Mexico Reports First Litter of Wild-Born Mexican Gray Wolves

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.

Mexico’s National Commission for Natural Protected Areas stated on July 17 that a litter of Mexican gray wolf pups, the first pups known to be born in the wild since the subspecies was declared extinct in the area thirty years ago, was sighted in June by researchers in the western Sierra Madre mountains.

The five pups are part of a reintroduction effort begun in 2011.  Their captive-born parents, M1215 x F1033, were released into the wild in December 2013 with hopes that the pair would reproduce.

The Mexican gray wolf was exterminated in the wild in both the southwestern US and Mexico through hunting, poisoning, and trapping.  The last five wild individuals in the US were caught between 1977 and 1980 and used to start a captive breeding program in hopes of restoring the population.  Reintroduction efforts in the US have led to a population of approximately 83 Mexican gray wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico.

Click here to read the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction plan (in Spanish).

Original news article available here.

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Wolves in Canadian Zoo Dig Escape Tunnel, Visit Polar Bears

Wolves in the Journey to Churchill exhibit on opening day.  Photo source: winnipegfreepress.com.

Wolves in the Journey to Churchill exhibit on opening day. Photo source: Mike Deal, winnipegfreepress.com.

The “Journey to Churchill” exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, closed five days after it opened, after a pack of wolves housed in one side of the exhibit dug under a fence separating them from the polar bears on the other side.  The exhibit was originally designed to house polar bears on both sides, but a decision was made six weeks prior to opening to house wolves on one side.

The five wolves were found in the morning of Tuesday, July 8, wandering the enclosure housing female polar bears while the bears, Aurora and Kaska, slept peacefully in the corner.  At no time were any animals outside the exhibit, which is surrounded by a 10-foot concrete wall which also extends into the ground.

Wolves in the Journey to Churchill exhibit.  Image source: winnipeg.ctvnews.ca.

Wolves in the Journey to Churchill exhibit. Image source: winnipeg.ctvnews.ca.

The fence under which the wolves dug has been repaired with concrete and both wolves and bears were back on display July 10.

In a statement issued Thursday, provincial officials noted that the “Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship’s Wildlife Branch issues permits to possess wildlife for educational purposes and the permits include conditions that the zoo meet or exceed CAZA (Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) standards for displaying species native to Manitoba.

“The Assiniboine Park Zoo holds a valid ‘zoological’ possession permit to be able to possess wolves and other species. They also have a separate permit to possess the polar bears as separate legislation oversees the possession of these animals.”

The province reported that its wildlife branch meets with zoo officials regularly and conducts regular inspections, including visits when exhibits are modified.

Original article is available here.

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How Well Can Children Interpret Dog Body Language?

153768-157384Researchers from the University of Lincoln and the University of Edinburgh have published a study on how well children and adults recognize the emotional expressions of dogs.

Studying 430 children between the ages of 4 and 10 and 120 young adults (mostly female college students), the researchers showed the subjects video clips of dogs and asked them to indicate whether the animals were “happy”, “sad”, “scared”, or “angry”.  The study concluded that the younger children (between ages 4 and 6) had trouble interpreting dog behavior, in part because the children reported only using one or two signals (such as the facial expression) to read the animals, while older children and adults watched more of the animal’s body language and did better.

Study subjects of all ages did best at interpreting aggressive and friendly behaviors, and were least effective at interpreting fearful behavior.  Fearful behaviors were most frequently misidentified as “happy” or “friendly” behaviors.  This stands out as a potential cause for unfortunate mishaps as the combination of misidentification of behavior and a tendency to misidentify behavior as more friendly than it is may encourage smaller children to approach dogs who are displaying fearful behaviors.

There are educational resources to get your child prepared for meeting and interacting with unfamiliar dogs, including:

The original article is available here.

Nelly N. Lakestani, Morag L. Donaldson and Natalie Waran, (2014). Interpretation of Dog Behavior by Children and Young Adults. Anthrozoos, (27), pp. 65-80.

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“Canis Lupus Soupus”: The Scientific Classification of Wolves

Bicho & Kanti HowlEver wondered about all the diverse species and subspecies of wolves, and all the confusing Latin names?  L. David Mech writes on the taxonomic classification of wolves and their canid cousins in The Scientific Classification of Wolves: Canis lupus soupus, in a Spring 2011 article from International Wolf magazine.

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“Livestock Guard Humans” Protect Cattle from Wolves in Washington State

Range Riders Program Expands to Cover Territories of Five Wolf Packs

A range rider in Eastern Washington working his herd. Photo: Laura Owens

A range rider in Eastern Washington working his herd. Photo: Laura Owens

The Range Riders program, co-sponsored by Conservation Northwest, works with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and ranchers in northeast Washington, puts riders on horseback (and in ATVs) out patrolling the grazing lands of cattle, protecting the animals from harm.  This time, for the first time since wolves were originally driven out of the area almost a century ago, the riders will be protecting the cattle from wolves.  Their work area now covers the territories of five confirmed wolf packs.

Some of the wolves are wearing radio collars, and their location information is being confidentially provided to the riders.  The riders are not hunting the wolves; they are intended to be part of a nonlethal predator control program, which includes complementary practices like fladry and the use of guard animals such as dogs.

This is the third year of the Range Rider program.  Even as wolf populations are increasing in the state, last summer ranchers reported an increase — as much as 100% — in the number of cows returning from summer grazing in wolf habitat.  The animals keep more weight and are less stressed, making life better both for the cattle and the ranchers.  One rancher, John Dawson, was quoted as saying, “We’ve lost nothing to wolves.”  Other livestock owners are beginning to take notice of the program as well.

The original article is located here.

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Wisconsin Court Rules Dogs Can Be Trained To Hunt Wolves

Backlit Bicho in ProfileThe 4th District Court of Appeals in Wisconsin ruled July 10 that hunters in the state can train dogs to assist in hunting wolves.  SB 411, a bill passed in 2012, already permitted hunting wolves with dogs during a designated hunting season in Wisconsin; this secondary ruling allows hunters to “train” their dogs to chase wolves as well as use the dogs in the hunt.  This training activity appears to be able to take place outside of the wolf hunting season.

The DNR has been working on permanent rules to govern the use of dogs in wolf hunts.  Agency officials have stated the regulations would restrict training on wolves to daylight hours only, during the wolf season only, and would restrict the number of dogs used to six.

Wisconsin is the only state in the US which permits the use of dogs in wolf hunting.  If you wish to write a Wisconsin state representative concerning the use of dogs in wolf hunting, their information is available here.

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“Walk for Wolves” Saturday, September 27!

Support Wolf Park by Joining the Walk for Wolves

Saturday, September 27, 2014 9 am – 1 pm

Guest Speaker: Senator Ron Alting

Guest Speaker: Wolf Park Board Member and Indiana House of Representatives District 27 Representative Sheila Klinker

Honorary Co-Chairs: Chad & Liz “Nichols” Evans
WLFI TV 18 & Purdue University

Entertainment: Scott Greeson & Silly Safaris

EMCEE: Brittany Rayburn – former Purdue University basketball star

Lunch prepared by the Outpost Catering & Banquet Facility

Please help support Wolf Park!  To participate in the Walk for Wolves, sign up today at www.wolfpark.org!  Form a “Pack” or be a “Lone Wolf”, and collect donations to support your walk, then on the big day come out and walk laps around the loop trail at Wolf Park (or sit and enjoy the entertainment!).  One of our resident wolves will lead the first lap! For the rest of the morning walkers will stroll around this beautiful, unique park, seeing the wolves, foxes, coyotes and bison up close and personal. If you don’t live close by or simply have no desire to walk – no problem! Go online and make a donation, mail in a donation and put “Walk” on the memo line, or call the office to make a donation for yourself or to support a “Pack”.

Free t-shirts for “packs” who sign up by August 31st!

All participating walkers will receive FREE ADMISSION to Wolf Park for the remainder of the day, including our open hours from 1:00-5:00 pm and that night’s Howl Night from 7:30-9:00 pm!

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Rare Short-Eared Dog Caught On Video

A short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis), an elusive, fox-sized canid native to the Amazon jungle, has been serendipitously caught on video by conservation biologist Lary Reeves.  Reeves was hoping to record the activity of king vultures near the carcass of a white-lipped peccary, which had been found along a trail near the Tambopata Research Center in southeastern Peru.

The dog appeared about 20 minutes after the researchers placed the camera.  In the footage, it sniffs the carcass, eyes the camera warily and wanders off.

The dogs are so wary and hard to find that the researchers, who have been studying the dogs for fourteen years, have only been able to capture and radio collar five of the animals.

Original article available here.

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Study Finds Gene Flow Between Wolf And Dog Populations in Georgia (Caucasus)

Upper panel: livestock guarding dog; middle panel: livestock guarding dog with the inferred wolf ancestry (first-generation hybrid); lower panel: wolf (all from Kazbegi, Georgia).  Source: original article.

Upper panel: livestock guarding dog; middle panel: livestock guarding dog with the inferred wolf ancestry (first-generation hybrid); lower panel: wolf (all from Kazbegi, Georgia). Source: original article.

Researchers from Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, studying populations of wolves living alongside livestock guarding dogs (Caucasian or Georgian shepherds) in the Caucasus found that approximately 10 percent of dogs had detectable wolf ancestry, and about 13% of the wolves had detectable dog ancestry.  This appears to indicate that “gene flow” (interbreeding) between the two populations used to be a relatively common event.

The study suggests that wolf x dog hybridization may have been a common event in areas where livestock guarding dogs of comparable size are used in a traditional way (i.e., running free with the flocks), and that hybridization between dogs and wolves may have exerted a force on the gene pool of both species even after the process of domestication of the dog began.

Source:
Gene Flow between Wolf and Shepherd Dog Populations in Georgia (Caucasus)

Natia Kopaliani, Maia Shakarashvili, Zurab Gurielidze, Tamar Qurkhuli and David Tarkhnishvili

Journal of Heredity (2014) 105 (3): 345-353. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esu014

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Reinterpretation of Policy Could “Eviscerate” Endangered Species Act

Bison & CalfA seemingly minor intended shift in interpretation for the Endangered Species Act could “eviscerate” protection for species listed under the Act.  The change in policy, a reinterpretation of the phrase “significant portion of its range” in the Act, is scheduled to be formally announced July 1 and would change the intention of the Endangered Species Act to protect only those species which are endangered in a significant portion of their current range, rather than those endangered in a significant portion of their historic range, as is the currently accepted interpretation.  This would make getting species protected under the Act much more difficult, and would delay protection until species were in extremely dire straits.

As an example, consider animals such as the American bison, which were exterminated all over the United States.  Imagine that they were completely wiped out (rather than just mostly wiped out) and that the only remaining population was a small but protected herd living comfortably on an island.  Under the changed Act, if this small herd was not in danger of extinction, bison would not be considered endangered in their current range, and would not enjoy protection under the Act.  That they used to roam most of the United States, or that the current population was only approximately 2% of former numbers, would be meaningless.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has long been criticized for only protecting species on the very brink of extinction, which makes recovery a difficult uphill slog,” says Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This policy would actually codify that approach, essentially saying: Let’s only protect these creatures when they’re in as desperate a state as possible.”

The Center for Biological Diversity plans to file suit to block the new interpretation of the Act.

Read the FWS’s official post on the policy here.

Original article is available here.

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