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 New Blood For The Breed, 10/18/2006
Elffster
Posted: Oct 30 2006, 02:54 AM


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Five Mexican gray wolves will call zoo home

By PAULA RHODEN
The Daily Courier

Big eyes,

Big ears,

Big teeth.

Five Mexican gray wolf pups are coming to Heritage Park Zoo.

Executive Director Kim Disney said Sunday afternoon that the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan designated Heritage Park Zoo as a "premier designation for wolves" in the survival program.

"I am thrilled to announce that we have been awarded five young pups from Columbus, Ohio. The pups are about 1 year old. Hopefully, we can keep them comfortable and introduce them into the breeding pool. The pups are some of the most genetically pure Mexican gray wolves in the country," Disney said.

The director said the zoo's selection as the new home for the wolf pupsis a "tribute to the quality of care provided here at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary."

Disney said, "I don't think people who live here know how highly regarded this place is" in animal circles.

The director said Hawkeye, the zoo's Mexican gray wolf, is retiring and moving to a new home.

Zoo officials are trying to fly the wolf pups to their new home.

Mexican gray wolves are among the most endangered mammals in the world. They are smaller than their cousins, the gray wolf.

Currently, about 300 Mexican gray wolves exist in captive programs and experts believe only 37 exist in the wild.

Disney's announcement coincided with the National Wolf Awareness Week.

Heritage Park Zoo conducted numerous children's programs and craft projects centered on wolf education.

The day's events culminated in a presentation by Yellowstone Association Institute wildlife biologist Brad Bulin about the reintroduction of gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park and other areas throughout the United States.

Bulin said his job is to "take people into Yellowstone and teach them about wolves."

The wildlife biologist said three types of wolves live in North America the gray wolf, the Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf.

The Mexican gray wolf is a smaller subspecies of the gray wolf. Bulin said the red wolf is a smaller separate species,

Bulin said when Europeans began settling the West they brought their wolf myths Little Red Riding Hood and werewolves with them.

"I walk in Yellowstone every single day and I have no fear of wolves attacking me," he said. "But, when you hear a wolf howl in the middle of the night, and you are camping by yourself, it will send a shiver down your spine."

Bulin said people hunted wolves at the same time big game animals were disappearing. He said people thought that if they killed wolves, big game numbers would increase.

The 1914 Predator Control Act put a bounty on wolves, bears and other predatory animals.

"In the park, training included how to kill wolves. Within 12 years all the wolves were gone, except in northern Minnesota and Alaska," Bulin said.

In 1970, Congress adopted the Endangered Species Act, which included the Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf. The ESA gave Congress the power to reintroduce wolves into the United States.

Listing wolves on the ESA prevents anyone from killing them, or even harassing them. For that reason, Bulin said, wolves are listed as a non-essential, experimental population in re-introduction areas allowing wildlife biologists to manage them.

In 1995, rangers introduced 14 gray wolves in Yellowstone and 17 more in 1996.

"Today, the population of gray wolves has exceeded the recovery goals," Bulin said.

As for Mexican gray wolves, Bulin said 26 wolves with telemetry collars live in Arizona and New Mexico in the recovery area.

Bulin said about 100 red wolves live in a recovery area in Georgia and another 150 are in captive breeding programs.

The biggest threat to smaller wolves, the biologist said, is interbreeding with coyotes.

"Hope is on the horizon for more wolves in recovery areas," Bulin said.

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com
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