Archive for the ‘Animal rescue / Djurrättsorganisationer’ Category

Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild.   2 comments

October 13, 2017

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Scientists aren’t entirely sure how wolves evolved into dogs, but new research into the genetic and social behavior of wolf pups may offer some clues. By MAE RYAN, JAMES GORMAN and SHANE O’NEILL on Publish Date October 13, 2017. Photo by Renaud Philippe for The New York Times.  Watch in Times Video »

NICOLET, Quebec — I’m sitting in an outdoor pen with four puppies chewing my fingers, biting my hat and hair, peeing all over me in their excitement.

At eight weeks old, they are two feet from nose to tail and must weigh seven or eight pounds. They growl and snap over possession of a much-chewed piece of deer skin. They lick my face like I’m a long-lost friend, or a newfound toy. They are just like dogs, but not quite. They are wolves.

When they are full-grown at around 100 pounds, their jaws will be strong enough to crack moose bones. But because these wolves have been around humans since they were blind, deaf and unable to stand, they will still allow people to be near them, to do veterinary exams, to scratch them behind the ears — if all goes well.

Yet even the humans who raised them must take precautions. If one of the people who has bottle-fed and mothered the wolves practically since birth is injured or feels sick, she won’t enter their pen to prevent a predatory reaction. No one will run to make one of these wolves chase him for fun. No one will pretend to chase the wolf. Every experienced wolf caretaker will stay alert. Because if there’s one thing all wolf and dog specialists I’ve talked to over the years agree on, it is this: No matter how you raise a wolf, you can’t turn it into a dog.

As close as wolf and dog are — some scientists classify them as the same species — there are differences. Physically, wolves’ jaws are more powerful. They breed only once a year, not twice, as dogs do. And behaviorally, wolf handlers say, their predatory instincts are easily triggered compared to those of dogs. They are more independent and possessive of food or other items. Much research suggests they take more care of their young. And they never get close to that Labrador retriever “I-love-all-humans” level of friendliness. As much as popular dog trainers and pet food makers promote the inner wolf in our dogs, they are not the same.

The scientific consensus is that dogs evolved from some kind of extinct wolf 15,000 or more years ago. Most researchers now think that it wasn’t a case of snatching a pup from a den, but of some wolves spending more time around people to feed on the hunters’ leftovers. Gradually some of these wolves became less afraid of people, and they could get closer and eat more and have more puppies, which carried whatever DNA made the wolves less fearful. That repeated itself generation after generation until the wolves evolved to be, in non-scientific terms, friendly. Those were the first dogs.

People must spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for weeks on end with wolf puppies just to assure them that humans are tolerable. Dog puppies will quickly attach to any human within reach. Even street dogs that have had some contact with people at the right time may still be friendly.

Despite all the similarities, something is deeply different in dog genes, or in how and when those genes become active, and scientists are trying to determine exactly what it is.

Wolf pups at Wolf Park, a 65-acre zoo and research facility in Battle Ground, Ind., in July. Though wolves and dogs are extremely similar genetically, their behaviors are very different — and scientists seek to find out why.

There are clues.

Some recent research has suggested that dog friendliness may be the result of something similar to Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder in humans that causes hyper-sociability, among other symptoms. People with the syndrome seem friendly to everyone, without the usual limits.

Another idea being studied is whether a delay in development during a critical socializing period in a dog’s early life could make the difference. That delay might be discovered in the DNA, more likely in the sections that control when and how strongly genes become active, rather than in the genes themselves.

This is research at its very beginning, a long shot in some ways. But this past spring and summer, two scientists traveled to Quebec to monitor the development of six wolf pups, do behavior tests and take genetic samples. I followed them.

I visited other captive wolves as well, young and adult, to get a glimpse of how a research project begins — and, I confess, to get a chance to play with wolf puppies.

I wanted to have some firsthand experience of the animals I write about, to look wolves in the eye, so to speak. But only metaphorically. As I was emphatically told in a training session before going into an enclosure with adult wolves, the one thing you definitely do not do is look them in the eye.

From left, Kathryn Lord, Michele Koltookian and Diane Genereux, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, at the Zoo Académie, a combination zoo and training facility in Nicolet, Quebec

Wolf pups at play at Zoo Académie. Researchers wonder whether a delay in social development in a dog’s early life could explain the difference between wolves and dogs, and they’re looking to DNA for the answer.

Sleeping With Wolves

Zoo Académie is a combination zoo and training facility here on the southern bank of the St. Lawrence River, about two hours from Montreal. Jacinthe Bouchard, the owner, has trained domestic and wild animals, including wolves, all over the world.

This past spring she bred two litters of wolf pups from two female wolves and one male she had already at the zoo. Both mothers gave birth in the same den around the same time at the beginning of June. Then unusually bad flooding of the St. Lawrence threatened the den, so Ms. Bouchard had to remove them at about seven days old instead of the usual two weeks.

Then began the arduous process of socializing the pups. Ms. Bouchard and her assistant stayed day and night with the animals for the first few weeks, gradually decreasing the time spent with them after that.

On June 30, Kathryn Lord and Elinor Karlsson showed up with several colleagues, including Diane Genereux, a research scientist in Dr. Karlsson’s lab who would do most of the hands-on genetics work.

Dr. Lord is part of Dr. Karlsson’s team, which splits time between the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and the Broad Institute in Cambridge. Their work combines behavior and genetic studies of wolf and dog pups.

An evolutionary biologist, Dr. Lord is an old hand at wolf mothering. She has hand-raised five litters.

“You have to be with them 24/7. That means sleeping with them, feeding them every four hours on the bottle, ” Dr. Lord said.

Also, as Ms. Bouchard noted, “we don’t shower” in the early days, to let the pups get a clear sense of who they are smelling.

Dr. Genereux, right, and Ms. Koltookian at the Zoo Académie.

Dr. Genereux, right, and Ms. Koltookian with the wolf pups. The researchers say the odds of being able to pin down genetically the critical shift from helplessness in infancy to being able to explore the world around them are long, but still worth pursuing.

That’s very important, because both wolves and dogs go through a critical period as puppies when they explore the world and learn who their friends and family are.

With wolves, that time is thought to start at about two weeks, when the wolves are deaf and blind. Scent is everything.

In dogs, it starts at about four weeks, when they can see, smell and hear. Dr. Lord thinks this shift in development, allowing dogs to use all their senses, might be key to their greater ability to connect with human beings.

Perhaps with more senses in action, they are more able to generalize from tolerating individual humans with a specific scent to tolerating humans in general with a scent, sight and sound profile.

When the critical period ends, wolves, and to a lesser extent dogs, experience something like the onset of stranger anxiety in human babies, when people outside of the family suddenly become scary.

The odds of being able to pin down genetically the shift in this crucial stage are still long, but both Dr. Lord and Dr. Karlsson think the idea is worth pursuing, as did the Broad Institute. It provided a small grant from a program designed to support scientists who take leaps into the unknown — what you might call what-if research.

There are two questions the scientists want to explore. One, said Dr. Karlsson: ”How did a wolf that was living in the forest become a dog that was living in our homes?”

The other is whether fear and sociability in dogs are related to the same emotions and behaviors in humans. If so, learning about dogs could provide insights into some human conditions in which social interaction is affected, like autism, or Williams syndrome, or schizophrenia.

The pups at Zoo Académie were only three weeks old when the group of researchers arrived. I showed up the next morning and walked into a room strewn with mattresses, researchers and puppies.

The humans were still groggy from a night with little sleep. Pups at that age wake up every few hours to whine and paw any warm body within reach.

Wolf mothers prompt their pups to urinate and defecate by licking their abdomens. The human handlers massaged the pups for the same reason, but often the urination was unpredictable, so the main subject of conversation when I arrived was wolf pup pee. How much, on whom, from which puppy.

As soon as I walked in, I was handed a puppy to cradle and bottle-feed. The puppy was like a furry larva, persistent, single-minded, with an absolute intensity of purpose.

Even with fur, teeth and claws, the pups were still hungry and helpless, and I couldn’t help but remember holding my own children when they took a bottle. I suspect that tiger kittens and the young of wolverines are equally irresistible. It’s a mammal thing.

A wolf pup, inside a pen, observing a borzoi outside at the Zoo Académie. The critical exploratory phase for wolves is thought to start at about two weeks, when wolf pups are still deaf and blind — scent is their primary sense. With dogs, that period begins at about four weeks, when they can see, smell and hear.

The first part of Dr. Lord’s testing was to confirm her observations that the critical period for wolves starts and ends earlier than that for dogs.

She set up a procedure for testing the pups by exposing them to something they could not possibly have encountered before — a jiggly buzzing contraption of bird-scare rods, a tripod and a baby’s mobile.

Each week she tested one pup, so that no pup got used to it. She would put the puppy in a small arena, with low barriers for walls and with the mobile turned on. She would hide, to avoid distracting the puppy. Video cameras recorded the action, showing how the pups stumbled and later walked around the strange object, or shied away from it, or went right up to sniff it.

At three weeks, the pups had been barely able to get around and were still sleeping almost every minute they weren’t nursing. By eight weeks, when I returned to have them gambol all over me, they were rambunctious and fully capable of exploration.

The researchers won’t publicize the results until observers who never saw the puppies view and analyze the videos. But Dr. Lord said that wolf experts considered eight-week-old wolf puppies past the critical period. They were so friendly to me and others because they had been successfully socialized already.

Before and after the test, she collected urine, to measure levels of a hormone called cortisol, which rises during times of stress. If the pup in the video would not approach the jiggly monster and cortisol levels were high, that would indicate that the pup had begun to experience a level of fear of new things that could stop exploration. That would confirm the timing of the critical period.

Dr. Lord letting an eight-week-old wolf pup investigate the jiggly monster testing contraption she devised.

She and Dr. Karlsson and others from the lab also collected saliva for DNA testing. They planned to use a new technique called ATAC-seq that uses an enzyme to mark active genes. Then when the wolf DNA is fed into one of the advanced machines that map genomes, only the active genes would be on the map.

Dr. Genereux, who was isolating and then reading DNA, said she thought it was “a long shot” that they would find what they wanted. She and the other researchers plan to refine their techniques to ask the questions successfully.

When They Grow Up

And what are socialized wolves like when they grow up, once the mysterious genetic machinery of the dog and wolf direct them on their separate ways?

I also visited Wolf Park, in Battle Ground, Ind., a 65-acre zoo and research facility where Dana Drenzek, the manager, and Pat Goodmann, the senior animal curator, took me around and introduced me not only to puppies they were socializing, but to some adult wolves.

Timber, a mother of some of the pups at Wolf Park in Indiana.

In the 1970s, Ms. Goodmann worked with Erich Klinghammer, the founder of Wolf Park, to develop the 24/7 model for socializing wolf puppies, exposing them to humans and then also to other wolves, so they could relate to their own kind but accept the presence and attention of humans, even intrusive ones like veterinarians.

The sprawling outdoor baby pen was filled with cots and hammocks for the volunteers, since the wolves were now nine and 11 weeks old and living outdoors all the time. There were plastic and plywood hiding places for the wolves and plenty of toys. It looked like a toddlers’ playground, except for the remnants of their meals — the odd deer clavicle or shin bone, and other assorted ribs, legs and shoulder bones, sometimes with skin and meat still attached.

The puppies were extremely friendly with the volunteers they knew and mildly friendly with me. The adult wolves I met were also courteous, but remote. Two older males, Wotan and Wolfgang, each licked me once and walked away. Timber, the mother of some of the pups, and tiny at 50 pounds, also investigated me and then retired to a platform nearby.

Only Renki, an older wolf who had suffered from bone cancer and now got around on three legs, let me scratch his head for a while. None was bothered by my presence. None was more than mildly interested. None seemed to realize or care about my own intense desire to see the wolves, be near them, learn about them, touch them.

Pat Goodmann, the senior animal curator at Wolf Park.

A mobile of animal bones hangs over the nursery where pups at Wolf Park live until aged 5-6 weeks.

I saw how powerfully a visit with wolves could affect how you feel about the animals. I wanted to come back and help raise pups, and keep visiting so that I could say an adult wolf knew me in some way.

But I also wondered whether it was right to keep wolves in this setting. In the wild, they travel large distances and kill their food. These wolves were all bred in captivity and that was never a possibility for them.

But was I simply indulging a fantasy of getting close to nature? Was this in the same category as wanting a selfie with a captive tiger? What was best for the wolves themselves?

I asked Ms. Goodmann about it. She said that park operated on the idea that getting to know the park’s wolves, which had never been deprived of an earlier life in the wild, would make visitors care more for wild wolves, for conservation, for preserving a life for wild carnivores that they could never be part of.

And she noted that Wolf Park operates as a combination zoo and research station. Students and others from around the world compete to work as interns, helping with everything from raising puppies to emptying the fly traps.

This is the rationale for all zoos, and it was a strong argument. Then she made it stronger. She pointed out that one of the interns, Doug Smith, worked on the reintroduction of wild wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

Dana Drenzek, manager of Wolf Park, with a pup.

Haley Gorenflo, a volunteer at Wolf Park, howling with adolescent wolves.

Dr. Smith has had a major role in the Wolf Restoration Project from the very beginning in 1995 and has been project leader since 1997. I reached him one morning at his office at park headquarters and asked him about his time as an intern at Wolf Park.

“I hand-reared four wolf pups, sleeping with them on a mattress for six weeks,” he said. “It had a profound effect. It was the first wolf job I ever got in my life. It turned into my career.”

From there he went on to study wild wolves on Isle Royale in Michigan, and then to work with L. David Mech, a pioneering wolf biologist who is a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. Eventually, he went to Yellowstone to work on restoring wolves to the park.

He said ethical questions about keeping wild animals in captivity are difficult, even when every effort is made to enrich their lives. But places like Wolf Park provide great value, he said, if they can get people “to think about the plight of wolves across the world, and do something about it.”

In today’s environment, “with conservation on the run, nature on the run, you need them,” he added.

Then he said what all wolf specialists say: That even though wolf pups look like dogs, they are not, that keeping a wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid as a pet is a terrible idea.

“If you want a wolf,” he said, “get a dog.”

Dozing at Zoo Académie in Quebec.

 

CONGRESS UNLEASHES WAR ON WOLVES   7 comments

January 18, 2017

Senators from Midwest and Wyoming introduce bill to strip protections from endangered gray wolves

NAGEL PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK

“This “War on Wolves Act” would allow for the same unregulated killing that nearly wiped out the species in the first place.”

Marjorie Mulhall
Sr. Legislative Counsel, Earthjustice

Washington, D.C. —Senators from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming yesterday introduced the “War on Wolves Act,” a companion bill to legislation introduced last week in the House that would strip federal protections from wolves and allow trophy hunting and trapping of the species in four states. If the legislation passes both chambers and gets signed by the president, it would hand the fate of wolves in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Wyoming over to states whose management wolf plans two federal courts ruled inadequate to securing the species at legally required population levels in absence of Endangered Species Act protections.

In Wyoming, this would allow the state to resume a hostile management program that allowed for unlimited shoot-on-sight killing of wolves across 85 percent of the state. The legislation would further strip citizens of the right to challenge these lethal programs in court. The appeals process of two federal court decisions that restored federal protections to wolves in those four states are still underway. Decisions on those cases are expected any day.

The following is a statement from Marjorie Mulhall, Senior Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice:

“A new congress has resurfaced an old vendetta against imperiled wolves. If this legislation is signed into law, wolves in Wyoming will be subjected to unregulated killing across the vast majority of the state, and even on the borders of Yellowstone National Park numerous legal loopholes will authorize widespread wolf killing. Americans widely hailed the return of wolves to the Northern Rockies two decades ago as a triumph of the Endangered Species Act, but now this ‘War on Wolves Act’ would allow for the same unregulated killing that nearly wiped out the species in the first place. Politicians should not meddle in the science-based listing status of a particular species at any stage, but now is an especially bad time as these cases are still playing out in the courts. We urge those who support the protection of wolves to call their senators and representatives and tell them to vote down this lethal legislation.”

READ THE LEGISLATION:

EXPERT AVAILABLE FOR FURTHER COMMENT:

Tim Preso, Earthjustice attorney who leads on the Wyoming wolf case, based in Bozeman, Montana: (406) 586-9699 ext. 1924, tpreso@earthjustice.org


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Vargstammen är för liten   2 comments

January 20, 2016 – Folkbladet

Vargstammen är fortfarande för liten, skriver debattören TT

När myndigheter fattar beslut om jakt på en hotad art måste det ske restriktivt och med bakgrund av vetenskapliga underlag, skriver Johanna Sandahl, ordförande för Naturskyddsföreningen i ett debattsvar.

Ynqwe (C), Berg (M), Tysklind (L) och Oscarsson (KD) skriver i Folkbladet 14/1 att de är oroliga för att regeringen ”överväger att återgå till den tidigare ordningen för överprövning av beslut om skydds- och licensjakt”.
Det som skribenterna syftar på är att miljöorganisationer tidigare kunde överklaga Naturvårdsverkets beslut om jakt på varg. I fjol infördes dock ett överklagandeförbud för miljöorganisationerna. Detta förbud har nu upphört att gälla.

Men det är inte den svenska regeringen, utan Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen, som den 18 december 2015 slagit fast att miljöorganisationer återigen ska få överklaga domar om jakt.
Domstolen skriver i sitt beslut att överklagandeförbudet står i strid med EU-rätten. I och med domstolens beslut gäller överklagandeförbudet inte längre. Miljöorganisationer har därmed återfått rätten att pröva storskalig jakt efter varg och andra hotade djur i domstol.

Möjligheten att få till stånd domstolsprövning av myndigheters beslut är en grundbult i alla rättssamhällen och en fundamental del i skyddet för demokratin.
Det är också en självklar princip i en demokrati att domstolarna ska vara fristående. Regeringen varken kan eller får påverka domstolarnas beslut.

Som medlem i EU ska Sverige följa EU:s regler. Vi tycker det är bra att naturskyddet i EU är starkt.
De regler som skyddar svenska vargar skyddar också delfiner i Medelhavet, skogar på kontinenten och våra flyttfåglar när de flyger över Medelhavsländerna.

Vargen har en viktig roll i naturen. Därför behövs en livskraftig vargstam. Vi anser att det i dag samlade vetenskapliga underlaget, som inkluderar vargstammens genetiska situation, visar att vargen i Sverige för närvarande inte har gynnsam bevarandestatus.
Den vargstam som lever i vårt land är fortfarande för liten, alltför geografiskt och genetiskt isolerad, och därmed sårbar för att tåla omfattande avskjutningar.

Vi är inte emot all jakt på varg, men när myndigheterna fattar beslut om jakt på en hotad art måste det ske restriktivt och mot bakgrund av vetenskapliga underlag.
Jakt på hotade arter behöver också kunna prövas i domstol, varför vi välkomnar att Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen tydliggjort att det nu återigen är möjligt.

För att få en hållbar rovdjursförvaltning är det viktigt att se framåt och finna lösningar som fungerar. Ett konkret förslag vore att se till att tamdjursägare får förbättrat stöd för förebyggande rovdjursavvisande stängsel; ett förslag som både Naturskyddsföreningen och Lantbrukarnas Riksförbund driver.
Ett annat förslag är att starta upp den tidigare vargkommittén, där både partier och intresseorganisationer ingick, och som lyckades enas om långtgående förslag i vargfrågan.
Vi tror det kunde vara en god utgångspunkt för en konstruktiv och lösningsorienterad dialog framåt.

Johanna Sandahl
ordförande Naturskyddsföreningen

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How wolves and warriors help each other heal   5 comments

January 5, 2016 – Source

Matthew Simmons, Lorin Lindner and wolfdog Wiley at LARC

Matthew Simmons and Dr. Lorin Lindner at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center with Wiley, a wolfdog they saved from being euthanized. (Photo: Jennifer Dallas)

About 90 minutes north of Los Angeles at the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC), healing magic happens every day. Nestled on acres of scenic land inside theLos Padres National Forest, LARC’s Warriors and Wolves program offers combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder the chance to bond withwolves and wolfdogs that have been rescued from abusive situations or abandoned because their wild roots make them poor pets. Together they heal and gain a sense of belonging — and a second chance at life.

“Combat veterans have been paid to be predators, much like wolves,” says LARC co-founder and Navy veteran Matthew Simmons. “Many come home with this inner war inside them. They don’t know if they’re an infantryman or a husband. And my wolves don’t know if they’re a wolf or a dog. That inner turmoil they’re both suffering bonds them together and they form a partnership that helps them both.”

LARC veteran bonds with wolfdog

A LARC veteran bonds with wolfdog Cochise who was relinquished by his owner for being a problem pet. (Photo: Sarah Varley)

Life after trauma

Simmons is intimately familiar with the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After serving in the Navy, including a stint in Desert Storm, he returned home and launched a computer company. He felt focused and successful, but the harrowing memories of combat lay buried, waiting to surface. He began waking at night soaked in sweat and felt strangely agitated after business meetings.

As his sleeplessness and emotional turbulence grew, Simmons consulted a psychiatrist who prescribed sleeping pills. He was soon popping a few at a time and washing them down with wine. “By this point I’d sold my computer company and was in turmoil, drinking too much and taking too many pills,” he says.

Desperate to stop his downward slide, Simmons visited another psychiatrist who diagnosed him with PTSD and suggested getting immediate help through the Veterans Administration (VA). PTSD can develop after traumatic events, including combat, and may cause nightmares, flashbacks, detachment, angry outbursts, addiction and sometimes suicide.

“I didn’t know what PTSD was, nor did I necessarily think I had it,” Simmons says. “I was a big tough guy.”

But he heeded the advice and connected with the VA Medical Center in West Los Angeles where he soon found himself volunteering to care for abandoned parrots and other exotic birds living on-site in the Serenity Park Sanctuary. Run by licensed clinical psychologist Lorin Lindner, the eco-therapy program helps traumatized veterans and traumatized birds recover together.

The experience changed his life. “That’s where I met the three animals I believe have kept me safe, sane and sober,” Simmons says.

The first two were Maggie and Ruby, feral parrots from San Francisco that had barely survived a brutal raccoon attack. “I watched them physically heal, and whether I was cognizant of it or not, I watched them forgive and let go,” Simmons says. Gaining their trust and nursing them back to health helped him release his own emotional wounds.

His third guardian “animal” was Dr. Lindner, now his wife.

LARC founds with rescue horse and wolfdog

Lindner and Simmons pictured at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center with a rescue horse Megan and Huey, a good-natured wolfdog found abandoned on the streets of Houston. (Photo: Jennifer Dallas)

Eco-therapy for the soul

In 2007, the couple bought a remote property outside Los Angeles in Frazier Park, known for its panoramic mountain views and pristine beauty. They started LARC, a privately funded non-profit, and began rescuing abused horses. At the same time, they learned about captive wolves and high-content wolfdogs (wolves with dog heritage) also in need of forever homes. Many are bred as exotic pets, only to be relinquished to shelters or permanently chained outside for exhibiting natural “wild” and “aggressive” wolf behaviors rooted in their DNA. Wolfdogs aren’t eligible for adoption at shelters so are usually euthanized.

After saving a wolfdog named Wiley minutes before he was to be destroyed, Simmons started taking him on visits to the VA. He was amazed at Wiley’s positive impact on everyone there. “The doctors acted different, the guys in my support group acted different, the security guard acted different, and so did I,” he says. “Absolutely everything changed.”

The couple decided to launch the Warriors and Wolves program at LARC, patterned after Lindner’s successful parrot program, to help veterans with PTSD who needed additional help. “These guys usually have a drug and alcohol problem,” Simmons says. “They’re disenfranchised from their families, often homeless, and many are suicidal.”

The couple also continued rescuing wolfdogs, including 29 that had spent their lives chained in a small enclosure at a roadside wolf attraction near Anchorage, Alaska. Former game show host and long-time animal activist Bob Barker donated $100,000 to fund the rescue.

The cornerstone of Warriors and Wolves is the idea that nature can heal a broken spirit. Veterans — who are either employed by LARC or volunteer — go on nature hikes and participate in stream-bed restoration, but the heart of their work is caring for the wolves and wolfdogs, who, like them, are outsiders and often misunderstood.

LARC volunteers cut up raw meat

Veteran volunteers cut up raw meat for LARC’s wolves and wolfdogs. Meat is obtained from the Landfill Diversion Program — mostly overstock and sell-by-date cuts that would otherwise be tossed by grocery stores. (Photo: Matthew Simmons)

Most quickly bond with one specific wolf or wolfdog. “The animal selects the veteran, and it’s a unique selection to that veteran,” Simmons says. “They usually have similar trauma and similar physical ailments. There’s no way they could know that. Some sort of cross-species communication goes on between them.”

Most remarkable is the special solace and healing they find together — a bond that lasts for life. And it’s not just with their soulmate animal; veterans are also accepted into the wolf pack where they learn about family and trust.

Many of the veterans go on to good jobs, often working with animals. Those who need more time can transition to the New England Wolf Advocacy and Rescue Center (NEWARC) in New Hampshire, which Simmons and Lindner started in 2013. Veterans live and work there for six months to a year, earning a good salary and continuing to heal. Many are able to reconnect with wives and children they pushed away during their PTSD battles and repair damaged relationships.

“Our program heals veterans who would otherwise probably die,” says Simmons. “And the wolves get to live out their lives and maybe share it in a special way with another sentient being who’s also suffered. It’s magical and special.”

Rescued wolfdog at LARC

Like many wolfdogs, Willow Girl was turned over to a shelter by her owners and slated to be euthanized. She now lives freely in a 3-acre natural habitat enclosure at LARC. (Photo: Renae Smith)

By Sidney Stevens

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Wolves at the “back door”   Leave a comment

November 6, 2015

Source D.C. Chieftain

Hearing set about county effort to halt release

Mexican Wolf at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge Wolf facility. Courtesy photo

Protecting livestock and human lives are among the reasons some are opposed to the release of Mexican Wolves in Socorro County.

Helping the wolves fight off extinction is the reason others support the federal governments’ intention to release the wolves despite opposition from local and state officials.

There seems to be no middle ground heading into a public hearing and possible vote by the Socorro county Board of Commissioners to bar the release of the wolves as part of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.

“It seems to be an inflammatory effort to get the federal government to back off its decision to release the wolves into Socorro County,” said Michael Robinson, of the Center of Biological Diversity, about the proposed ordinance the commissioners could vote on at their meeting Tuesday.

A commissioner from a neighboring county doesn’t quite see the issue the same way.

“It’s easy to be for the release when it’s not happening at your back door,” said Catron County Commissioner Anita Hand.

Socorro County Commissioner Martha Salas will be among officials making a decision after residents are given the opportunity to make their opinions known at the 10 a.m. meeting.

County Manager Deliliah Walsh said the ordinance is on the agenda to be voted on.

But it’s possible they could table it, Walsh said.

Should the commissioners approve the ordinance, it would go in effect 60 days after the vote, Walsh said.

The feedback Salas has received so far has been overwhelmingly against the release.

She recently attended a chapter meeting at the Alamo Navajo Reservation where reservation leaders voted against allowing the release in the county.

“They say the presence of the wolves has already pushed bears and cougars more toward the reservation,” Salas said. “Now they fear the wolves are going to be coming to the reservation.”

Robinson said the proposed release point in the San Mateos is far from the reservation, but acknowledged wolves could roam a good distance if their food source was scarce. He said the wolves generally stayed confined if food sources were plentiful.

Catron County Attacks

Hand cites attack on livestock as a primary reason she is opposed to the release. So far in 2015, she said there have been 36 confirmed wolf kills on livestock, with four other possible kills.

The county also records two cows being injured in wolf attacks, as well as 5 pets.

Hand also cited 10 sightings of wolves by county residents, including five up close in which a wolf charged two adults, a wolf followed a 12-year old on horseback and one that came within 30 feet of a 2 ½-year old.

“Imagine seeing a cat with no head, a dog ripped apart or calves chewed up,” Hand said.

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who represents Socorro County, cites the attacks in Catron County as a reason for his opposition to the wolf recovery program. He said he would continue to back efforts to defund the program in Congress.

“Most of Catron County is federal land,” Pearce said. “They have a small tax base. They depend heavily on the cattle industry.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public Affairs Specialist Jeff Humphrey said the organization understands concerns about the potential for attacks on livestock or people.

“Human safety remains of utmost concern to the Service,” Humphrey said. We advise the public to always take the necessary steps and precautions to remain safe when in nature. We have not documented any cases of Mexican wolf attacks on a person.”

Robinson and Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chairwoman of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed with Humphrey that attacks on humans were rare and even said that attacks on livestock were not as common as portrayed.

Ray, who lives in the San Mateos, saw wolves near her home.

“And they ran away as soon as they saw me,” Ray said.

She said the pack has since been relocated to Arizona.

Robinson cited federal statistics kept each year in wolf recovery program in the Blue Range recovery area. The statistics showed the most livestock kills in a year by the wolves was 36 in 2007. A total of 30 kills were recorded in 2014.

The statistics can be found at:

http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/pdf/Wolf_livestock_domestic_pet_conflict.pdf

and also reveals action by the Fish and Wildlife Services in response to attacks.

“Cattle is not really on their menu,” Ray said.

Elk is among the main sources of food for the wolves, Robinson and Ray said.

Ray and Humphrey both emphasize that rules are now set up to allow residents to “take” or kill wolves in case of such attacks. or if they feel they are in danger. Ray said residents can obtain permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do so.

“The Endangered Species Act, as well as our regulations for the MWEPA, allow for the take (including injuring or killing) of a Mexican wolf in self-defense or the defense of others,” Humphrey said. “Our regulations also provide for opportunistic harassment and intentional harassment of Mexican wolves. The regulations also allow for the take of a Mexican wolf under various circumstances to protect pet dogs and livestock.”

The ordinance, however, makes the Socorro Sheriff’s Office the agency the public should use in dealing with wolf interactions if U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services are not available. County Attorney Adren Nance said the ordinance does not give the Sheriff’s Office new authority, but recognizes the authority the Sheriff’s Office already has.

The Socorro County Sheriff’s Office serves as animal control in the county.

Needed for survival

Ray feels the wolf relief program is necessary because “we destroyed the species.”

Both Robinson and Humphrey said the release was necessary to introduce diversity into genes of the Mexican wolves already in the wild. Robinson said inbreeding has made the wolves more vulnerable to disease and lowered their reproduction rate, cutting their chances of survival.

“The wild population does not have adequate gene diversity, which compromises the health of individual wolves (inbreeding) and the overall health of the population,” Humphrey said. “We can improve the gene diversity of the wild population by releasing wolves from captivity with genes not already represented in the wild population. In other words, our releases from captivity at this time will be aimed at improving the genetic situation rather than increasing the size of the population, which is growing naturally without the aid of initial releases.”

Supporters of the wolf release program question whether Socorro County has the authority to enforce the ordinance on federal land.

Nance acknowledges that case law conflicts on whether the ordinance would be enforceable.

“But it would address the release on private land and would prevent a ranch owner such as Ted Turner from doing so, ” Nance said.

Turner owns the Armendaris Ranch in southern New Mexico that is home to several wildlife research projects. Endangered species have been released on the ranch.

The U.S. Department of the Interior granted permission for the release of the wolves into the state a couple of weeks ago despite a decision by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in September to refuse the request by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to do so.

“I don’t like the federal government going against the wishes of the state of New Mexico, ” Pearce said. “Why don’t they release the wolves in Central Park? Wolves used to roam there too.”

Release not determined

Even with permission from DOI, the release of the wolves by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may not come for quite some time, Humphrey said.

“For 2016, our process is a bit more complicated, and potentially delayed, because we are still working with the Forest Service and the public to identify new initial release sites in the recently expanded Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA),” Humphrey said.

The number of wolves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to release into areas of Arizona and New Mexico has not been determined. The delay in the release has caused the service to shelve its previous plan.

“Last spring, we’d requested permits for up to 10 pups (for cross-fostering) and a pair of adults and their progeny,” Humphrey said. “The window/season for such releases has passed, so these releases aren’t imminent.”

The Mexican wolf population has grown for several years in a row, reaching its highest population size to date as of the 2014 end of year count, at a minimum of 110 wolves.

“We wil conduct our 2015 annual count in January 2016,” Humphrey said

At the 2014 end of year count, the wolves were approximately equally spread between the two states, with Arizona having several more than New Mexico.

Currently, the location of the population can best be tracked using the “Occupied Range” map, available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/TADC.cfm . People can click on the map for a larger version of it. This map also indicates the most recent aerial locations of the radio-collared wolves.

By Scott Turner El Defensor Chieftain managing editor editorial@dchieftain.com

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RZSS WildGenes Blog: The Himalayan Wolf Project   Leave a comment

September 9, 2015

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Last week I was in Kathmandu setting up genetic analysis methods for the Himalayan Wolf Project.

The project, which aims to provide a scientific basis for national and international conservation of the Himalayan wolf, is led by Geraldine Werhahn who is a researcher with the University of Oxford’s WildCru. RZSS Wildgenes is partnering with the project by providing design of genetic protocols and training to the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, a laboratory in the capital Kathmandu.

Geraldine has just returned from a two month expedition to the remote Humla Valley where she surveyed the wolves and collected their scats for analysis. In future, surveys will be expanded across the region where wolves are now predominantly confined to remote high valleys. Wolves are threatened by hunting both for protection against livestock loss and for the wildlife trade as their paws are popular talismans.

The survey team on the move through wolf habitat.

The survey team on the move through wolf habitat.

Himalayan-Wolf-Project_2

Helen and the CMDN team at work testing the new protocols designed by the RZSS WildGenes lab team in the Kathmandu lab.

Himalayan-Wolf-Project_3

Discussing some initial results.

Masala chai break with Kathmandu sky line.

Masala chai break with Kathmandu sky line.

Whilst Geraldine has been spending long days at altitude (over 4000m) looking for samples, the WildGenes team has been busy at the lab at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo developing genetic protocols for analysis of the samples. We did this with the help of the keepers from RZSS Highland Wildlife Park who collected scats from our very own grey wolves so that we could test-run the methods.

Once we had the protocols up and running, I could travel to Kathmandu to transfer them to the team at the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal who will conduct the bulk of the analysis. We are aiming to use genetic profiling to understand how many wolves there are, what sex they are and how evolutionarily different they are from Eurasian grey wolf.

Dr Helen Senn
RZSS Research Scientist

What it’s all about: The elusive Himalayan wolf.

What it’s all about: The elusive Himalayan wolf.

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Last call to be part of saving the sanctuary!   2 comments

2015-08-16

Together we’ve been watching the challenges faced by local wolf and wolfdog sanctuary, In Harmony With Nature, as they faced the potential for losing their property over the past year following an illness of a benefactor and other difficulties.  You helped us share the story, raise funds, and work to make a paw-sitive difference for these amazing animals and local educational resource.  THANK YOU for your support!!

Gavin, Volunteer with the Artist Heroes project

This refuge has been in a veritable Schrodinger’s Box for quite a while – and we will soon get to peek inside.  Your continued support over the next couple of weeks could mean the difference between a bright future for these animals – or an uncertain and potentially devastating one.

The property was lost at action to the bank – they outbid the individual who entered the auction to save the property.  Now, the property is with a company that will be selling it – and the sanctuary has the option to work with them.  There are many potential positive outcomes, but in a likely scenario In Harmony will need to have the cash to purchase the property.

If you haven’t pledged yet, or would consider making an additional pledge, please log in today.  Your contribution could make all the difference.

handpaw2

How does this benefit you and our greater community?  Come join our Picnic With Wolves on December 5th for a tour, or simply think about the potential for local youth to have a wolf and wolfdog tour or service project to learn about a unique aspect of responsible pet ownership and breeding; a group tour or service event for your social group, work group, or team; and most importantly the service to these animals that is unique, specialized, and in great demand.   There are scores of wolfdogs on waiting lists for rescues – and only a few specialized agencies able to care for them.  Let’s not lose this one, that is located in our local community and has the potential not only to impact the animals, but to provide a wonderful engagement opportunity for us all.

You can learn more about the refuge at IHWN.org.

Other Links:

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http://ihwn.org/

SOURCE

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