Prepping For Endangered Wolf Pups!
It’s is an exciting season for wolves!
While the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) has been a vocal and visible advocate in securing 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.
As a participant of the Species Survival Plans for the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) and the red wolf (Canis rufus) for nearly 20 years, the WCC has played a critical role in preserving and protecting these imperiled species through carefully managed breeding and reintroduction. This work is literally “behind the scenes” as visitors rarely see these wolves because they live off-exhibit to maintain their healthy aversion to humans.
This season will be an especially busy one as it features our routine husbandry and the promise of pups come spring! Because wolves are “mono-estrus,” they breed only once a year during the winter months. A wolf’s gestation period, or length of pregnancy, is just 63 days.
This year, three wolf couples residing at the WCC will have the opportunity to breed:
- Red wolves Jack and Charlotte
- Red Wolves Tyke and Lava
- Mexican gray wolves Trumpet and Lighthawk (featured in above photo)
But why will only these couples have the opportunity to breed?
Because the existing populations of both species are derived from just a handful of founders rescued from extinction, genetics is the primary consideration governing all reproductive pairings. It’s not very romantic, but neither is extinction.
Both species’ SSP team determines each wolf’s genetic importance by identifying those with the lowest mean kinship value. By calculating their mean kinship – their average (mean) relatedness (kinship) with the captive population, the SSP identifies wolves who can best augment the captive population’s genetic health via potential pups.
Mexican gray wolf Trumpet, the fan-favorite who has been creeping into our homes and hearts via webcam since 2016, has not only been chosen to breed this year, she’s also the most genetically valuable Mexican gray wolf female this year – what an honor!
Curious to see this year’s mean kinship values for all the Mexican gray wolves who call the WCC home? Download the list!
Something to remember… Although mean kinship is an important conservation tool to save genetic diversity within endangered species, it’s just a number. Every wolf is essential. Wolves are unique, sentient creatures that have value in and of themselves.
And thanks to friends like you, we will continue to give everyone one of them — indeed, all forty wolves who call the WCC home — what they need to thrive regardless of what paths their lives take.
As we enter this exciting season, we want to thank you as always for your wonderful support, your commitment to species recovery, and for cheering on the wolves we all love!
Need a wolf-fix? Tune in anytime to visit the wolves via live webcam. If you see any romantic behavior, let us know!