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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Punts on Red Wolf Recovery

For Immediate Release

For More Information Contact:

Wildlands Network: Susan Holmes, 202-329-1553

Conservationists Dismayed — Call upon USFWS to Renew Its Commitment to Restoring the Eastern Red Wolf

Durham, NC – (June 30, 2015) The Wildlands Network and the Endangered Species Coalition are dismayed by the United States Fish and Wildlife’s (USFWS) announcement today that it will suspend reintroductions for the Red Wolf Recovery Program. According to Ron Sutherland, Lead Biologist at the Wildlands Network “The program has already been suffering from a lack of resources including unfilled key staff positions and abandonment of important pup fostering efforts.” Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, added “The Agency has an obligation to recover these animals. Over 30 red wolves have been lost to gunshot and vehicle strikes since 2012, reducing the population by more than 15 percent.

The Service also announced that they will continue the highly controversial practice of allowing landowners to legally kill red wolves. Last week, the USFWS sanctioned the killing of a lactating red wolf mother by a landowner, a move that brings the estimated population of red wolves in the wild to less than 80 according the USFWS website. “Unintentional gunshot has been the leading cause of death for red wolves in recent years, and they will continue to sanction intentional gunshot.  This could have devastating effects on the population,” said Dr. Sutherland.

According to both Huta and Sutherland, the USFWS should take this opportunity to renew its commitment to the Red Wolf Recovery Program. This would include pup fostering, reintroduction of more animals into the wild, comprehensive landowner outreach on wolf co-existence and coyote sterilization.

“The red wolf needs a science-based path to recovery, including better protections from being killed unnecessarily by humans. The agency needs to commit more funding to this critical program and to educate landowners about the value of carnivores. It is worth reminding people that there are fewer red wolves in the wild than there are giant pandas, snow leopards or whooping cranes, which our own citizens work valiantly to protect, “ said Dr. Sutherland.

Sutherland explained further, “We now know that the ecological value of our carnivores in North America is more important than ever. We don’t expect the agencies to go this alone. We’ve just completed a scientific study and mapping efforts that tell us exactly where the key wildlife corridors are that can accommodate the endangered red wolf. Likewise the red wolf conservation community is already expanding its outreach strategies to reach residents and landowners.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be actively reintroducing wolves to bolster the current population. We have over 200 animals in breeding facilities; what we need is more reintroduction sites and more outreach to explain why co-existing with wolves and other carnivores is not a choice, it’s a duty and an ecological necessity,” said Huta.

The news of the announcement is not expected to sit well with the more than 110,000 people who submitted comments in support of saving this highly endangered species.  According to Sutherland, “North Carolina residents and people around the world are already reeling from the reprehensible shooting of a lactating red wolf mother and will be disappointed by this news.”

North Carolina is home to the only wild population of red wolves. Red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980’s after red wolves were declared extinct in the wild. Once common from Massachusetts to Florida, hunting and loss of habitat decimated wild red wolf populations. Today they are the most endangered wolf species in the world and the only wolf species that is found solely in the United States.

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The Endangered Species Coalition’s mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. We work to safeguard and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, a law that enables every citizen to act on behalf of threatened and endangered wildlife – animals, fish, plants, and insects – and the wild places they call home.

Wildlands Network’s mission is to reconnect nature in North America, to realize a future where native animals and plants thrive amidst healthy wildlands and other habitats. Working together with networks of people protecting networks of land, the 25-year-old conservation organization focuses on reconnecting habitats along four continental-scale wildlife pathways called the Eastern, Western, Boreal and Pacific Wildways. Alongside this effort, they work to restore carnivores and other wide-ranging animals throughout their natural ranges

Panelists Urge House Committee to Maintain a Strong Endangered Species Act to Protect Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction

 

Contact: Tara Thornton, Endangered Species Coalition, (207) 504-2705, tthornton@endangered.org

               Derek Goldman, Endangered Species Coalition, (406) 721-3218, dgoldman@endangered.org

 

Washington, D.C. – Two wildlife biologists, a national religious leader and a Peregrine Falcon testified at a special briefing to the House Natural Resources Committee today to highlight the importance of the Endangered Species Act – our nation’s safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction.

“The Endangered Species Act is our nation’s safety net for plants, fish and wildlife on the brink of extinction,” said Joe Roman, author, conservation biologist and researcher at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. “We owe it to our children and future generations to protect endangered species and the special places they call home.”

The briefing entitled, “The Endangered Species Act: Benefiting Landscapes, Wildlife and People,” occurred in the midst of several Congressional efforts to weaken protections for endangered species. Recent defense and appropriations bills in both the House and the Senate have contained “riders” that would remove, prohibit or delay Endangered Species Act protections from several imperiled species of wildlife, including the sage grouse and the gray wolf.

“The Endangered Species Act works to prevent imperiled wildlife from disappearing forever,” said Mary Minette, Director for Environmental Education and Advocacy at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “The diversity of life is a gift from God, and we are called to help endangered species and all of God’s creation survive and thrive now and in the future.”

The Congressional briefing sponsored by 12 conservation and scientific advocacy groups, including American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wildlands Network and WildEarth Guardians, was hosted in cooperation with Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure our nation’s imperiled wildlife are protected under the Endangered Species Act,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It’s unacceptable that certain Members of Congress are using their personal political agendas to undermine this bedrock environmental law. The relentless attack on the ESA – whether it’s attaching dangerous policy riders to funding bills or voting to safeguard industry profits over environmental protections – is out of step with the American public.”

According to 2011 public opinion poll, 84 percent of Americans support the Endangered Species Act, including strong majorities in all regions of the U.S. and across both major political party affiliations. More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only ten have gone extinct since the Act became law, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, a study of 110 protected species found that 90 percent are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans. Biologists have indicated that the task of recovering a species from near-extinction is a decades-long endeavor. The Peregrine Falcon for example, rebounded from near extinction in 1975 to several thousand breeding pair today. The falcon was declared recovered and delisted in 1999.

“The Endangered Species Act, one of the most powerful environmental laws globally, has directly prevented extinction of hundreds of species, such as the bald eagle,” said Cristina Eisenberg, lead scientist at Earthwatch, U.S.A and author of two books on carnivore ecology. “In this era of rapid environmental change and enormous threats to our natural resources, it is crucial for our wellbeing as a nation that we maintain the integrity of this law.”

 

Panelist Bios

 

Cristina Eisenberg is an ecologist and the Lead Scientist at Earthwatch, USA. Her ecological research focuses on wolves and fire in Rocky Mountain ecosystems. She has a master’s degree in conservation biology from Prescott College, and a PhD in Forestry and Wildlife from Oregon State University. Cristina is a Smithsonian Research Associate, a Boone and Crockett Club professional member, and Black Earth Institute Scholar/ Advisor. Her books include The Wolf’s Tooth and The Carnivore Way. She is currently writing a book titled, Taking the Heat: Wildlife, Food Webs and Extinction in a Warming World. For two decades she lived with her family in a remote, wild corner of Montana. She currently lives in Concord, Massachusetts, near Walden Pond.

 

Mary Minette is Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office. She is also the North American representative to the Climate Change Advisory Group for the ACT Alliance and president of the board of Creation Justice Ministries (formerly the National Council of Churches eco-justice program). Mary has also served in senior positions with a number of secular environmental organizations, including the Earth Day Network, the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Audubon Society’s endangered species and trade and environment programs. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

 

Joe Roman is a conservation biologist and researcher at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont and a Hardy Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. His research, focusing on endangered species conservation and marine ecology, has appeared in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and many other journals. Joe has received a Fulbright Fellowship in Brazil to research invertebrate conservation, a McCurdy Fellowship at the Duke University Marine Lab to examine the ecological role of whales in the oceans, and a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship to study the influence of biodiversity on human well-being.

 

Maggie, the Peregrine Falcon hatched in the spring of 2014 – atop a building in downtown Richmond, VA that was on the Richmond Falcon Cam. Two days after fledging from her nest, the young falcon crashed into a building, severely damaging her left eye and fracturing the tip of her beak. Veterinarians at the Wildlife Center of Virginia treated Maggie’s eye with medication for several weeks, but about a month after admission, the veterinary team had to surgically remove the damaged eye. With only one eye, Maggie cannot see well enough to be released back into the wild. She currently serves as an education animal at the Wildlife Center.

 

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All Chimpanzees to Be Protected as Endangered Under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) release a final rule today classifying all chimpanzees, both wild and captive, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  The Endangered Species Coalition advocated for this rule and thousands of activists spoke out in support of it.

The rule results in listing both captive and wild individuals as “endangered,” which will increase protections for captive chimpanzees while positively affecting the conservation of wild chimpanzees. Prior to this rule, wild chimpanzees were protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, while their captive counterparts were listed as threatened.

This “split-listing” of chimpanzees was harmful as it allowed the use of captive chimpanzees in entertainment, the pet trade and for invasive research. This negatively affects wild populations by leading the public to believe that chimpanzees are not in need of conservation. In addition, captive chimpanzees frequently suffer abuse and neglect in these industries.

In its announcement, the USFWS said:

Threats to the chimpanzee, including habitat loss, poaching and disease, have intensified and expanded since wild populations were listed as endangered in 1990. These threats are exacerbated by an increasing human population, the expansion of settlements, and increasing pressure on natural resources to meet the needs of the growing human population. Recovery from the loss of individuals is more difficult for chimpanzees given their slow reproductive rates.

The ESA (Endangered Species Act) does not allow for captive-held animals to be assigned separate legal status from their wild counterparts on the basis of their captive state. In 2010, the Service received a petition from a coalition of organizations, including the Jane Goodall Institute, to list all chimpanzees as endangered, prompting a formal review of the status of chimpanzees under the ESA.

You can read the entire USFWS announcement here.

Endangered Species Day 2015

The 10th annual Endangered Species Day is May 15th, 2015. The Endangered Species Coalition led the effort in establishing Endangered Species Day when the Senate first officially recognized it through a resolution in 2006. 

We have come a very long way since then! Thousand of young people participate in the annual Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest  and there are nearly 200 events scheduled in at least 42 statesincluding six events in U.S. National Parks. In Washington, D.C. we are celebrating Endangered Species Day on Capitol Hill at the U.S. Botanic Garden and through 7 other area events.

Find an Endangered Species Day event near you! There are events at zoos, museums, parks, aquariums, community centers, schools, and neighborhood gardens. 

Milkweed planting at DC Urban Greens Endangered Species Day event. Photo credit Amanda Milster, ESC.

Milkweed planting at DC Urban Greens Endangered Species Day event. Photo credit Amanda Milster, ESC.

On Endangered Species Day, we celebrate the conservation successes like American alligators, California condors, bald eagles, brown pelicans, and the many other species on the path to recovery thanks to the Endangered Species Act.

Additionally, this year’s Endangered Species Day is bringing special focus to the plight of monarch butterflies. The widespread destruction of milkweed has led to alarming declines in their numbers. To address this, many Endangered Species Day events organized by the Endangered Species Coalition are including the construction of milkweed “seed bombs” in the day’s agenda. By planting milkweed around the country, we can help monarchs begin to recover. You can find instructions for making a milkweed seed bomb here.

If you are unable to make it to an event in person, you can still take part through individual conservation actions, by taking these 10 easy steps to protect endangered species, or by telling your friends! 

Send an e-card:

Send a polar bear e-card Send a wolf e-card

Send a black-footed ferret

e-card

 

If you’re on Twitter, show your support for endangered species by tweeting about Endangered Species Day or take part in the Tweetstorm or Thunderclap asking President Obama to #LeadThePack and protect wolves! 

 

I’m tweeting for wolves with @endangered this #ESDay. See how you can take part! bit.ly/1EDYILX

I’m tweeting for polar bears with @endangered this #ESDay. See how you can take part! bit.ly/1EDYILX

I’m tweeting for black-footed ferrets with @endangered this #ESDay. See how you can take part! bit.ly/1EDYILX

Update: You can see some of our favorite Endangered Species Day social media posts on our Storify.

Students Ask the First Lady to Support Pollinators

 

University students across the country are calling on Michelle Obama to take action for pollinators for Endangered Species Day, which will be celebrated on May 15th 2015. Pollinator species, such as butterflies and bees, are facing serious declines across the country. These amazing species are not only natural treasures, but they are also vital for our agricultural systems. On Monday, a letter signed by 20 student organizations across the country  and a petition signed by 165 individual students were delivered to the First Lady in hopes that she will use her voice to protect pollinators.

As part of her Let’s Move initiative, the First Lady has created a White House Kitchen Garden, and in 2014, the first ever White House Pollinator Garden was also planted to support pollination and raise awareness of threats to pollinators. As Mrs. Obama shares a concern for pollinator survival, she is an ideal ally and voice for the protection of these animals.

Loss of milkweed habitat is causing a major decline in monarch butterfly populations. Monarch caterpillars rely exclusively on milkweed for survival, the loss of milkweed due to the use of GMO crops and widespread use of herbicides and pesticides is greatly threatening their survival. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years, and remaining populations have lost 165 million acres of habitat in that timeframe, in large part due to herbicide and pesticide use.

Native bee populations have also plummeted in recent years because of many threats including spread of diseases, habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species. The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides has killed many and hampered the ability of others to return to their hives. “Neonics” are systemic; when applied, they infiltrate all of the structures of a plant, including its nectar. Neonics are very heavily used in agriculture as well as in residential and commercial settings.

 iStock_000007985649_Large (1)We are deeply concerned with the plummeting populations of pollinators across the country, and these university students are also working to provide habitat for bees and butterflies on their campuses. Planting pesticide-free pollinator gardens that include milkweed is an important step in protecting the pollinator populations that are necessary for human survival.

The First Lady is an important voice for pollinators. We hope that she will join us and take action to protect these important and amazing animals before it’s too late!

The students are asking her to publicly encourage schools, businesses, churches, and community groups across the country to plant pollinator gardens and adopt pollinator-friendly, pesticide and herbicide-free practices. If you want to protect the bees and butterflies in your community, consider planting your own pesticide-free garden with milkweed and other native plants!

U.S. Representative Beyer Speaks out for Wolves

Representative Don Beyer (D-VA8) has received more than 2,000 letters from constituents about the possible delisting of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. In fact, he says he has received more letters on this issue than almost everything else combined:

Citing the peer review panel that found that the administration’s plan to delist wolves did not use the best available science, he says that now is not the time to delist the gray wolf. He joined other members of Congress in signing a letter to Secretary Jewell asking her to manage gray wolves in a scientifically responsible and appropriate manner. 

Please email your member of Congress today and ask that they oppose any efforts to delist wolves.

Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest Semifinalists Announced

Following a very difficult selection process by the International Child Art Foundation, semifinalists in the 2015 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest were announced today. The contest provides K through 12 students an opportunity to express their support for conservation efforts and to learn more about imperiled species. The contest is organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Endangered Species Coalition, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and International Child Art Foundation (ICAF), the contest promotes national awareness of the importance of saving endangered species while recognizing conservation initiatives across the country.

The entries are judged in four grade categories. K through 2nd grade; 3rd through 5th grade; 6th through 8th grade; and 9th through 12th grade.

View all of the semifinalist entries here.

The grade category and grand prize winner will be announced on April 16th, 2015.

Great Lakes Advocates Speak out for Wolves in D.C.

Last week I was lucky enough to accompany conservationists, farmers and hunters from across the Great Lakes States as they converged on Washington DC. They came hundreds of miles to talk to their elected officials. They echoed the voice of millions of Americans who value our wild spaces and all the creatures that occupy them. We were joined by Barry Babcock and Sandra Skinaway from Minnesota. Barry is a decade long hunter and conservationist. Sandra is the chairwoman of the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Chippewa, and a long time wolf advocate. From Wisconsin we had Mary Falk, an organic cheese farmer who uses protection dogs for her flock. Also from Wisconsin was Melissa Smith, a Madison based Wolf advocate and conservationist. We were lucky to have Endangered Species Coalition board member Major General Michael Lehnert (Ret) join us from Michigan. (Michael Lehnert’s recent op-ed.)

Great Lakes wolf advocates in front of the White House.

Great Lakes wolf advocates in front of the White House.

Our delegation of Great Lakes participants met with some of their elected leaders and made clear their support of the Endangered Species Act. They did an amazing job reverberating our coalition’s message of support for the Endangered Species Act. Their compelling personal experiences in our nation’s wild spaces have left them with an appreciation for our ecology that few will ever experience. It was absolutely vital that lawmakers heard their voice so that they can better understand this important issue through the eyes of the people who live and work among wolves daily.

These voices came to speak out against any congressional attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act with species specific attacks. Currently, there are two bills introduced in the US Congress that would aim to chip away at the Endangered Species Act, both H.R. 884 and H.R. 843 would not only undermine wolf recovery, but also the Endangered Species Act itself. The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective and important environmental laws in our nation’s history. We have brought many species back from the brink of extinction. That is why it is so important we safeguard our progress by ensuring we have the strongest Endangered Species Act as possible.

I am grateful for the support of these amazing and dedicated individuals. We had an amazing experience and their thoughtful insights will go a long way to help our campaign. Please help us and make your voice heard as well!

Contact your federal lawmakers and tell them NOT to remove federal protection for wolves.

Send a letter to the editor to help spread the word about the assault on wildlife and the Endangered Species Act.

 

For the Love of the Lobo

Maggie Howell is the Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center, an Endangered Species Coalition member organization. In this interview with Zoe Helene, she talks about what endangered wolves sacrifice in captivity, the threat they face from hunters and ranchers in the wild, and her love for the lobo. 

This is a guest post from animal rights advocate Zoe Helene. (@cosmicsister).


 

I drove from Amherst, Mass., to the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in Salem, N.Y., to interview executive director Maggie Howell on a humid midsummer day. I’d asked beforehand if I could play with Nikai, an inquisitive “ambassador” pup being closely guarded by a large, wise German Shepard “nanny” named Kai. WCC curator Rebecca Bose, the wolf pup’s primary caretaker, had set clear boundaries for my play date. I could enter the wolf pup’s sanctuary space, but if Nikai chose not to come to me or let me touch him, I would have to leave without having that experience.

To better my odds with Nikai, I’d brought a basket of treats and toys. A dried chicken strip and a no-squeak teething pull-toy were the only two things that met with Rebecca’s approval, but they did the trick. Nanny Kai got a chicken strip first, and then Nikai dove for his, devoured it, and climbed all over me looking for more. Rebecca promptly confiscated the bag of chicken strips and hid them for later because more might upset his tummy. Tough love.

Wolf Conservation Center's Ambassador Wolf Nikai • “I think that there should be more candor when it comes to what goes on behind the scene when recovering species.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

Wolf Conservation Center’s Ambassador Wolf Nikai • “I think that there should be more candor when it comes to what goes on behind the scene when recovering species.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

Nikai didn’t seem to mind. He let me rub his belly and the soft golden fuzz on his ears. He was all boy—cuddly, curious, feisty and full of himself in all the right ways. He looked into, rather than at, me with keen, kind, undeniable intelligence. At eight weeks old, he was already carrying out his mission of helping people understand his species by bridging the worlds of wolves and humans—as if he were born for it.

Nikai was, in fact, carefully selected to be a WCC Ambassador Wolf—one of four socialized, captive-bred wolves (including charismatic Atka, intense Zephyr, and shy, graceful Alawa) who roam in open spaces, close enough for visitors to make deep eye contact, at WCC’s 26-acre facility. WCC, the preeminent facility in the eastern United States for captive breeding of critically endangered wolf species, is also home to about 30 Mexican gray wolves who are being reared for release into the wild through the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Ambassador Wolves are key players in WCC’s mission of helping people understand the species and its complex, highly politicized plight.

As Nikai played with the pull-toy—just like the three Siberian Huskies I raised—I thought about the sacrifice he’s making. He’s very well cared for and loved dearly, but Nikai will never be free.

Maggie and I talked about that as well as her particular passion for Mexican gray wolves (the smallest and most genetically distinct sub-species of the North American gray wolf, known also as the lobo) and the crucial work she and her colleagues are doing to save a species in peril. Because the sad fact is, without efforts by organizations such as WCC, both Mexican gray and red wolves would still be extinct in the wild and the remaining gray wolves would be right behind them. Before recovery efforts began, the Mexican gray wolf population was down to five: four males and one female who was pregnant with seven pups. These last remaining lobos were captured in Mexico from 1977 to 1980 and transferred to the United States to establish a certified captive breeding program.

Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) • “The most joyful part of this work is releasing wolves into the wild. The worst thing I face in this work is when those wolves get killed.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) • “The most joyful part of this work is releasing wolves into the wild. The worst thing I face in this work is when those wolves get killed.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

“We advocate for wolves’ rights because they cannot speak for themselves,” Maggie told me. “It’s a toxic environment out there when it comes to wolves.”

These wolves are native to the North American West, Southwest and northern Mexico (lobo is Spanish for wolf), and they ran free from prehistoric times until the last century. Extreme predator removal efforts, sanctioned by the U.S. government from the late 1800s through the mid 1900s, exterminated the species from its wild ancestral landscapes.

Under the Endangered Species Act, reintroduction efforts have established a small population of 109 lobos, descendants of the last remaining Mexican gray wolves who were captive bred and released into their native territories. It’s a long, sad story wrought with fear, ignorance and profit, in which antiquated hunting laws and private (cattle) industry powers get in the way of real progress.

Even with an official protective “endangered” categorization, lobos face threats in the wild. Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has designated the species “experimental non-essential”—a loophole that allows extra leniency for “management”—lobos are allowed to roam only in small areas of public land also used by the livestock industry as inexpensive, subsidized grazing land. Occasionally a wolf kills a sheep or cow, and the “experimental non-essential” designation and accompanying special section 10(j) regulation allows USFWS to remove or kill the wolf.

USFWS’s rationale is that the species isn’t in danger of extinction because its genetics are represented in captivity, but adapting to captivity is weakening the species. This could result—and is resulting—in smaller litters, less successful breeding and decreased pup survival, Maggie told me. The WCC and a coalition of conservation groups have sued USFWS for failing to implement a valid recovery plan for the lobo, Maggie said, because “it’s crucial that the species be allowed to survive in the wild.”

A few highlights from my conversation with Maggie follow.

Mountain of American Bison Skulls • A mountain of of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer (mid-1870s). Photo courtesy Wiki Commons / Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Mountain of American Bison Skulls • A mountain of of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer (mid-1870s). Photo courtesy Wiki Commons / Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

THE MONEY VALUE OF LIVING BEINGS

What goes on here at the Wolf Conservation Center?

We nurture wolves, advocate for their rights. We teach about 40,000 people a year (adults and kids, but mostly kids) about the importance of wild wolves in the wild landscape. We have 24 wolves and 13 Mexican gray wolves here, but they’re not on exhibit for the public. They’re in five different secluded, private enclosures. Our goal is to release them someday into their ancestral wild lands.

You’re also the coordinator for the Northeast Wolf Coalition, an alliance established last year. What’s that all about?

We’re uniting conservation organizations in New York, New England, and beyond to raise awareness and teach people the biological, economic and ethical reasons to facilitate wolf recovery.

How did we get to this point in the first place? Wasn’t it the government that gave the command to massacre the wolves—or was that coyotes?

Basically, it was everything. It was a way to get carnivores, or any other species they felt was in the way, off the landscape. It was about looking out for your livestock and clearing the land for farming. It was also a way to make a living. It was the same with bison. Have you ever seen that photo from the mid 1870s with the hunter standing in front of a mountain of bison skulls? Mind-blowing.

Everyone should know that photo. It should be in every schoolroom, every public library. It’s one of those pictures that tells a thousand words—stating the case on our (not-so-distant) cultural history. Those skulls were ground up to be used as fertilizer.

We recently screened a Natural Resources Defense Council video called Wild Things about Wildlife Services, which is a misnamed agency within the USDA that kills off wild animals. Every year, Wildlife Services kills more than 100,000 native carnivores and millions of birds, and they’ve been getting away with this for almost a century. Taxpayers foot the bill.

You see wolves playing a role in the economic system as well.

The economy is the ticket for wildlife. Yellowstone Park and the greater Yellowstone region, for example, have hunting and trapping seasons. Last year it cost Montana residents $19 to go out and kill a wolf. That was the wolf tag price. It seems unbelievable to me to put a money value on a living being. But Yellowstone visitors spend $35 million annually, specifically with the hopes of seeing a wild wolf. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that right now there are about 100 wild wolves in Yellowstone. If you take $35 million and divide it by 100, you get roughly a monetary value of about $350,000 per wolf. Plus, these people spend their money at stores and hotels and restaurants so the local economy also benefits. Fewer people are likely to visit Yellowstone if these hunts continue.

I support the wild horse warriors, and most of what they’re dealing with is perceived competition for government-subsidized wild rangelands by cattle ranchers.

It’s very inexpensive to graze on public land, and most of it is public land. Powerful groups of people are passionate about what is going on with these wild horse roundups, and so much of what is happening with the wolves is very similar. It’s either recreation or industry; in this case it would be the livestock industry trumping the intrinsic rights of many species or the recovery of the species.

Charismatic Arctic Ambassador Wolf Atka • Ambassador Wolves are key players in WCC’s mission of helping people understand the species and its complex, controversial, and highly politicized plight. The Wolf Conservation Center's "Rock Star", Ambassador wolf Atka has visited over 200 schools, nature centers, museums and libraries helping people learn about the importance of his wild “brothers and sisters”. He loves to travel and has a spectacular howl, which he enjoys sharing with audiences.

Charismatic Arctic Ambassador Wolf Atka • Ambassador Wolves are key players in WCC’s mission of helping people understand the species and its complex, controversial, and highly politicized plight. The Wolf Conservation Center’s “Rock Star”, Ambassador wolf Atka has visited over 200 schools, nature centers, museums and libraries helping people learn about the importance of his wild “brothers and sisters”. He loves to travel and has a spectacular howl, which he enjoys sharing with audiences.

MOTHER NATURE’S DOG IN CAPTIVITY

Tell me about your wonderful Ambassador Wolves.

Our ambassadors are raised from a very early age by devoted staff and volunteers. They help teach visitors and students to understand the importance of their wild kin through personal interaction. They’re really the ones on the front line of the lesson, and they will never live free in the wild.

That’s quite a sacrifice.

It truly is, and it isn’t like they have a choice. We try to find a new way to thank them every day. We’re constantly asking ourselves whether it’s worth the sacrifice they make for their wild brothers and sisters.

So, is it worth it?

So far I think it is, especially because we’re so close to New York City. People who visit us here actually think about wolves when they might not normally think about anything even close to wolves. Through the Ambassador Wolves, they feel a very real connection.

It was such a treat to hang out with Nikai!

We only do this with Ambassador pups for about two months with the public. Developing a basic comfort level around people is vital for them to become an educational ambassador and leading a happy and healthy life at the WCC.

Wolves have such a close kinship to dogs, and so many people are crazy about dogs. You would think that more people would be advocating for wolves.

You’d think. I don’t understand why that connection isn’t there. I wish we could get more of the dog people involved. I like to look at the wolf as Mother Nature’s dog.

Rebecca Bose with Lobo Pup • “Being curator of these precious critically endangered lobos is a privilege, and holding this amazing new life in my hands is what it’s all about.” – Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center Wolf Conservation Center’s Curator, Rebecca Bose, bottle feeding one of F749’s pups from 2013.

Rebecca Bose with Lobo Pup • “Being curator of these precious critically endangered lobos is a privilege, and holding this amazing new life in my hands is what it’s all about.” – Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center Wolf Conservation Center’s Curator, Rebecca Bose, bottle feeding one of F749’s pups from 2013.

CAPTIVE BREEDING IS A DESPERATE MEASURE

Captive breeding is surely a desperate measure, but if you weren’t doing this, these wolves would be extinct. Lobos were just about “extinct in the wild,” right?

Yes. The red wolf and Mexican gray wolf were in crisis and about to go extinct in the wild when we took the last remaining wolves into captive breeding programs.

What’s it like for them in captivity?

Most of our wolves are off exhibit so they don’t become habituated, which means we almost never get to see them—which is hard for us because of course we love wolves. It also means they get appropriate food such as road-kill deer. They can also hunt within their fenced-in territories. They have a lot of natural social interactions. We let them be wolves as much as we can because how better to prep them for the wild?

Do the wolves have names other than the numbers?

We keep the alphanumeric names for the educational component and also because we want people to realize that these wolves are something much bigger than just our facility or their pack. They are part of a desperate recovery of their species.

How do you decide which captive-bred wolves get released into the wild?

Genetics governs most decisions. They look for wolves that will enhance gene pool diversity in the wild landscape. Behavior and health also play a role. A wolf that’s been on exhibit his or her whole life and likes people is not a good candidate for release. The wolves most likely to be released because of genetics are placed in facilities where they can be kept off exhibit so they don’t become accustomed to human beings and stop responding to humans the way they naturally should. Most wild wolves are naturally fearful of people—or perhaps have learned to become fearful of people because they should be.

Many people are fearful of wolves! Our culture insists on continuing to teach children that wolves want to eat us.

And we’re not on the menu. We’re just not the type of animal that wolves would be looking to eat—unless they were truly desperate and there was just nothing else.

You would think that as a culture we could mature beyond believing in fairytales with antiquated ideas and villains based on ignorance! It must be difficult to fight that. What’s the most challenging thing you face in this work?

When our wolves get killed. It’s always a risk when you’re doing the absolute best thing for them, which is releasing them into the wild, and then they’re killed by criminals. The first two wolves we released were both were illegally shot and killed shortly after we released them.

What is the most joyful thing you get to experience?

The most joyful part of this work is releasing wolves into the wild.

LoboWeek • The Wolf Conservation Center (@nywolforg) and a consortium of wolf-advocacy groups have declared March 23 through March 29 as #LoboWeek in an effort to get the word out.

LoboWeek • The Wolf Conservation Center (@nywolforg) and a consortium of wolf-advocacy groups have declared March 23 through March 29 as #LoboWeek in an effort to get the word out.

ENCLOSURE LIVE WEBCAM

Ambassador Wolf Atka

Ambassador Wolves Zephyr, Alawa, and Nikai: Wolf Rock Cam

Mexican Gray Wolf F613 and Children: Enclosure Cam

The enclosure cameras were made possible by a grant from Patagonia.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Wolf Conservation Center (@nywolforg)
Northeast Wolf Coalition (@NEwolforg)
Species Survival Plan
Endangered Species Act
Natural Resources Defense Council (@NRDC)
Project Coyote (@ProjectCoyote)
Yellowstone Park (@YellowstoneNPS)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Scientists, Business Leaders, Tribes, and NGOs to Congress: Oppose Anti-Wolf Legislation

This week, more than 50 scientists, representatives of 5 Native American tribes, 24 business leaders, and 82 organizations sent letters to Members Congress asking them to oppose legislation that seeks to remove federal protections for gray wolves.

The scientists say in their letter that, “The  best  available  science  indicates  that  the  gray  wolf  occupies  a  mere  fraction  of  its  historic  range  and   therefore   has   not   yet   recovered   from   centuries   of   systematic   persecution.”

The letter is signed by 50 world-renowned scientists and biologists including Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University, and Adrian Treves of University of Wisconsin, Madison. 

The letter signed by tribal representatives, business leaders, and organizations  from around the United States noted that “(W)olves in states that no longer have federal wolf protections have been subjected to increasingly hostile state management practices.” In it, the signers ask Members of Congress to avoid repeating the mistakes made when it passed the 2011 appropriations rider delisting wolves in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah. That 2011 legislation opened the door to aggressive wolf management in the Northern Rockies and weakened the Endangered Species Act by leaving it vulnerable to future attacks such as ones that are up for consideration today.

You can take action by asking your U.S. Congressional Representative and Senators to oppose any legislation that would strip wolves of Endangered Species Act protections.