Thursday, June 27, 2013

Red Wolf Summer Activities

 Photo: USFWS
Looking for a fun summer activity?  The Red Wolf Recovery Program offers you the opportunity to learn more about red wolves at the only place in the world where they still exist in the wild! Summer howling events take place every Wednesday night through August at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. 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.

-No Registration Required
-Summer Howlings cost $7 per person (bring cash, check, Visa, or MasterCard).
-Children 12 and under are FREE!

For more details on what to bring and directions, please visit our website: Red Wolf Howling Events
Here’s a sample what you might hear: Red Wolf Howling recording

 Photo: B. Bartel/USFWS

There are also numerous educational and recreational events offered by the Red Wolf Coalition at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Red Wolf Education and Healthcare Facility in Columbia, North Carolina. Programs like Talk Like a Red Wolf, Red Wolf 101, or Red Wolf Kids are great for families or small groups interested in an introduction to red wolves, their lives and their conservation. 

Please visit the Red Wolf Coalition’s Calendar of Events site to learn more about the various events and the dates/times they are scheduled, and to reserve seats for your family or group. Please note that reservations are required for those wishing to attend an event. Finally, please be sure to check the Event Policies for important information about attendance at red wolf programs.

Friday, June 21, 2013

2013 Grant awards from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

The Red Wolf Recovery Program and Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) partners from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Tacoma, WA) and Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago, IL) received three grants for projects that will further the conservation of the endangered red wolf.   

The Conservation Committee of from the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) awarded grants, totaling more than $16,000, for three different red wolf projects:
1) the study of inflammatory bowel disease in the red wolf
2) the initial development of a canid disease monitoring and prevention program
3) the development of a population viability analysis and preliminary demographic models of endangered red wolves 

The Conservation Committee 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. 

The first project aims to determine the prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the red wolves and to evaluate the clinical, pathological, and demographic characteristics associated with the disease. IBD appears to be an emerging concern for red wolves in the PDZA zoo-based population.  Staff at PDZA, including the RWSSP Coordinator, and Head and Intern Veterinarians, will determine 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.

To begin the process of canid disease monitoring plan development, current knowledge of disease occurrence and frequency in red wolves, and efficacy of current red wolf vaccination programs must first be assessed. Staff from Red Wolf Recovery Program together with the RWSSP Coordinator and Head Veterinarian from PDZA will be performing 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 develop baseline red wolf population viability models of both wild and zoo-based populations, staff from Red Wolf Recovery Program together with the RWSSP Coordinator from PDZA will be working with collaborators at the Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology and experts at Population Management Center at Lincoln Park Zoo. Determining and understanding red wolf population dynamics and trends in both populations would greatly enhance the ability of the all partners to conserve the species and advance red wolf recovery goals.  

These studies will provide valuable information that will contribute to the management and conservation of zoo-based and wild red wolf populations. These collaborations and partnerships are key to the success of this research. Stay tuned for progress reports!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

2013 Pup Totals

Pup numbers are in for 2013. Thirty-four pups in seven litters were found in the restored red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina.  Twenty-one pups in four litters were also born in three captive facilities participating in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan: six at Jackson Zoo, five at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, and 11 at Northwest Trek (two litters).  We did observe some pup mortality in the captive populations this year, with only one of five surviving at Alligator River and three surviving at Jackson Zoo.  These losses were attributed to both viral and bacterial infections.  The lone survivor from the Alligator River litter was fostered into a wild pack in May.

Wild pup in northeastern North Carolina.  Photo by A.Beyer/USFWS.


Wild pups in northeastern North Carolina.  Photo by A.Beyer/USFWS.


Captive pups at Jackson Zoo. Photo by Jackson Zoo.

For more information on the 2013 whelping season, you can read the news release from the Red Wolf Recovery Program and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

More photos of the Jackson Zoo pups can be viewed here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reproduction research in the Red Wolf Survival Species Plan & PDZA

Warning: This blog contains veterinary images that some may consider graphic and inappropriate for our younger blog readers.

We have a guest blogger this week, Dr. Kadie Anderson, DVM at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium!    
The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan currently manages 199 wolves, of which 59 are housed at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) red wolf facilities.  In the summer of 2011, staff veterinarians at PDZA noticed an increase in the number of middle aged to older female wolves developing severe uterine infections (e.g. pyometra).   In many instances, wolves diagnosed with these infections had to be spayed.  This action removes the animal from contributing genetically to the population and can complicate the management of a critically endangered species such as the red wolf.  Managers of small, genetically restricted populations often select older individuals for breeding purposes to maximize their genetic contribution to the population.  As middle aged to older animals are predisposed to the development of pyometra (and yet are often selected for breeding), further investigation was needed to better understand this condition in red wolves.

 Female red wolf “Millie” at PDZA with a litter of pups in 2012.

Veterinarians are well informed about how pyometra develops in the domestic dog but are still working to understand how the process differs in non-domestic species such as the red wolf.  In the domestic dog, pyometra is often accompanied by cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH).  This describes changes in the uterus which causes a cystic and thickened uterine lining and predisposes the uterine environment to bacterial infection and pyometra at certain stages of the reproductive cycle.  In the domestic dog, hormones, reproductive history (e.g. litters produced), and age are all believed to contribute to the development of this syndrome.  Shortly after PDZA identified pyometra as an issue in red wolves, an assessment by the AZA Canid Taxon Advisory Group supported PDZA’s clinical findings, showing that of the canid species examined, red wolves showed an increased prevalence of CEH and pyometra. 

Veterinarian Dr. Nordberg-Wilke ultrasounds a red wolf while PDZA keeper Alicia Pike assists.

Ultrasonographic appearance of an infected uterus.

In our study, 13 adult female red wolves housed at PDZA (ranging in age from 5-10 years) were evaluated for reproductive disease by using ultrasound examination and serum hormone analysis.  PDZA partnered with veterinary ultrasonographer Dr. Cindy Nordberg-Wilke to evaluate 13 wolves in December 2011 with 7 of these wolves receiving a follow-up examination in July 2012 for presence or absence of reproductive disease.  As hormonal influence has a known role in the development of this disease in domestic dogs, hormone levels were also evaluated and compared against expected ranges.   

A normal uterine horn with a grossly distended and infected uterine horn on 
the right side of the image and a cystic and enlarged ovary on the right.  

A fairly normal red wolf uterus is seen on the right for comparison.

The results of this research project are currently being summarized for publication, but it is expected that the findings in this study will help guide veterinarians toward earlier diagnosis of reproductive disease in red wolves and perhaps improve disease outcome (e.g. females still capable of reproducing).  This research has also led to discussion about improving management options in the SSP population for reproductive success and has led to recommendations on how to manage and evaluate at risk females for disease.