Thursday, February 28, 2013

Meet Chelsea, our red wolf caretaker intern!

 Chelsea with a captive red wolf behind her.
Please help us welcome our most recent addition to the Red Wolf Recovery Program, Chelsea!  She is the red wolf caretaker intern from January to April 2013. Chelsea was born in Connecticut, grew up in Florida, and attended Unity College in Maine, receiving her Bachelors of Science in Wildlife Conservation in December 2011. 

Chelsea comes to us with a lot of wildlife conservation experience already under her belt.  Some of her previous work includes volunteering at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, a wildlife rehab center, and researching piping plover and oystercatchers as an endangered shorebird intern at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island. Last summer, she was a seabird researcher for Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and lived on the remote islands of Metinic and Petit Manan Island surveying and studying many different types of shorebirds including common, arctic terns, and Roseate terns, Atlantic puffins, razorbills, common murrs, common eiders, black guillemots, Leach’s storm-petrels, great black-backed gulls, laughing gulls, and herring gulls. From there, she continued on to the Loki Clan Wolf Refuge in the White mountains of New Hampshire, where she cared for 66 wolf hybrids, and participated in education and outreach.

We are very lucky to have her part of the program as Chelsea’s interests in wildlife conservation and wolves began long ago—she even wrote her first book about wolves when she was four (!) and has been following wolf recovery efforts for years. Her long-term goal is to find a permanent position with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, a non-profit, nature center, wildlife rescue, or other facility that will allow her to continue to educate others and conserve wildlife. Together with her family, Chelsea has also created a non-profit organization, Balloons Blow, whose central goal is to bring awareness and educate others about the effects balloon releases and pollution has on the environment and wildlife. On her days off, you can find Chelsea cleaning nearby the beaches and removing washed up debris.

  Chelsea and a captive pair of red wolves.

Welcome, Chelsea!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

2013 Red Wolf Howlings Schedule

Male red wolf. Photo by B.Bartel/USFWS.

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 for a chance to hear the harmonious howl of this endangered species. Map and directions to Creef Cut Wildlife Trail parking lot.

Free Spring Saturday Howlings
No Registration Required

  • April 27 - 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 $7 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 12 - Wolf Awareness Week - 6:00-7:30 pm
  • November 16 - Full Moon Howl - 5:00-6:30 pm
  • December 7 - 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.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Red wolf breeding pair 11470 & 11872 (Valentine’s Day edition)

As we mentioned in the last blog entry, most of the red wolves being captured and processed in the field right now are being returned to their home range and released.  However, there are special circumstances where we will try to pair up a lone animal with a new mate before release.  In 2012, we experienced 19 red wolf mortalities.  One of these losses was a male breeder paired with a female (11470) in the Northern pack.  To ensure that she is paired with an appropriate mate (another red wolf), we took the opportunity to play matchmatcher with a recent captured male, 11872, who is a young disperser living a neighboring home range. We introduced them to each other in a captive pen first to allow them to meet and investigate the other animal and new surroundings.  Next, they will be moved together and released into her home range.  With any success, they will approve of each other’s company and establish as a new breeding wolf pair!

 11470, a breeding female red wolf. Photo: A. Beyer/USFWS.

 Introduction day in the captive pen. Photo: A. Beyer/USFWS.

  Checking each other out in the captive pen. Photo: A. Beyer/USFWS.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Management Techniques: 2013 Wolf Capture and Processing

Currently, the field biologists of the Red Wolf Recovery Program are spending many hours trapping wild red wolves.  It’s the time of year when efforts are focused on capturing pups from last season in order to assess their health and fit them for a radio-telemetry collar to ensure future monitoring.  To safeguard against poor collar fit, we wait until pups are approximately 8-9 months old and have reached their full size.  Once a red wolf is captured via a soft-catch steel leg-hold trap, it is secured in a kennel and transported to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Red Wolf Education and Health Care Facility.  Here, it is processed and held prior to its release.

Wild red wolves are instinctively fearful of humans and are generally docile when handled. A wolf is typically restrained by placing a muzzle over its mouth, tying or holding its hind legs together, and keeping a hand on its shoulder to hold it down. All precautions are taken to maximize the safety of the wolf as well as the biologists handling the wolf. 

Wolf biologists performing a health check and fitting a red wolf for
a radio-telemetry collar.  Photos by C. Lucash/USFWS.

Processing involves recording the wolf’s weight and body measurements, drawing a blood sample for future research, administering vaccines to prevent rabies and other common canid diseases, assessing the overall health of the wolf, and finally, fitting it with either a GPS or VHF radio telemetry collar so that it can be monitored upon release.  This year, Red Wolf Recovery Program biologists are also helping Louisiana State University graduate student, Kristin Brzeski, to collect ectoparasites from a captured wild red wolves. Ectoparasites, such as ticks, are being collected from wolves as part of a larger study examining red wolf immunocompetence (more to come on this research project soon!).  

 Radio-collared red wolf in kennel, waiting for transport and release.  Photo by C. Lucash/USFWS.

After the processing is complete, the wolf is usually transported back to its home range and released (see videos below). In some special cases, biologists can also pair up individuals who have previously lost a mate.  In cases like these, the animals are introduced to each other in a captive pen to hopefully establish a bond and become a breeding pair in the home range of the original wolf. Stay tuned for more details on a pair like this (blog forthcoming on Valentine’s Day)!

 Red wolf releases. Videos by A. Beyer/USFWS.