Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RWSSP of the month--Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) is the foundation of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. To let people know what’s happening throughout the program through, we are continuing to feature different RWSSP locations on the blog.  The RWSSP of the March is Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) in northeastern North Carolina.  The 154,000-acre refuge is located on the mainland portions of Dare and Hyde Counties, North Carolina. The offices for refuge staff, as well as members of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, are located in the Coastal NC National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center.

Photo by R. Nordsven/USFWS

Aerial view of ARNWR. Photo by Melissa McGaw.
In March 1984, a large parcel of land in Dare County was set aside to become the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. ARNWR is well recognized as the location of the initial restoration efforts for the Red Wolf Recovery Program.  In 1987—just three years after the refuge was established—four breeding pairs of red wolves were released onto the refuge.  As a sign of early success in the program, the first wild pups were born the following spring.  Additional releases (facilitated by successful captive breeding efforts), intensive monitoring, and the establishment of partnerships in the local community has allowed the restored population of red wolves to expand west from ARNWR to include approximately 110 wolves occurring over more than 6000 km2 in the Red Wolf Recovery Area. The collaboration between ARNWR and the Red Wolf Recovery Program has served as a model for restoration of other controversial endangered carnivores including gray wolves, African wild dogs, and black-footed ferrets.  

Release of a red wolf on ARNWR. Photo by R. Nordsven/USFWS.
In addition to the wild red wolves on the refuge, there is also a RWSSP facility on the ARNWR.  This RWSSP site currently has four full-time captive residents: one breeding pair, and two adult females.  The three females arrived from Virginia Living Museum (Newport News, VA) in 2007 (one born in 2006, and two sisters born in 2007).  The breeding male was born at Henson Robinson Zoo (Springfield, IL) in 2007 and transferred from North Carolina Zoo (Asheboro, NC) in 2010. The breeding pair had their first litter of pups in 2013 (one of which was fostered into the wild). We’re hoping for more pups this year—stay tuned!

Happy 30th Birthday to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge! Please visit their website or Facebook page for more information!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Visit from RWSSP Advisors/PDZA and disease project update

Last year, the Red Wolf Recovery Program and Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) partners from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA; Tacoma, WA) received multiple grants from for projects that will further the conservation of the endangered red wolf.   The Conservation Committee (ConCom) awards grants annually to a variety of conservation and research programs worldwide, and is supported by generous contributions from PDZA, Point Defiance Zoo Society, and the Point Defiance American Association of Zoo Keepers chapter.  

One of the funded proposals aims to develop a canid disease monitoring plan.  This winter, Louisiana State University graduate student, Kristin, has been collecting ectoparasites from wild red wolves and coyotes captured in northeastern North Carolina.  These samples are part of a larger study examining red wolf immunocompetence, but she has also taken this opportunity to expand assess our knowledge of disease occurrence and frequency in red wolves, and the efficacy of current red wolf vaccination programs.  The next step is to perform initial synthesis and evaluation to provide an understanding of recovery needs and identify knowledge gaps related to red wolf disease risks and the utility of preventive care applications.  To assist this process, Will, the RWSSP Coordinator, and Dr. Karen, the Veterinarian Advisor (both at PDZA) visited the Red Wolf Recovery Area last month to help with the review.

Art and Cameron restrain wolf while Dr. Karen and Will examine her.
Dr. Karen examines restrained wolf
While they were in town, Dr. Karen was able to examine several captive animals as well as recently captured wild red wolves for body condition.  She is using this information for another project funded by ConCom to determine the prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the red wolves. IBD appears to be an emerging concern for red wolves in the PDZA zoo-based population.  PDZA personnel are currently evaluating if IBD is a concern for the overall red wolf population and will provide funding to determine if non-invasive diagnostic tests used in domestic dogs can be applied to red wolves.

Dr. Karen was also able to examine 11964F, a wild red wolf that was recently trapped and sustained a toe injury.  Dr. Jay at the Outer Banks Veterinary Hospital treated her locally in January.  Fortunately, with time, the foot healed properly and we were able to release her back into her natal territory.   

Released 11964F. Photo: B. Bartel/USFWS.


It was a terrific visit. A big thanks to Kristin for all her winter sampling and hard work and to all of the vets that help treat and care for the red wolves!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Red Wolf Howling Schedule at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and the Red Wolf Recovery Program offer you the opportunity to learn more about red wolves at the only place in the world where they still exist in the wild! Meet at the designated time at the Creef Cut Wildlife Trail parking lot off of Miltail Rd./Hwy 64 for a chance to hear the harmonious howl of this endangered species. 

Photo by Kingston Walzer, who recently won runner –up in a photo contest at  Rosamond Gifford Zoo, a partner in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan.

Free Spring Saturday Howlings
No Registration Required
  • April 26 - Earth Day (Full Moon!) - 7:00-8:30 pm
  • May 25 - Memorial Day (Full Moon!) -7:00-8:30 pm
Summer Howlings
No Registration Required
Summer Howlings cost $10 per person (bring cash, check, visa, or mastercard).
Children 12 and under are FREE!
  • June 1-August 31, Wednesdays - 7:30pm-9:00pm
 Free Fall Saturday Howlings
No Registration Required
  • October 11 - Wolf Awareness Week - 6:00-7:30 pm
  • November 15 - Full Moon Howl - 5:00-6:30 pm
  • December 6 - Holiday Howl - 5:00-6:30 pm

Important things to remember:
  • Programs typically last about two hours.
  • Bring a flashlight and insect repellent.
  • Dress for the weather; howling will occur except with lightning, heavy rain, or wind or impassable roads. Decision to cancel will be made at least 1.5 hours prior to the scheduled program.
  • Plan ahead! Creef Cut Wildlife Trail is about a 20 minute drive from Manteo!
  •  Do NOT bring pets. 
Questions: Call 252-216-9464. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

RWSSP of the month—St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge!

The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) is the foundation of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. To let people know what’s happening throughout the program through, we are continuing to feature different RWSSP locations.  The RWSSP of the month is St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge (SVNWR) along the Gulf coast of northwest Florida.  The 12,490-acre refuge includes two islands: St. Vincent Island and Pig Island, and a mainland tract.  It is managed together with St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge as part of the North Florida Refuge Complex
Red wolf pair on SVNWR (trail camera photo)
As an additional strategy to propagate wild red wolf offspring for release, captive born breeding pairs were also relocated to several island propagation sites.  The wolves were released on the islands to live, hunt, breed, and raise their young in a natural environment.  Their offspring, having been raised “wild,” are relocated to the mainland reintroduction sites when they reach dispersal or reproductive age.  The concept being that wild-raised red wolves would be more likely to survive following release.  SVNWR began participating in the RWSSP in 1990, and is currently the only operational island propagation site for current (and future) wild populations. 

11729F captured by a trail camera.
There is one breeding pair currently on St. Vincent NWR. The breeding female 1729F was born on the island in 2007.  She was originally paired with a young male (1565M) born in the SSP facility in Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center (Chattanooga, TN), but did not produce puppies in the three breeding seasons they were together.  Recently, she was assessed by veterinarians and determined reproductively fit.  The male was transferred to Wolf Conservation Center (South Salem , NY) and a new mate, 1804M, arrived in December 2013 (born in 2010) via Lighthawk.  They have been together in an acclimation pen on the island for 2 months and will be released next week!

The animals at SVNWR are critical in the success of the RWSSP component of the red wolf recovery program. In addition to supplementing population numbers, this also augments the wild red wolf gene pool with under-presented genes, increasing genetic diversity and reducing inbreeding and subsequent potential fitness impacts.

Please visit their website or Facebook page for more information!