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October 15, 2008

Our Wolf Experts Answer Your Questions: Part I

Happy Wolf Awareness Week!!

Thank you for sending us your questions on wolves. Due to an overwhelming response, we are not able to have our experts answer every question that was submitted. We have chosen the most popular questions for our experts to answer, the first batch is below:

Question 1: Katherine C asks: "Are the Red wolves of the Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina fully protected?"

Our Conservation Associate and red wolf expert Gina Schrader answers:

Gina_bio_3"Today, more than 100 wild red wolves roam more than 1.7 million acres throughout northeastern North Carolina, including Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Within their current range, red wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act as a non-essential experimental population. This designation offers special management regulations. Learn more about endangered red wolves."

Question 2: Denise K asks: "Why isn't more being done to let farmers and ranchers know about the guy who came up with the idea of recording his packs howling and giving that recording to the farmers/ranchers to play on their property to keep the wild wolves away from their flocks and herds? It has been proven that it works as wolves are territorial and will not go where another pack lives, and the howling of another pack lets them know to not trespass."

Our Northern Rockies associate and proactive expert, Jesse Timberlake, answers:

Jesse_bio_2"Work has been done on these 'howl boxes' for a number of years now. One has to be careful though and make sure that these recorded wolf howls do not attract nearby wolves. Wolves by their nature are very curious creatures, as are all canines, and if they hear a howl that they do not recognize, they may decide to come closer and check it out. Obviously this is the opposite effect that these boxes are intended for. State agencies have used Radio Activated Guard (RAG) boxes for a number of years. These boxes are tuned into the frequency of local collared wolves, and when they get too close the box emits a strobe light effect and recorded noises of gunshots and horses stampeding. These have proven to be a very effective tool to keep wolves out of cattle during calving season.

In fact this summer Defenders has helped fund a project that used similar 'howl boxes' to monitor the number of wolves in remote areas. These boxes emit howls on a timed schedule, and when nearby wolves howl back it records these noises and biologists can tell how many wolves are in a certain area. Defenders employs a wide array of nonlethal techniques which you can view on our Web site."

Question 3: Karen G asks: "Is it true that wolves have only one partner that they mate with for life?"

Our Northern Rockies representative and gray wolf expert, Suzanne Asha Stone, answers:

Suzanne_bio_2 "Wolves have very strong family bonds much like humans.  Alpha wolves are often the parents of the other pack members and typically are the only pack members to mate and produce pups, but not always. The alpha pair sometimes mate for life but wolves rarely live beyond 8 years old in the wild.  Sometimes an alpha wolf is killed and its mate may select a new alpha. Other times, when an alpha wolf dies, the pack itself disbands.  Sometimes, wolves change roles within a pack and a younger wolf may become an alpha leader.  However, wolves almost never interbreed with other family members but will seek out a mate that is unrelated to the pack.  That helps ensure better genetic stability within the species."

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