Wolf Park Response to COVID-19

Wolf Park Response to COVID-19 

Update from 3-23-2020 (Previous updates below)
Hello Friends of Wolf Park –  
 
Due to the current uncertainty with regards to COVID-19 and our commitment to keeping the community safe, we are suspending all public programs at Wolf Park indefinitely.  As soon as it is clear that public events are safe to convene, we will re-open and be happy to welcome you back.  In the meantime, please be sure to follow us online for virtual updates on all of the animals at Wolf Park, as well as ways as you can support Wolf Park.

Update from 3-18-2020 (Previous update below)

Dear Friends of Wolf Park –
We wanted to let all of our supporters know that during this uncertain time our priority is to continue to provide the best quality care to our animals. In order to do that, we have implemented practices to keep their caregivers  – the amazing Wolf Park staff, interns, and volunteers – healthy and safe. While this includes allowing for remote work as much as possible, our animals are all getting daily human interaction and care.
Some previously scheduled events, such as photography sessions and sponsor visits, are being tentatively maintained with limited group sizes.  Day-by-day, though, we are learning more about this virus and the best ways to manage community safety.  All of this will be considered moving forward, and all plans at this time are subject to change.  Please be patient with us as we adapt our programs and events, and understand that some regular mailings will be delayed and messages may take longer to answer.
Please note that we are not currently accepting meat donations as we research the safest way to handle these from the public. If you want to demonstrate your support at this time, a cash donation would be very appreciated and put to good use. As we weather what looks to be a lengthy storm, we will be reaching out to you with other ways you can continue to support Wolf Park and with virtual updates from your favorite wolves, foxes, and bison.
We look forward to seeing you again. Stay safe.
Karah
Executive Director
Update from 3-13-2020

Wolf Park has followed the news of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak closely in an effort to provide a safe place for our visitors, staff, volunteers, interns, and animals.  As what health officials know about COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to develop, there are verified and increasing numbers of cases in the state of Indiana. Currently, Wolf Park is looking to minimize crowd and animal care workers’ exposure to coronavirus, while doing our best to provide quality experiences and programs.  

Due to the escalation of the virus, and recommendations from various government agencies, we are canceling Guided Tours and Howl Nights through the end of March.  In addition, the following events and programs are canceled/ suspended.

·       Dollar Day – March 21 – CANCELED

·       Spring Break programs – March 18 & 25 – CANCELED

·       Wright Center rentals – SUSPENDED

At this time the following events will continue as scheduled:

·       Seminars

·       Photo Programs

·       Private Tours

·       Sponsor Visits

Wolf Park will suspend its current cancelation policy until further notice and issue refunds to anyone who decides not to visit as planned.  Sponsors can re-schedule visits as needed. 

As this situation continues, we will continue to assess exposure risk and adjust this plan as needed.  Thank you for your patience as we work to provide a safe environment for everyone who loves Wolf Park. 

Karah Rawlings
Executive Director, Wolf Park

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Happy 90th Birthday Dr. Klinghammer

Today we remember our founder, Dr. Erich Klinghammer, on his 90th Birthday with a tribute from Head Curator Pat Goodmann:

Remembering Erich Klinghammer, February 28, 1930 – October 6, 2011

by Pat Goodmann

To understand Erich Klinghammer, and why he wanted to build a wolf park, it helps to understand a German term, the Umwelt. The Umwelt is the perceptual surround of each of us as well as our evolutionary history, as humans, and our life histories as individuals. The Cuban proverb, “inside every head, a world” is a good way to remember what Umwelt means. Even before Erich studied ethology, which is the biology of behavior, he observed and questioned his teachers, himself, and his own assumptions. Erich found teachers everywhere.

At the University of Chicago, he was majoring in psychology when he took a course from Eckhard Hess. Reminiscing about that moment, he said: “I felt a holy shiver” listening to that lecture. Erich had found his calling. After class, he approached Hess and announced: “I want to do what you do.” Hess invited Erich to come to his office and talk about himself, and his newly recognized aspirations. That is probably why Erich was always willing to give even unprepossessing people a chance. The memory of that “holy shiver,” as he recognized what he wanted to do with his life, meant he could not deny someone else the chance to find their heart’s desire.

As part of his outlook on life Erich always had a soft spot for the underdog. His understanding of how animals adapt to environments or try to relocate to an environment they can adapt to, often led him to speak up for animals. He advocated changing an animal’s environment, or moving it to a different environment altogether rather than just thinking in terms of helping – or forcing – an animal to adapt to an inadequate or improper environment.

When the Allies liberated Europe after WWII, Erich eventually wound up working for the Americans. It was years before he could emigrate to the U.S. and in the meantime, he had his first run-in with the American IQ test. German kids tested did not do very well because the test assumed a familiarity with American culture that the German kids did not have. Erich did not like the test and its outcome-skewing assumptions and for the rest of his life he has cast a skeptical eye on IQ tests, grade point averages, and other standardized tests meant to predict the performance quality of people in the real world. He was always a believer in the exception to the rule, that appearances can deceive, and that the long shot can quite possibly come from behind and win the race. He was always ready to give chances to people with less than sterling academic credentials and see how well they did with the opportunity to follow a dream.

To Erich, a person’s willingness to work and to immerse himself in observing animals was more important that a transcript full of A’s. His treatment of women students was a mix of European courtliness, and an assurance that females were more liberated than they realized. He opened doors for them, relinquished his seat to them, or provided them with other seats, but he also expected them to be able to lift 25+ pounds and be willing to work hard on butchering (“think of it as dissection on a large scale”) and light construction. Ignorance of tools, whether it was a saw, a hammer, or the clutch on a stick shift vehicle was no excuse, rather it was a Darwin-sent opportunity to expand your horizons and adapt.

In the 37 years I knew him, he always looked for ways to relate daily experiences to biology and evolutionary history. One time he helped me with a plumbing problem in the walls of the apartment in an old house, which he and Zsuzsa, his wife, owned and rented out to students. The problem involved slippery, escaping pipes, and fun with fiberglass. Erich, as landlord-once-removed, was inside the crawlspace under the roof, manipulating pipes and asking me to observe and report on their behavior as they appeared inside the bathroom. His tone was grumpy. So was his vocabulary. But there, in the dark between the walls, in cozy intimacy with the fiberglass, he talked himself into a more philosophical mood. Like someone moving back in space until the earth appears as a tiny mote of light, he managed to distance himself from the immediate discomfort of pipes with dropsy, defiant plumbing tools, and the overly familiar fiberglass, by musing aloud on the evolutionary history of humans that allowed the two of us to communicate verbally, creating a word picture of the problem and how to fix it. By the time he emerged he had managed to relate the plumbing problem to Life, the Universe, and Everything. His tone and his vocabulary were much more cheerful as he dealt with a remaining question: “How much do you suppose a Ph.D. should charge for this?” he wanted to know. [NB: the answer we agreed upon was that he should do it gratis.]

Over the years many interns, practicum students and other formal and informal varieties of student have found Erich willing to help them follow their dreams of working with wolves, or in some cases, discovering that they had wandered into the wrong dream for them, and to leave and look for their dream elsewhere.

We humans have the saying “you can’t understand a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.” Erich tried to walk in the paws, and hooves of others, to swim upon the fins of others and to soar with others’ wings. We remember him when we try to look at the world through the golden eyes of our wolves, or enter into the worlds inside the heads of other animals. We are still working to keep his dream alive. RIP, Erich.

Happy 90th Birthday Dr. Erich Klinghammer from all of Wolf Park to you.

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Wolves: Berry Picky Eaters

by Jenna Holakovsky

Former Wolf Park intern Tom Gable is the current lead researcher for the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a project that has released new discoveries left and right since the start.

One of these discoveries includes a deeper look at wolves’ diets. The former belief was that wolves were solely obligate carnivores. However, new evidence is pointing elsewhere thanks to the Voyageurs Wolf Project.

An obligate carnivore is an animal that survives solely on a diet of meat because they do not possess the physical ability to digest plant matter, but there is a second type of carnivore: facultative carnivore.

In the project’s newest research publication “Berry Important? Wolf Provisions Pups with Berries in Northern Minnesota“, wolves are recorded not only consuming and digesting blueberries, but provisioning regurgitated blueberries to their pups.

Regurgitated berries recorded by Voyageurs Wolf Project.

This new evidence, caught on camera for the first time, gives further support to the shift in scientific understanding of carnivores, specifically wolves. At Wolf Park, we currently refer to wolves as facultative carnivores on the basis of our observations regarding their diets and through scientific research such as this project’s. The concept of the wolf as a facultative carnivore is just emerging.

Footage from Voyageurs Wolf Project shows wolves foraging for berries.

This foraging has been recorded at night as well. The consumption of blueberries adds to both pups’ and adults’ nutritional intake.

 

‘Facultative carnivore’ is a term that refers to an animal who survives on a diet including plant-matter. Survive, however, does not mean thrive. For a wolf to truly thrive, they require animal meat. Wolves may also be considered hypercarnivorous, meaning their diet consists of roughly 90% meat when thriving.

Animals that are hypercarnivorous are considered obligate carnivores in some cases but are truly defined as nearly being exclusive in an all-meat diet. Obligate carnivores include most cats, sharks, raptors, crocodilians, spiders, and pinnipeds. With the Voyageurs Wolf Project’s research, we get further insight into how wolves survive with the resources available to them.

 

If you find this interesting and would like to support the Voyageurs Wolf Project, give their social media pages a like or follow and consider donating here: www.voyageurswolfproject.org/donate. You can also support and rep the project through their merch available here: teespring.com/voyageurs-wolf-project.

 

The project’s expenses vary. For example, the cost to keep one remote video camera in the field for a year is $250. These cameras are what allow us to see the video you see here today.

Pack territories in 2015 as recorded by Voyageurs Wolf Project with radio collars.

Pack territory shifts were seen in 3 years’ time thanks to radio collars.

The radio collars that have provided invaluable data on wolf movement in the Voyageurs National Park cost $2,500 per collar. This data has been shared on the Voyageurs Wolf Project’s Facebook page with very clear territories that wolf packs and individuals create. This, too, would not be possible without public financial support for the project.

Here at Wolf Park, we support the efforts made by Tom Gable and his team through the Voyageurs Wolf Project and the research they are conducting. We are happy to announce that some of the project’s work is featured in our next newsletter exclusive to members and sponsors, written by Tom Gable himself. If you are interested in memberships or sponsorships, visit here.

We look forward to sharing more as the project continues to study Voyageurs’ wolves.

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Colorado Votes, Wolves Won’t Wait!

by Jenna Holakovsky

                Grey wolves formerly occupied the majority of North America, but were almost entirely eradicated early on since the country’s colonization. Over time, both scientists and the general public have made efforts to reintroduce wolves to the former territories they occupied. An example of this was the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park 25 years ago. With the success seen in reintroductions, other parts of the country have rallied to reintroduce such a valuable species.

“…the wolves aren’t waiting!”

                The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project aims to improve the public’s understanding of the biology, ecology, and re-establishment options for the grey wolf in Colorado (CO). They achieve this through education, art installations, film, dance, music, outreach, and more. One of their most recent achievements includes collecting 211,093 signatures for a petition to put a wolf reintroduction plan on Colorado’s 2020 ballot.

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project’s Instagram Post on Over 200,000 Petition Signatures Collected

 

 

 

                While the state has formally announced this reintroduction plan will be on the 2020 ballot, the wolves aren’t waiting! Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) received an inquiry earlier this month regarding a hunter’s report of a bull elk carcass in Irish Canyon surrounded by large, “dog-type” tracks. Upon the CPW officers’ investigation, it was confirmed this past Monday, January 6th, that the tracks were from wolves!

                This is not the first time recently there has been evidence of wolves in CO. Numerous sightings have been made in the last decade with only a few confirmations. Two sightings made earlier in 2019 caused an investigation on whether or not grey wolves were returning to their historic ranges in CO. Formerly, they had been eradicated from the state since 1940. This investigation led CPW to release a photo of a black canid wearing a radio collar that is presumed to be CO’s first wolf sighting since 2015.

The Black Canid with Radio Collar;
Taken from Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Twitter July 8th, 2019 Post

                Furthermore, in October of 2019, there was a report of 6 large canids in the same vicinity as the recently discovered carcass. With the two most recent reports, CPW officials believe there is an actual pack in northwest CO. CPW is still examining the activity of this pack and ask locals to report any evidence of their presence.

“…there is a community game of iSpy the Wolf, yet not all think this is fun.

                Many locals are doing just that. One witness caught 0:07 seconds of what appears to be 2 grey wolves before dawn in October of 2019 and uploaded it to YouTube. Other members of the public have also been asked to report any howls, yet this evidence is not as convincing since other canids’ howls, such as dogs and coyotes, can cause confusion to the untrained ear. It is almost as if there is a community game of iSpy The Wolf, yet not all think this is fun.

                Residents of Moffat County, a county covering the Northwest corner of CO bordering both Wyoming and Utah, were the first to oppose the reintroduction of wolves in CO during the summer of 2019. Yet this county was the first to see an actual pack reported in the state in decades!

            Some concerns the general public have are addressed with the efforts of organizations like the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project. Through the project, infographics, educational blog posts, and outreach efforts are making a noticeable impact where over 200,000 people signed the petition for a reintroduction option on the 2020 ballot. One crucial part of reintroductions and conservation of this species is debunking myths and correcting misinformation so the general public can make informed decisions.

                In this, we refer to our former statement within our ‘Position on Delisting the Grey Wolf’ Blog posted in March of 2019:

“We have come to know many benefits brought on by the presence of the wolf, despite the reputation it has unfairly earned. Below are a series of sources that we hope will combat some of the misinformation that surrounds this magnificent animal in regards to depredation and predator control.

  • There are a limited number of losses of livestock attributable to wolves. [1]
  • Hunter success in Montana is not influenced by wolves. [2]
  • Wolves represent a very small danger to humans or human activity. [3]
  • Wolves have been, and continue to be, blamed for decreases in ungulate populations. Some decreases are more heavily influenced by other factors such as weather than they are by wolves. [4] [5] [6]
  • Wolves helped relieve ecological pressures imposed by overpopulation of ungulates (Isle Royale, Yellowstone). [7] [8] ”

                Wolf Park is in support of the bolstering population of wolves in CO and their protections as an endangered species. Additionally, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds the public “that wolves are federally endangered species and fall under the jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.”

                To learn more on this story, see the links provided below.

News Sources:

Further Sources:

  1. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=icwdm_usdanwrc
  2. scholarworks.montana.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1/1450/HazenS0512.pdf?sequence=1
  3. http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Are-Wolves-Dangerous-to-Humans.pdf
  4. http://www.timberwolfinformation.org/info/11pcontrl.htm
  5. http://defenders.org/gray-wolf/fact-vs-fiction
  6. http://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/newshound/2013/06/study-wolves-not-cause-wyoming-elk-decline
  7. https://isleroyalewolf.org/overview/overview/at_a_glance.html
  8. http://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/upload/YELLOWSTONE-SCIENCE-24-1-WOLVES.pdf

 

 

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Channel Island Foxes: A Beacon of Hope

by Christopher Lile and Kimber Hendrix

Off the coast of California, on the islands that make up one of the United States’ least visited National Parks, lives one of the smallest species of canid. Six of the eight Channel Islands are home to this animal, each with their own subspecies. In the last two decades, the Channel Island Foxes, Urocyon littoralis, have experienced one of the most remarkable recovery stories in U.S. history.

Decline of the Island Foxes

The story of the Island Fox’s decline is one that truly highlights the interconnectedness of ecosystems. From the 1940s – 1970s, DDT (a pesticide) was dumped off the coast of California. The aquatic life was quickly contaminated with DDT which, in turn, drastically affected the Bald Eagles living on the California coast and Channel Islands. Reliant upon fish consumption, Bald Eagles suffered the effect of DDT contamination through producing thinner eggshells. This resulted in vulnerability of their eggs and unborn offspring and the subsequent decline of Bald Eagles in the area. With Bald Eagles gone, the smaller Golden Eagles began making their homes on California’s coast and the Channel Islands. Unlike Bald Eagles, they were drawn to the islands for the feral pigs and foxes rather than the fish. The Channel Island foxes, not adapted for this new aerial predator, were quickly hunted to the brink of extinction. Feral pigs and sheep (introduced by humans in the 1850s) stimulated this rapid decline by decimating the native shrubs and vegetation that provided cover and shelter for the foxes.

Once numbering around 1,500, island fox numbers plummeted to fewer than 100 individuals in less than 10 years. Some islands had only 15 individuals remaining of their subspecies.

Photo: Friends of the Island Fox

Recovery of the Island Foxes

Thankfully, the Channel Island Foxes were placed on the Endangered Species Act in 2004. This listing elevated their critical status and initiated swift action and teamwork by the National Park Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and The Nature Conservancy to save the only carnivore unique to California.

The recovery strategy involved captive breeding programs, canine distemper vaccines, reintroduction of the bald eagle, removal of golden eagles and feral pigs, and restoration of native vegetation. These efforts allowed the island fox population to rebound so quickly that they were removed from the endangered species list in 2016. This was considered among the fastest and most successful recoveries of endangered species in United States history.

Today, approximately 10 percent of the channel island foxes are radio-collared to enable scientists to monitor and track the populations and provide annual rabies and canine distemper vaccines. Although the future of this island species is no longer in immediate danger, scientists have learned how quickly this small population can be decimated and are vigilant to any new threats they might face.

Photo: Friends of the Island Fox

A Beacon of Hope

These tiny foxes represent a beacon of hope for imperiled species on the brink of extinction, especially other canids such as the Mexican Gray Wolf and Red Wolf. The story of the Channel Island Foxes also serves to remind us how important the Endangered Species Act is in preventing extinction. This single piece of legislation has elevated countless species on the brink of extinction to receive the immediate action needed for their protection and recovery. Wolf Park takes an active stance in support of the Endangered Species Act, not only for the grey wolf and other canids, but for all imperiled species.

Photo: Friends of the Island Fox

In Memory of Hunter

Wolf Park is home to several species, including grey foxes. These individuals serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, both their own species and related species. As the most primitive canid alive today, grey foxes only have one close relative – the Channel Island Fox, who evolved from them. Our grey fox ambassadors often facilitate conversations about their island relatives. This connection prompted the idea to start a memorial fund to support Friends of the Island Fox, following the passing of our beloved grey fox Hunter. We hope that the conversations and memories Hunter created for our guests will continue to make a difference for the wild fox populations she represented.

 

If you wish to contribute to Hunter’s memorial fund and help the Channel Island Foxes, visit the Wolf Park Online Store Donate Section and write “Hunter Memoriam” in the notes.

In Memory of Hunter

 

Sources:

https://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/nature/fox-saving.htm

http://www1.islandfox.org/p/about-island-fox.html

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22781/0

https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/california/explore/saving-the-santa-cruz-island-fox.xml

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Hunter – May 6, 2013 to August 28, 2019

Hunter Enjoying the Fox Den Logs

Hunter was born on May 6, 2013 at a facility in Minnesota. She arrived at Wolf Park with her two littermates, Gypsum and Ifa ten days later. She was always the smallest of the three, and the last to transition onto the bottle for feeding. She quickly established herself as a favorite for many of her caretakers. Her adorable small size and sweet nature often made her a sought after companion for naptime. From early on one of her preferred sleeping places was lying on the end of legs, it was not uncommon to find her curled up at the bottom of someone‘s sleeping bag. Growing up, Hunter sometimes played the sidekick to her brother and sister, but that didn’t stop her from showing her unique personality from time to time! A lot of people thought she was a shy individual, rather she would bide her time and wait for an opportunity to get what she wanted without having to give anything at all.

 

 

 

A Trio of Grey Foxes: Hunter, Ifa, and Gypsum

Once during crate training (not one of her favorite games), Gypsum and Ifa were entering and exiting the crates and earning their rewards. However, they were so excited to repeat the behavior and earn another reward that they would often run out of the crate, drop the treat, and head back in. Hunter would patiently wait for this to happen and then pick up the treat so she could gain a reward without having to put any effort into the training session at all.

Keeping a Watchful Eye from her Hammock

Hunter was the loyal sidekick to both of her siblings. She and Ifa would often curl into the same box together to wait out a rainstorm. In the summer, they would never be too far away from one another on their favorite hammocks on the jungle gym in the back third of the enclosure basking in the sun and watching their brother’s antics. Whereas Ifa would sit back and watch Gypsum, Hunter would follow along with his ideas to a point.

Hunter was Always a Skilled Painter

One of Hunter’s Pieces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Boo All Curled Up

 

When Gypsum and the red foxes, Scarlette and Joker, would fence fight, Hunter would be right behind him, albeit not for as long of a time. Hunter also mimicked Gypsum quite a lot and missed him when he had to be brought inside for his surgery. When he returned to the fox den, she was able to pick up his signature move “what’s up” very quickly and would charm people out of their treats with a dainty chin-up.

One of her More Popular Expressions

Hunter was receptive to her environment and was often aware of small changes in her environment. This allowed her to be an exceptional hunter. Although we don’t intentionally feed small prey at Wolf Park, if something wandered into Hunter’s path, it was not a good choice for that creature.

Baby Hunter

After the sudden loss of both of her siblings, Hunter spent a little over a year alone. We learned that she couldn’t tolerate the coldest winter nights and had to bring her inside to sleep with her human friends. In May we were able to find two grey fox kits, Kestrel and Lark, to join Wolf Park as animal ambassadors. Having more grey foxes on-site, caused quite a change in Hunter. Her mood change was dramatic—she was more interested in meeting people, being seen on tours, engaging with the public for longer periods of time. She also enjoyed her time with the kits as long as they listened to her cues (which they did MOST of the time) and allowed her to touch them first.

The Poster Child for Grey Haven

On the evening of Friday August 23, Hunter started acting not quite right. However, it was decided that she might have eaten too much of her meal too quickly. The next morning at meatballs, Hunter was acting oddly and staff decided to call the veterinarian. Hunter was taken to the clinic and needed an ultrasound. She was diagnosed with pancreatitis and fought valiantly for 5 days, but ultimately succumbed the morning of August 28th surrounded by her human friends. Wolf Park will never be the same without the first litter of Grey Foxes to come and live here for the short time that they did.
We are starting a new tradition within the Wolf Park Fox Program, and would like to have our ambassador’s lives impact their wild cousins/counterparts.

 

You Will Never Be Forgotten

It’s important to remember what we can learn from our individual Wolf Park ambassador friends and how we can help animals in the wild. While grey foxes aren’t currently a threatened species in the United States, their wild cousins, the Channel Island foxes, are facing some challenges. We are collecting a memoriam donation in honor of Hunter for an organization called the Friends of the Island Fox. You may donate to this organization in her name on your own or send the donation to Wolf Park and we will pass it on for you. We will be collecting donations until September 30th, 2019. To donate through Wolf Park, visit the Wolf Park Online Store Donate Section and write “Hunter Memoriam” in the notes.

 

Rest In Peace Hunter-Boo

 

 

For those of you who were one of Hunter’s sponsors, please note that a mailing with further details was sent to you and is on its way if you have not already received it. We appreciate everyone who valued Hunter as much as we did. She will be missed, but never forgotten.

 

 

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Opening the Door: A New Family of Grey Foxes

 

We have grey fox kits! Kestrel and Lark are the newest additions to Wolf Park. As you may already know from our last blog post and several social media blasts, these two boys seem to be settling in quite well. At this point in their lives, it is one of our top priorities to ensure that they are able to bond with humans. By bonding with their caregivers, they understand that the humans they will interact with at Wolf Park are trustworthy.

Who could forget us sharing these baby’s faces?!

Our park values voluntary husbandry. This type of husbandry focuses on the comfort of the animal to ensure low-stress experiences. This can not be done if an animal is neophobic and considers humans as “new” or “unfamiliar”. While some of our animals have larger social circles than others **cough**Scarlette**cough**cough**, all of our animals enjoy the company of the special people in their lives. We want to provide this to Kestrel and Lark as they pave their way at Wolf Park.

A fox is a fox, is a fox.

But what’s a grey fox kit to do in a park of wolves? This is where Hunter comes in. Our resident adult grey fox Hunter is an expert at Wolf Park living! Hunter lost her siblings over the last couple of years. Research suggests that foxes tend to live in pairs. Further observation is suggesting that they actually live in trios. Fox Curator Kimber Hendrix and Kit Parent Christopher Lile can attest to this as they have both observed wild grey foxes raising kits in adult trios. So, although babies are fun, having kits was not solely for the fun.

The new trio of greys enjoying the foxiest of boxes.

Our hope is that Hunter and the boys will live together, but we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that they start on the right foot, or paw rather. We have been doing “soft” introductions – giving Hunter’s fur to the kits and giving blankets that smell like the kits to Hunter. Everything is going excellently thus far, as Hunter and the kits are always excited about these special deliveries. This helps them build up to face-to-face introductions.

The boys and Hunter are spending some time outside together, but just like anyone’s Aunt, she’s ready to give them back to their kit parents Christopher Lile and Megan Horning after she’s had enough. Kits can be very draining at a younger age, as is true with any baby. As they mature and have more experiences interacting with Hunter, they will learn the boundaries necessary to develop a healthy relationship.

Hunter setting up personal space

We welcome you to join us for our Kit’s Debut Party Saturday, August 3rd from 1-5pm. They will be outside in their enclosure for the first time for the public to see! Photographer Monty Sloan has also provided our gift shop with their BABY PHOTOS! Get them while supplies last! If you would like to donate to the foxes, see our donation link below and type ‘Fox Donation’ in the notes:

https://shop.wolfpark.org/products/donate-to-wolf-park

Monty Sloan’s baby photos are waiting for you!

If you can not make it to the Kit Debut Party, stay tuned for more updates by following us on social media. IG @wolfpark_interns, Twitter @wolf_park, and Facebook @Wolf Park.

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Wolf Park Welcomes Kestrel and Lark!

Wolf Park’s Newest Additions, Kestrel and Lark

After relentless hours of phone calls, emails, and traveling, Wolf Park is delighted to welcome two little fox kits, Kestrel and Lark. These two brothers, initially identified as Shy Guy and Brave Boy respectively, are settling right into their indoor nursery until they are ready to venture out in the newly built Grey Haven.

Kestrel & Lark in their Nursery

Grey Haven is our newest enclosure designed specifically for grey foxes with walkways high above the ground, hideaway boxes, special plants to nibble on, and beautiful young trees that mark the resting spots of our beloved foxes who have passed.

Breaking Ground on Grey Haven

Grey Haven in Progress

 

 

 

 

 

This new enclosure would not have been possible without the wonderful work of Matt Stallcup and Evan McGeorge from Total Habitat. Countless hours from Matt and Evan along with volunteers, interns, and staff helped make this a physical reality. However, we couldn’t have broken ground without your support! Members, visitors, and supporters from all over the world donated in support of this project. Additionally, to anyone who has purchased a Grey Haven shirt, thank you as you too have supported Grey Haven.

Thank You Everyone!

At the end of the day, it is quite vital to have an enclosure such as Grey Haven, as it caters to the needs of the grey fox. Grey foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are an arboreal species that are often found 15-20ft up in the tree canopy. They are able to reach these heights because of an adaptation allowing them to rotate their wrists similar to primates. With the current fox enclosure, we did not have this height for grey foxes. The red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), Joker and Scarlette, have no complaints though! They now have the opportunity to expand their home once their neighbor moves into Grey Haven.

Finished Grey Haven!

Our current grey fox, Hunter, has had the opportunity to explore Grey Haven, but has not officially moved in quite yet. We expect she will settle in with some more time to explore. In the meantime, our kits’ human parents, interns Christopher Lile and Megan Horning, along with Wolf Park’s Fox Curator Kimber Hendrix, are doting on them with every little bit of attention they need. This point in their development is very important for us to convey that the humans who work at Wolf Park are friends.

Very Sleepy Baby!

The young canids we work with have what we call a “fear period” where they begin seeing, hearing, and smelling new things for the first time. You might think new things are exciting, but many wild animals are neophobic, meaning they are scared of new things. With this in mind, Kestrel and Lark have their human parents with them 24/7 and will be off exhibit until they are ready.

Bottle Feeding in the Nursery

Kestrel and Lark were originally born in Oklahoma and are currently about 5 weeks old. We are very specific about the animals we welcome into Wolf Park and typically work with kits between 6-10 days old. With the unfortunate loss of two of our grey foxes, Ifa and Gypsum, we did not want Hunter to be without grey fox friends. Although Kestrel and Lark are older, they had enough socialization with cars, children, adults, and other human factors that we were able to welcome them with loving arms, paws, and wagging tails. Shout out to Kimber, Christopher, and Megan for the 24+ hours driving round trip from Indiana to Oklahoma and the 15+ hours visit with Kestrel and Lark to ensure they were suitable for life at Wolf Park. Without them, we wouldn’t be making this announcement.

Car Ride Home

Your continued support means the world to us. If you would like to purchase either a Grey Haven shirt or a Joker & Scarlette Red Fox shirt, you may do so on our online store. All fox shirt funds will support our foxes! You may also donate specifically to the foxes here by selecting an amount and typing in the notes you want it to go to foxes. Kestrel and Lark will be up for sponsorships soon although it will be some time before we welcome sponsors in with them. Our fox sponsorships for adults are available here and for 5-17-year-olds available here. We also love our volunteers. If you would like to volunteer for all things Wolf Park, check out our application and available orientation dates here.

Wolf Park’s Grey Haven Shirt

 

Stay tuned! We will be making semi-regular updates as we expect these boys to be eager in exploring their surroundings!

Lark

Kestrel

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Willow – April 2, 2006 – April 1, 2019

Willow has left us. The little girl coyote who grew into a force of nature, who was ‘She Who Cannot Be Ignored’, according to Twister, passed away on April 1st. The next day would have been her thirteenth birthday

I have a friend, who reminds me that we are not given our loved ones, whether human, or another species, to keep; they are only lent to us.  And we do not know for how long they are lent.   It is some comfort that Willow did not have a long decline, but we all feel that 13 years “on loan” was not long enough.

Willow and Twister were cute puppies. Staff members Jess and Andrew drove them back from the USDA’s non-lethal predator control facility in Utah, going unexpectedly close to a tornado in the process. Staff member Caity Judd and interns Ashleigh Smith and Nick Irwin helped rear Willow and Twister that summer.

Raising coyote pups was different from raising wolves. We already knew that coyotes were not wolves. Willow and Twister gave us an advanced course in understanding this. They acquired coordination and climbing skills at a younger age than wolf pups. They caused us to extend the overhangs in their outdoor enclosure, and were more of a challenge to keep inside the nursery.  They were both adept at leaping and climbing. Seeing them rise on their hind legs and bound vertically was like watching little kangaroos.

Puppy parent, Caity Judd, recalls “Andrew brought them a dead rabbit. ‘They’re not old enough to eat full carcasses,’ he told me. ‘But it’ll be good for them to start playing with them.’  Willow settled beside me and, starting at the nose, ate the entire rabbit – bones and all.”  Ashleigh and Caity both like singing and selected songs for the pups.  Willow’s was ‘Willow Tit Willow’, from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, “The Mikado.” Caity and Ashleigh sang Willow the Muppet Show version of the song with their best Sam the Eagle impressions. As an adult, Willow still responded to that song.

Their first fall, both pups won over all the seminarians. Willow was much admired and cooed over. She was so dainty and pretty. Her nickname was Pretty Princess Willow, and there is a photo of her sleepily wearing a rhinestone tiara.  During his seminar, Dr. Ray Coppinger was charmed by the coyotes. Willow spooked from him at first, but he got some dog cookies and spent quite a while winning her over.

Ray Coppinger’s admiration for the coyotes resulted in them participating in a canine cognitive study in 2007. Dr. Clive Wynne and his (then) graduate students, Monique Udell and Nicole Dorey ran test on our wolves. At Ray’s suggestion, they also collected data on Willow and Twister.  Several years before a paper was published claiming that wolves were not as good as dogs at using humans’ social cues.  The authors thought this difference was because, for millennia, dogs have been under selection pressure to pay attention to human social cues, and that predisposition has become encoded in their DNA.  We disagreed with this conclusion, since our wolves were adept at picking up human social cues.  Our coyotes understood cues too. Willow and Twister racked up impressive scores. Willow found the test a little easier because she was less frightened by novel objects and procedures, but both yotes did extremely well – maybe a little better than the wolves.

After she matured Willow started stalking interns through the fence, a “game” that we tried to stop by having the interns work on training with her through the fence. It was partly successful, but Willow’s social circle remained restricted. She still maintained positive relationships with her puppy parents, even if they couldn’t meet her face to face. Caity continued to sing ‘Willow Tit Willow’ to her anytime Willow considered her a potential stalking target, and Willow would switch to greeting when she heard the song. In Willow’s old age she sometimes declined to get up in the morning for the interns during medical rounds. “She likes Gilbert and Sullivan,” Caity told them but the interns had to see (and hear) the evidence to believe this.

Willow taught us a lot. Coyotes are a challenge to train because they are very quick and very smart. Animal trainer, Ken McCort trained the coyotes whenever he came to visit. He said he had to be on his game every single minute. In search of accurate information on how to get humans to produce treats, Willow and Twister tested their understanding of Ken’s rules of engagement every time. In some respects, this was like bargaining or haggling. What was Ken willing to accept? In return, Ken found he had to be on time with his rewards and he had to be very clear on exactly what he was reinforcing. Both Ken and the coyotes typically finished the sessions feeling as if their brains had a parkour workout.  Willow and Twister were always ready for naps afterward – naps to help “knit up the raveled sleeve of care,” and to process what they had learned.

After Twister’s sudden passing last summer, Willow was subdued. She gradually improved as the months passed, but some of her zest remained missing.  She welcomed her puppy parents back into her friendship circle for visits, and Caity was able to resume working with her. She was good with staff members Kimber and Karen, meeting them in the corridors while on walks. She enjoyed exploring new enclosures, and had a ‘frienemy’ relationship with Timber, her frequent neighboring wolf.

Willow very affectionate in the days leading up to her death. She requested belly rubs from Caity for the first time since she was a pup. We were reminded of the affectionate-with-everyone pup she’d been long before.

She was found on April 1st unable to get up. On the ride to the vet, Willow had “clusters” of seizures. Even with medication, she continued to seize at the vet’s office. Given her age, temperament, and health, we made the decision to euthanize her. Caity held her and whispered her song to her one last time.

Though Willow was not always easy to work with she had a genuine sweet streak.  We are grateful to have had her, though only “on loan,” and remember her with love.

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Wolf Park’s Position on Delisting the Grey Wolf

The Top Line: Wolves are Essential.

Just last month, in March of 2019, a recent proposal to remove federal protections from the North American Gray Wolf was introduced by the United States Fish and Wildlife service. It is our belief that the removal of the Grey Wolf from the Endangered Species List imperils wolves’ long term future.

Wolf Park, along with our colleagues in conservation, supports the federal protections of Grey Wolves as an essential species. We do not stand for their delisting, and have shared our statement with the USFW.

Despite wolves in the lower 48 states being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1974, their protected status remained hotly debated afterwards, with court battles over reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone and Idaho.[1] [2] [3]  The path to recovery showed that wolf populations could rebuild themselves.  The same path showed that some people remain unwilling to tolerate the presence of wolves, or do so only grudgingly, unless extirpating wolves is illegal.[4]  Even if wolf populations are not allowed to dip below minimum numbers, the number of wolves needed in an area for the wolf population to be deemed recovered was based more on politics than on science. Those minimum numbers may not be sufficient to ensure long term survival of wolves in the contiguous United States.[5]

We have come to know many benefits brought on by presence of the wolf, despite the reputation it has unfairly earned. Below are a series of sources that we hope will combat some of the misinformation that surrounds this magnificent animal in regards to depredation and predator control.

  • There are a limited number of losses of livestock attributable to wolves.[6]
  • Hunter success in Montana is not influenced by wolves.[7]
  • Wolves represent a very small danger to humans or human activity.[8]
  • Wolves have been, and continue to be, blamed for decreases in ungulate populations.  Some decreases are more heavily influenced by other factors such as weather than they are by wolves.[9] [10] [11]
  • Wolves helped relieve ecological pressures imposed by overpopulation of ungulates (Isle Royale, Yellowstone).[12] [13]

Managing wolves by allowing them to be killed recreationally during hunting seasons, and by trapping for pelts, is less effective in controlling wolves’ conflict with humans than is the combination of non-lethal control methods with, as a last resort, targeting only individual problem wolves for death.  [14], [15]

Wolf park recognizes that some communities feel adversely affected by the presence of wolves, and we understand the need for communities control individual problems as they arise. Wolf Park supports the implementation of Non-lethal control methods, in lieu of ineffective, blanket practices. Non-lethal controls include: range riders, livestock guard dogs, fladry, RAG boxes, penning livestock during lambing or calving season so newborns can be more easily protected, and recently, training cattle to confront potential predators in ways similar to wild bison. Our friends at Defenders of Wildlife also have had success paying stockmen for letting wolves raise pups unmolested on their property. (“In fact ranchers can benefit by letting wolves live and breed on their land. “Defenders of Wildlife also established the Wolf Habitat Fund in 1992 to award $5,000 to landowners who allows wolves to raise pups to adulthood on their land” [16].) This has turned wolves into a cash crop without killing them. Farmers and ranchers who were good at using non-lethal controls, not only had the money for allowing wolves to raise pups on their land, but also had more calves or lambs that lived to grow to ideal market weight and were therefore more likely to sell at a higher price. This created incentives for increasing skill at not lethal wolf control than simply paying the cash value of any livestock killed by wolves, since those lambs and calves are usually younger, therefore smaller, and therefore of less monetary value at the time of death.

Indiscriminate hunting and trapping can change wolf behavior in ways causing negative outcomes for both wolves and humans.[17] [18] [19] Wolf packs are typically families, social predators who hunt cooperatively.  A pack which depends on wild prey for its food may leave domestic livestock unmolested.  Hunting licenses are issued to kill any wolves in unprotected areas, not to limit kills to specific classes of wolves or to problem individuals.  As the late Gordon Haber pointed out, if you removed the best players in a basketball team and replaced them with rookies, the team would be very unlikely to have a championship season for a while.  A pack which suffers the loss of its best, most experienced hunters, at the hands of humans, may not be able to hold their territory.  The young wolves who did not “finish an apprenticeship” with experienced hunters of their family may be more likely to prey on easier-to-kill livestock.

Genetic diversity is crucial to a wolf population maintaining its numbers long term. Wolves show some inhibition to mating with their parents, offspring, and siblings. This helps prevent inbreeding with its resultant loss of genetic diversity.  About 50 years after wolves returned to Isle Royale, the wolf population dwindled despite their protected status. It is increasingly rare for new wolves to make a successful journey to the island. This meant a lack of new blood for the Isle Royale wolves’ gene pool.  As generations passed, the wolves on the island became increasingly closely related. One of the well documented effects of prolonged inbreeding is a decrease in fertility. The Isle Royale population, which had become increasingly inbred, dwindled to the point of being unable to produce enough viable pups to make up for wolves that died of age, injury, or illness.[20]  As this is being written, Canadian wolves are being captured for translocation to Isle Royale to restart a wolf population there, and help manage the resident moose population.[21]

While the wolves in Yellowstone, Idaho, the pacific northwest, Wisconsin, Michigan (the UP), and Minnesota are not confined to literal islands, the increasing human activity in areas around refuges like parks, and lasting hostility toward wolves by some humans, means that even animals that are born in a national park, like Yellowstone, face increased dangers if they travel outside the park boundaries, boundaries that are known to humans, but not to wolves.  For this reason it is important to extend some degree of protection to wolves even if they are outside designated areas–like Yellowstone National Park–where they are completely protected.

When you compare the 6000+ wolves in the contiguous United States to the 14,000+ wolves in the much smaller area of Europe, where they continue to have a good degree of protection, it makes little sense to remove all federal protections from US wolves when many states have openly stated their desire to kill enough of their wolf populations to keep wolf numbers at the bare minimum.[22]

The proposal to strip away almost all legal protections from wolves in the lower 48 states sets a dangerous precedent.  It sets the standard very low for deeming an endangered population recovered and able to sustain itself for the long term.  This precedent may not only endanger wolf populations again, or even doom them in the lower 48 states, it may also negatively impact conservation and recovery efforts across the country for other endangered species.

The Bottom Line: The future of wolves under this proposal is uncertain. Wolf Park supports their continued protections; The USFW has allowed a public commentary period for you to share your thoughts on this pending legislation up until May 14th, 2019. Click the link below to share your voice and read the proposal in full. 

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife – Docket Number: FWS-HQ-ES-2018-0097-0001

Further Reading and Wolf Sources
www.nps.gov/yell/learn/upload/YELLOWSTONE-SCIENCE-24-1-WOLVES.pdf
www.goshen.edu/bio/Biol410/BSSpapers99/rachelmg.htm#Noceker
14) What happens to a pack when the alpha male or female is killed?
https://www.wolfhaven.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Huckelberry-pack.pdf
digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1096&context=usgsnpwrc
https://news.wsu.edu/2014/12/03/research-finds-lethal-wolf-control-backfires-on-livestock/
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0113505
https://www.euronatur.org/en/what-we-do/endangered-species/wolf/wolves-in-europe/


Sources
1. www.livingwithwolves.org/wolf-issues/the-political-debate/
2. defendersblog.org/2015/01/reintroducing-wolves-yellowstone-idaho-20th-anniversary/
3. www.animallaw.info/cases/species/wolves
4. www.goshen.edu/bio/Biol410/BSSpapers99/rachelmg.htm#Noceker
5. www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery/pdf/Final_Review_of_Proposed_rule_regarding_wolves2014.pdf
6. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1081&context=icwdm_usdanwrc
7. scholarworks.montana.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1/1450/HazenS0512.pdf?sequence=1
8. www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Are-Wolves-Dangerous-to-Humans.pdf
9. http://www.timberwolfinformation.org/info/11pcontrl.htm
10. defenders.org/gray-wolf/fact-vs-fiction
11. www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/newshound/2013/06/study-wolves-not-cause-wyoming-elk-decline
12. https://isleroyalewolf.org/overview/overview/at_a_glance.html
13. www.nps.gov/yell/learn/upload/YELLOWSTONE-SCIENCE-24-1-WOLVES.pdf
14. http://www.predatordefense.org/docs/wolves_Paquet_moral_disengagement_equates_to_switching_off_10-12-13.pdf
15. www.nrdc.org/experts/zack-strong/wolf-hunting-and-trapping-closures-best-determined-experts-not-politics
16. www.goshen.edu/bio/Biol410/BSSpapers99/rachelmg.htm#Noceker
17. https://news.wsu.edu/2014/12/03/research-finds-lethal-wolf-control-backfires-on-livestock/
18. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/12/141203-wolves-hunting-livestock-ranchers-endangered-species-environment/
19. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0113505
20. www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/extreme-inbreeding-likely-spells-doom-isle-royale-wolves
21. www.wolf.org/about-us/media/media-releases/weekend-effort-to-move-seven-wolves-to-isle-royale-a-major-success/
22. https://www.theverge.com/2014/12/18/7417521/bears-lynx-wolves-Europe-carnivores-conservation-comeback

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