling and aggressive. Ecologist and author Carl Safina learns from wolves that this stereotype is not only wrong, but also that…”It’s the alpha female who really runs the show.”

More  via The New York Times

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