Friday, May 24, 2013

2013: The 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act

Some examples of species protected by the ESA in the Southeast (clockwise): Tar River spinymussel, West Indian manatee, Puerto Rican parrot, Florida panther, piping plover, red wolf, and Tennessee purple coneflower (USFWS photo credits).

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted on December 28, 1973.  In the past 40 years since, it has been one of the world’s most influential laws on species conservation.  The ESA has been credited with saving 99 percent of listed species from extinction and has contributed to countless species recovery efforts.

Today, the ESA protects 1,436 domestic species and 618 foreign species. Domestically, flowering plants make up the bulk of the protected species (54%).  The red wolf is one of 85 threatened and endangered species listed in the U.S. The red wolf was actually one first species to be listed.  Initially, about 50 species were protected under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, which later became the ESA.  Many of these species are imperiled for the same reasons: habitat loss and degradation. Increasing population growth and development continue to threaten habitat for plants and wildlife. Over the years, ESA had protected habitat and ecosystems resulting through programs like habitat conservation plans, safe harbor agreements, and conservation banks in the delisting of approximately 60 species and the reclassification of ~35 species.  

To learn more about the ESA, you can visit USFWS Endangered Species webpage or download the USFWS ESA Factsheet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 17: Endangered Species Day 2013

Endangered Species Day logo by Jill Hennessey/USFWS.

May 17th is Endangered Species Day! This week the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Red Wolf Recovery Program are recognizing the national conservation effort to protect our nation’s endangered species and their habitats.

Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for everyone to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions that people can take to help protect our nation’s disappearing wildlife and last remaining open space. Not sure what you can do?  Check out these top 10 tips from the Endangered Species Coalition:

1) Learn about endangered species in your area:  Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you!

2) Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space:  Get involved by volunteering at your local nature center,
zoo, or wildlife refuge or go wildlife or bird watching in nearby parks

3) Make your home wildlife friendly:  Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals into your home. Reduce your use of water in your home and garden so that animals that live in or near water can have a better chance of survival. Disinfect bird baths often to avoid disease transmission.

4) Provide habitat for wildlife by planting native vegetation in your yard:
Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate your plants. 

5) Minimize use of herbicides and pesticides: Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade and build up in the soils or throughout the food chain, find
alternatives to pesticides

6) Slow down when driving:  One of the biggest obstacles to wildlife living in developed areas is roads—slow down and keep an eye out for wildlife.

7) Recycle and buy sustainable products: Buy recycled paper, sustainable products like bamboo and
Forest Stewardship Council wood products to protect forest species. 

8) Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species:  Be careful about bringing back souvenirs from overseas trips. Avoid supporting the market in illegal wildlife including: tortoise-shell, ivory, and coral.  Be careful of products including fur from tigers, polar bears, sea otters and other endangered wildlife, crocodile skin, live monkeys or apes, most live birds including parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches, some live snakes, turtles and lizards, some orchids, cacti and cycads, medicinal products made from rhinos, tiger or Asiatic black bear. 

9) Report any harassment or shooting of threatened and endangered species: Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Shooting, trapping, or forcing a threatened or endangered animal into captivity is also illegal and can lead to their extinction. Don't participate in this activity, and report it as soon as you see it to your local
state or federal wildlife enforcement office.

10) Protect wildlife habitats: The greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat. By protecting habitat, entire communities of animals and plants can be protected together. Parks, wildlife refuges, and other open space should be protected near your community. Open space also provides us with great places to visit and enjoy. Support wildlife habitat and open space protection in your community. When you are buying a house, consider your impact on wildlife habitat.

In partnership with the
Endangered Species Coalition and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, events will be scheduled throughout the country. To find an event near you, you can explore the calendar provided by the Endangered Species Coalition.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 Foster Pup

Pup season is winding down now here at the Red Wolf Recovery Program. Totals for 2013 will be announced shortly, but in the meantime, we thought we’d share a foster opportunity we had last week.  A female red wolf pup was born in late April this year at the Sandy Ridge captive site, the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan facility on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.  She was the sole survivor of her litter.  This presented a good opportunity to foster her into a wild litter of similar age.  Fostering pups from a captive litter to a wild litter has been a successful tool used by the Red Wolf Recovery Program as a means to increase the numbers of wild red wolves and enhance the genetic diversity of the wild population. 

Pup fostering was first used in 2002, when two captive-born pups were successfully fostered into a wild litter.  Since then, we have seen some success with pup fostering with similar efforts.  In fact, no wild red wolf mother has ever been known to reject a fostered pup, and the fostered pups’ survival rates appear to be equal to that of their wild-born packmates.  There are several factors that can determine the likelihood of successful fostering. Ideally, the pups need to be no older than two-weeks of age at the time of the fostering.  During this time, the strong maternal instinct of the mother decreases the likelihood of pup rejection. The pups have limited mobility at this age as well, which ensures they will stay in or nearby the den site (and the mother).  We also aim to have all the pups similar in age, which can reduce any one-sided competition for food.  Lastly, a potential foster mother is usually selected based on her having a relatively low number of pups in her litter. 

 Female pup in transport. Photo credit: USFWS/B. Bartel

Pup processing: collecting blood and inserting the transponder.
Photo credits: USFWS/B. Bartel

In this case, there were two female pups already present in the wild litter, and all the pups were between 9-11 days old.  Once the new foster pup was covered with the scent (urine) of the other pups in the litter, all three pups were placed back into the den. We’ll keep you posted on their progress!

  The new pack! Photo credit: USFWS/B. Bartel

To learn more, you can check out previous blogs on pup processing techniques or previous fostering efforts.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Please welcome Lizzy, the new Red Wolf Recovery Program intern!

Please help us welcome our most recent addition to the Red Wolf Recovery Program, Lizzy!  She is the red wolf caretaker intern from April through August 2013. 

Lizzy grew up in Herndon, Virginia and attended the University of Delaware, where she double majored in Wildlife Conservation and Agriculture & Natural Resources. Since she was a kid, animals and nature have always been her two biggest passions, due in part of the fact she was in Girl Scouts for 13 years. Lizzy has always known that working with wolves would be her end goal, and she is very happy that she’s received the opportunity to make this dream into reality.

We are very lucky to have her part of the program, as she brings lots of experience from a variety of different wildlife jobs, beginning with teaching hunter education for Vermont Fish & Wildlife, teaching animal education at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado, and husbandry for a wide variety of animals at Plumpton Park Zoo in Maryland. Lizzy began working with wolves at the Wolf Education and Research Center in Idaho, where she cared for wolves and participated in visitor education programs. Now, Lizzy is continuing this path with the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

Photo credit: USFWS/R. Nordsven

Long term, Lizzy’s goal is to continue working with wolves and become a wolf biologist. Living out a childhood dream has already been an incredible experience for her, and she’s sure it can only get better from here. She is still figuring out the next role after this position, but we’re excited to have her here now, and you can guarantee her future will have something to do with animals and improving their world.

Welcome Lizzy!