Denali National Park’s 2015 Research Report Available

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Most recent map of Denali National Park wolf pack home ranges. (Source: NPS)

Read about current wolf monitoring programs and research at Denali National Park here:

http://www.nps.gov/dena/learn/nature/upload/2015_Current_Resource_Projects.pdf
(The wolf information starts at page 34.)

In March 2015, 52 wolves were counted in Denali, an estimated density of 2.8 wolves per 1,000 square kilometers, the lowest population density estimate since monitoring began in 1986.  The apparent decline can be blamed partly on improved monitoring techniques, but the population is also actually declining from levels seen in 2001-2003, when it was approximately 6 wolves per 1,000 square kilometers.

Nine collared adult wolves died during 2014-2015, most apparently of natural causes.  One adult was legally shot by a trapper outside of the park.  One wolf was caught in a snare set outside the park.  In March 2015, two additional wolves were legally shot by a hunter outside the park near the Stampede Trail.

Since 2010, trapping has been allowed in all areas bordering the park.  In that same year, Denali National Park began a study of wolf movements, wolf survival, and wolf viewing opportunities along the Denali Park Road.  They plan to use the information gathered to inform the National Park Service concerning how wolf management practices outside the park boundaries can affect wolf populations (and thus wolf sightings) inside the park.  Learn more about the Denali Wolf Viewing Project, which helps measure how often wolves are sighted in the park, here.

13 wolves (11 new, 2 recollars) were caught and radio collared in March 2015.  These wolves were fitted with newly-designed radio collars with accelerometers which enable researchers to map the animals’ activity (such as walking, running, or resting).  Some of the research done to create these collars was done at Wolf Park!

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Pair of Mexican Gray Wolves Released into Wild

Rim pack female (AF1305) just prior to capture at Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico and transport for release in Arizona Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Rim pack female (AF1305) just prior to capture at Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico and transport for release in Arizona
Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Two captive Mexican gray wolves, previously living at the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico, have been released into the wild as part of the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program.

The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team released M1130 and F1305 into a “soft release” enclosure in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on April 23.  The wolves will remain in that enclosure until they chew through the fence and self-release.  This allows them to acclimate to the area while still protected from other animals by the enclosure fence.  The IFT will provide supplemental food in the area while the wolves learn to catch their own food.  The provision of supplemental food will also encourage the wolves to establish their new territory in the area of release.

F1305 is the Rim Pack breeding female, who was captured in January and paired with M1130, a more genetically-diverse male who was born at the California Wolf Center in 2008.  Researchers believe F1305 is currently pregnant and are hopeful about her ability to successfully raise a litter with M1130’s help.

There are now more than 100 Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest, all part of a reintroduction program which started in 1998.  The population is still listed as “nonessential, experimental” and thus the animals are not protected by the Endangered Species Act.

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Marion – April 20, 1998 – April 22, 2015

Marion and Blue SkyMarion was peacefully euthanized on the evening of April 22nd, having just turned 17.  What looked like an “ouchy walk” (just a little hitch in the gitalong) turned, over the course of a few days, into increasing loss of control and then paralysis in her hindquarters. Pending the outcome of a necropsy, we think that there was something unfixably wrong in Marion’s central nervous system.

Marion was born to Karin and Seneca in 1998 and was the longest-lived of her age-mates. She grew up and entered the pack with three foster siblings: Tristan, Erin, and Maya.  (Her biological littermates, Ingo, Ojeesta, and Skennen, were donated to other facilities when they were around three months old.)  As a puppy she was outgoing, a forceful personality who had to be involved in whatever was happening. As she grew up she eventually acquired the nickname “Marion the Barbarian” because she ruled most of the other wolves, both males and females, with an iron paw. Seneca was the only wolf that was not intimidated by her.  Visitors used to ask how such a tiny wolf could dominate wolves who were much larger. “She’s only little on the outside” was our stock answer.

She chewed the rear ends of a succession of wolves: her foster sisters Maya and Erin; her mother Karin; the big males Apollo, Chetan and Miska.  She would get up from a sound sleep, stretch, shake herself, and then trot off in search for someone to poke.  Anyone being inattentive risked having Marion suddenly pop up from behind a bush, displaying a big grin full of pointy teeth.  A number of wolves spent time with their rear ends hidden in huts or submerged in the lake to protect themselves from her teeth.  We (jokingly!) contemplated giving Marion a baboon of her very own to play with, so she could be on the receiving end of one of those toothy grins.

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Tristan reads Marion the riot act.

She had an ongoing brotherly feud with Tristan.  Once Tris got bigger than Marion, he found that he could interrupt her tantrums by bowling her over with his mass and almost literally sitting on her.  Once he realized he could flatten her, he began enjoying doing so.  He (possibly intentionally, possibly not) rescued a lot of wolves from her in his enjoyment of standing on her head.  When he saw Marion “putting on her barbarian hat”, Tris would slowly walk between Marion and her target, standing side-on to her, showing off his impressive bulk.  Marion grew to respect his “throwing his weight around”, but later found a way around it — she found that she could use the presence of Seneca, the alpha male, to inhibit Tris’ willingness to fight back.  When Tris tried to sit on her, Marion would attract Seneca’s attention, and then Tristan would be forced to explain his behavior to Seneca while Marion went on her merry way.

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Tristan “explains himself” to Seneca, while Marion “helps”.

We eventually split the main pack, leaving Marion with the big, sturdy brothers Miska and Seneca.  She still tried to poke Miska, but he was twice her size and, partially backed up by his brother Seneca, he learned to, well, if not actually like her, to coexist with her peacefully.  Marion enjoyed living with them, but got somewhat lonely; the brothers did not have a lot of humans in their social circle and Marion’s “human time” was somewhat curtailed while they lived together.  Marion enjoyed visiting with humans, sometimes a little too much, and was particularly fond of face licking.  This could lead to Moments of Excitement(tm) when a human-starved Marion, temporarily separated from Miska and Seneca, got to meet her first new humans in weeks.  She would get so excited while greeting face to face she would lose control and try to stuff herself up her human visitor’s nose, feet first.

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Marion contemplates chomping Seneca on the butt. Even he was not immune.

Marion taught Wolf Park staff a lot about high-intensity, easily aroused animals.  As a highly-strung young lady, she could get overstimulated by situations (such as greeting new humans) and go from “zero to 100″ in under a second, suddenly running out of patience and brain cells and exploding in a cloud of high-pitched squeaking noises, a grabby little mouth, and flailing feet.  It wasn’t necessarily aggressive behavior, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience for the humans.  We learned a lot of ways to “defuse” these moments before they occurred.  Monty, especially, used to like winding Marion up and then winding her down, using her squeaking to let him know how excited or relaxed she was.  It gave us (and Marion) a lot of practice controlling situations which could potentially be exciting.

Marion was one of the fastest canine learners we have ever seen.  She was a nimble explorer who helped us to improve not only our handling techniques, but our containment methods.  She was always the first to open the loosely-latched gate, climb the low-hanging tree branch, or wiggle under the one loose spot in the fence.  Bold and inquisitive, she was the first to open (or at least pee on) the Halloween pumpkin and the first to climb into the Christmas tree.  She stole Pat’s hat and Monty’s sunglasses, and everyone learned a lot trying to trade to get them back.

She helped prove that wolves can be at least as good as dogs at reading human social cues. In this last year she was participating in “smart collar” calibration as part of a project to study the energy budgets of large predators. We have footage of Marion on the treadmill – she was the first of our wolves to walk on it while it was moving. Researcher Caleb Bryce can be heard saying “Marion, you rock!” on the video.  Marion certainly did “rock”.  She was a brilliant, active and athletic wolf.   Wolves like Marion are not always easy to live with but they are some of our best and most memorable teachers.

Marion, we will never forget you!

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Isle Royale Wolf Population Drops to 3

The report of the 57th annual winter study of wolves and moose on Isle Royale, conducted from January to March 2015, is now available online.

Between January 2014 and January 2015, the population of wolves on the island decreased from 9 individuals to 3, pictured above, the lowest population since research began in 1959.  The three wolves are living in a single social group.  The gender and pack origin of these wolves is unknown.  One individual appears to be a nine-month-old pup and does not appear to be doing well.

It had been hoped that wolves from outside the island could move onto the island via an ice bridge which sometimes forms in the winter, connecting Isle Royale with nearby land in Minnesota or Canada.  On February 26, two wolves — one a radio collared female, one unknown — visited Isle Royale from the mainland, crossing the ice bridge.  The wolves did not stay long and did not interact with native wolves on the island.

Since 2009, the wolf population on Isle Royale has declined by nearly 90%.  Meanwhile, with predation on the island reduced, the moose population has grown at a mean rate of 22% per year.  During the most recent study, the moose population grew from 1050 to 1250.

Conservation scientists believe that predation (by wolves or other predators) is vital to the health of ecosystems inhabited by large herbivores like moose.  The National Park Service has stated that it had been considering genetic rescue of the wolf population (i.e., importing new individuals) as a means of mitigating this loss of predation on the moose population.  With only three known individuals on the island, “there is now a very good chance,” says the report, “that it is too late to conduct genetic rescue.”

The report also includes more information about Isabelle, the lone wolf who dispersed from the island in 2014 and was found shot dead on the mainland.

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Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project – March Updates Available

Captive Mexican gray wolf.  Photo taken at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in 1998.  Photo source: Monty Sloan.

Captive Mexican gray wolf. Photo taken at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in 1998. Photo source: Monty Sloan.

The March 2015 status report updates for the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program in Arizona and New Mexico are out and are available here.  Read about the activities of each tracked wolf pack and keep up to date on events and public presentations.

At the end of March 2015 the wild Mexican gray wolf population consisted of 58 wolves with functional radio collars dispersed among 18 packs and three single wolves.  As of February 2015, more than 100 Mexican gray wolves were counted in the wild!

Current events and updates for the project are available here.

Past updates, including the 2012 annual report and 2014 and 2015 population survey results, are available here.

The latest 3-month wolf population distribution map can be viewed here.

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Members Appreciation Day Saturday, April 18!

JokerWolf Park deeply appreciates our members’ loyal support all year round!  On April 18, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, we will be howling THANK YOU for everything you’ve done for us with a special Members Appreciation Day with special events!

MEMBERS ONLY will enjoy:

  • Guided behind the scenes tour
  • Caleb Bryce, researcher from the University of California at Santa Cruz, will present updates on “smart collar” research.  Begun at Wolf Park, wolves are now collared in Denali National Forest!
  • Ride in the truck to visit our bison up close and personal
  • Sneak peek at a new seminar: How To Be A Good Wolf Steward
  • See our new red foxes, Scarlette and Joker

And LUNCH IS ON US at 12 pm!

Don’t forget your membership card!  The park will be open to regular visitors from 1-5 and your card is required for participation in our special events.

Not a member yet?  Sign up today to be part of the fun!

WE LOVE OUR MEMBERS!  THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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Suzanne Clothier Guest Seminar November 20-22, 2015!

Viva la Difference! Comparative Canid Behavior
November 20-22, 2015
Sign up today!

Suzanne-dog-medThere’s something about those canids that just draw us in. Is it the eyes that glow with amazing intelligence? Is it their social behavior that appeals to us, another social species? Whatever makes canids appealing to you, the Viva la Difference! workshop will take your understanding of canid behavior to a whole new level.

Why is a Chihuahua a good pocket wolf but a terrible estate guardian? Why would a fox make a terrible herding dog? What makes a wolf a wolf and not a coyote? What makes some breeds so darn challenging, and why are wild canids not great pets? What behaviors do dogs and wolves share?

Dogs, wolves and coyotes share many common behaviors. But there are important differences that make each species well suited to their role in Nature. From their physical conformation to what Coppinger refers to as “behavioral conformation,” each canid species is unique. Appreciating the similarities and differences enriches our understanding of canids as a whole.

We will look in depth at the structure and anatomy that underlies the behavioral differences, and the connection between the two. What are the features of domestication, and how do they differ from tameness or imprinting? Through interactions with Wolf Park’s socially imprinted foxes and wolves, we will get an up close look at how taming or imprinting modifies behavior without changing the essential nature of the animal.

Using video, hands-on exhibits and discussion we will look in detail at dog and wolf behavior in general, and more specifically, contrasted with the specifics selected for in various breeds or groups. What makes a Mastiff different from a Chihuahua is more than just size! Form, function, physiology and preferences are all affected by human selection for or against various traits.

  • This land is my land — guarding & territorial behavior
  • Why can’t we be friends? low dog/dog aggression breeds
  • Responsibilities & rules  Understanding the working dogs
  • Look into my eyes  Companion/toy breeds & neoteny
  • Controlling space  Herding breeds
  • Why? and Why Not?  The “hard to train” breeds

While each dog is an individual, selective breeding has shaped some interesting variations on “generic dog.” Learn how these differences are expressed, and why they can create confusion, frustration and conflict between dogs as well as between dogs and their humans. This fascinating look at dogs and differences will provide useful information on appreciating and enjoying each dog.

Attendees will leave with a deeper understanding of canids, new observation skills, and quite possibly the memory of a fox sitting on your shoulder or a wolf gliding by for a scratch.

Between them, Suzanne Clothier and Wolf Park’s Pat Goodmann have a lifetime of living with and working with animals of many species, with more than 60 years combined experience with canids. Their passion for and knowledge about canine behavior makes this seminar a must attend event!  Sign up today!

Viva la difference!

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Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Program 2014 Report Available

Bicho Greeting KantiThe detailed annual report on the status, distribution, and management of the Northern Rocky Mountain (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) wolf population is now available from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  The report also features information on wolf populations in Washington and Oregon.

Click here to view the PDF of the report summary.

Click here to view more detailed information, including the annual reports from each state.

Highlights:

The entire Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population (in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming) is estimated to be approximately 1,657 wolves in 282 packs including 85 breeding pairs.

  • Montana estimated 554 wolves in 134 packs with 34 breeding pairs.
  • Idaho estimated 770 wolves in 104 packs with 26 breeding pairs.
  • Wyoming estimated 333 wolves in 44 packs with 25 breeding pairs.
  • Oregon estimated 77 wolves in 15 packs with 8 breeding pairs.
  • Washington estimated 68 wolves in 16 packs with 5 breeding pairs.
  • No packs were documented in Utah.

Click here for a scalable PDF map of known wolf packs in the area in 2014.

744 wolf mortalities were recorded in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming in 2014.  706 wolves died due to human-related causes (including predator control and harvest) — amounting to approximately 16-35% of the population in each state.

Total confirmed depredations by wolves in 2014 included 140 cattle, 172 sheep, 4 dogs, 1 horse, and 1 donkey.

Private and state agencies paid $274,885.90 in compensation for wolf-caused damage to livestock in 2014.  [Editor’s note: this comes out to approximately $779.50 per animal.]

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Meet Wolf Park’s Newest Resident – Joker the Silver Fox!

JokerWolf Park welcomes its newest resident — Joker!

Joker is a silver fox — really a silver-phase red fox — who was found under a porch.  It was clear from his behavior (he was not afraid of humans) that he was not a wild fox. He was clearly an escaped (or dumped) pet fox.

Joker ended up at a wildlife rehabilitator, and from there was referred to us.  Since our female red fox Scarlette was currently without boyfriend we thought we would give him a try. More specifically, we introduced him to Scarlette, and let her decide if she should keep him.  She thinks she will!  (Joker will be vasectomized prior to breeding season in January, so there will be no offspring from this happy union.)

Joker is not as social as Scarlette but he willingly visits with humans for treats and poses for photos.  You can adopt Joker here!

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Coyote Visits Roof of New York Bar

Image source: Caitlin Cahill

Image source: Caitlin Cahill

Coyotes are some of the most adaptable animals on earth, and many have made living in urban centers their specialty.  They are so successful at it that many humans don’t even know the animals are there — until they make an unscheduled public appearance, as one coyote did on March 29 when it made a wrong turn and accidentally ended up on the roof of the L.I.C. Bar in Long Island.

The coyote was briefly pursued by police, but successfully made its escape.  Neither coyote nor bar appeared to have been damaged by the experience.

As humans encroach more and more on natural habitats, animals like coyotes, foxes, raccoons and skunks appear more and more often in urban areas.  Urban coyotes are generally benign but can become habituated to humans, and attracted to certain areas by food left out or by people actively feeding them.  They can destroy property, prey on small pets or livestock, or be a hazard to unattended young children.

Here are some hints for living with urban coyotes.  In general, don’t leave food out for wildlife, keep your trash cans tightly covered, and do not leave pets or young children unattended in areas coyotes are known to frequent.  Also, never offer to pay a coyote’s bar tab.

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