Tuesday, December 17, 2013

RWSSP of the month—Tallahassee Museum

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 the Tallahassee Museum  in Tallahassee, Florida. The Museum was first conceived in 1957 as the Tallahassee Junior Museum, but moved to its current 52-acre location in 1962 between Lake Bradford and Lake Hiawatha.  The museum has many diverse exhibits including Big Bend Farm, which is dedicated to the re-creation of rural life in north Florida around 1880 complete with a grist mill and turpentine commissary.  The Old Florida section of the museum includes the 19th century Bellevue Plantation (once the home of Catherine Murat, a relative of George Washington, and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew), the 1937 Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, and the 1890s Concord schoolhouse. A large part of the museum is devoted to Florida native habitats and wildlife including bobcats, black bears, white-tailed deer, and two endangered species: the Florida panther and red wolf.

Red wolf at Tallahassee Museum. Photo copyright: Stephen Nakatani.
Tallahassee Museum is currently home to four red wolves, females 1378 and 1786, and males 1359 and 1375. The museum first began participating in the RWSSP in February 1988, when red wolves 219 and 222 arrived from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, (PDZA; Tacoma, WA).  222 must have not enjoyed the Florida heat, as she returned to PDZA in December 1988.  Female 303 was transferred from PDZA instead as a mate for 219. The pairing was successful, and 219 and 303 went on to serve very important roles in the Red Wolf Recovery Program.  After producing their first litter of three pups at the museum, the pair was transferred in January 1990 to nearby St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge to be the first red wolves at the then-newly established island propagation site.  Three months later, the pair produced two pups (one of which remained on the island, the other which spent time in the northeastern North Carolina wild population before returning to St. Vincent).  In 1991, the breeding pair 219 and 303 was transferred to the reintroduction area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  

Over the years, more than 20 individual red wolves have spent time at the museum.  Additional litters were born there in 2003, including familiar female 1276 now at the Red Wolf Healthcare and Education Facility (Columbia, NC), and in 2005, including current resident 1786. In addition to endless contributions of successful breeding pairs and ongoing educational efforts, Tallahassee Museum also has assisted with the planning, logistics, and transfer of red wolves from other RWSSP facilities to nearby St. Vincent island propagation site.  This has occurred since the original breeding pair went to St. Vincent throughout the years to more recent efforts.  Mike Jones, Animal Curator at the museum, and staff played critical roles in assisting the recent transfer of male 1565 from St. Vincent to RWSSP site Wolf Conservation Center (South Salem, NY). Thank you!!

Please visit their website or Facebook page for more information!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Red Wolf Annual Health Exams at PDZA

It’s that time of year within the Red Wolf Recovery Program (RWRP) that the red wolves are examined during their annual health checks and given vaccinations at the various Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) facilities. Last month, RWRP Assistant Coordinator, Becky, joined a group at the first (and largest) RWSSP site, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA) in Tacoma, Washington, to help with veterinary exams of the captive red wolves. 

Together with veterinary staff from PDZA including Will Waddell (the RWSSP Coordinator), Dr. Karen Wolf (the RWSSP Veterinary Advisor), Dr. Katie Seeley, veterinarian intern, Mary, and staff from nearby RWSSP site Wolf Haven International (Tenino, WA), we headed out to Northwest Trek to meet longtime red wolf caretaker, Sue.  Cool (and mostly dry) weather helped facilitate catching up animals within the pens, examining wolves, collecting blood samples, and administering vaccines.  We were able to process around 30 animals over two days!

Dr. Wolf, Dr. Seeley, and Will getting ready to enter a den.

Mary and Dr. Seeley drawing blood from a captive red wolf.

I also had the opportunity to explore PDZA itself and see the wonderfully expanded Red Wolf Woods and exhibit viewing area.  I was really impressed by the Boeing Company Red Wolf Conservation Center, which included a recovery timeline featuring photos of many of the RWRP field staff.  The exhibit is a great model of how we can continue to educate people about red wolf conservation, while giving folks an up-close view of a red wolf pack.
RWSSP Coordinator Will at the Red Wolf Conservation Center at PDZA.

Road to Recovery feature in the Red Wolf Conservation Center at PDZA.

For my first visit to PDZA, I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful experience.  Thank you to all the PDZA staff who attended my talk.  It was terrific to meet so many folks, and I'm grateful to everyone for enduring my countless questions about different species they work with.  Special thanks to all the red wolf caretakers—your hard work is a major contributing factor to red wolf recovery!  
Captive wolf at PDZA. Photo credit: B. Bartel/USFWS.

Thank you also to Will and Marla for being gracious hosts!  I can’t wait to visit the crew again soon.