Located south of Puget Sound in the town of Tenino, Washington, Wolf Haven International (WHI) leads the fight for wolves in the wild with their participation in an international Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Mexican gray wolves. As an SSP participant since 1994, WHI has produced five litters of Mexican gray pups, and released two packs or eleven animals into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA), which includes the Apache National Forest. After 30 years of absence from the wild Wolf Haven became a major player in wolf recovery! The release of the Hawk’s Nest pack (a family of six wolves from Wolf Haven) took place in 1998. In 2000, a second pack of Mexican gray wolves (the Cienega Pack) was transferred from Wolf Haven to Arizona and released. Our continued participation in the SSP program is critical to the ongoing protection of this highly endangered mammal.
The bi-national agreement with the Mexican government and USFWS has allowed us to transfer six of our female Mexican gray wolves to an SSP facility, the Museo del Desierto, in Saltillo, Mexico. The ability to transfer our wolves augments the gene diversity of the population of captive Mexican gray wolves. Due to the fact that only seven wolves made up the foundation of the original Mexican gray wolf program, the genetics, DNA and lineage of every animal is of vital importance. A wolf`s ancestry is run through a computer to determine suitable prospective mates. We have been recommended for breeding two pair of Mexican gray wolves in 2013.
We are also one of only three pre-release facilities in the United States for the Mexican gray wolf. Specialized enclosures are built to meet the requirements for size and privacy. We prepare wolves to live as wild wolves by minimizing human interaction and observing our animals by remote camera. The SSP program, USFWS and Arizona Department of Game and Fish manage initial releases in the U.S.
Wolf Haven serves to provide a holding facility for other viable pairings. Despite the fact that our SSP animals are on loan from U.S. FISH and Wildlife Services (USFW), we receive NO funding to assist with the costs of running this program. Private donations, memberships and symbolic adoptions fund the program.
Delegates from the U.S. and Mexico meet yearly to make decisions about breeding, transfer and release of wolves. In July 2012, WHI hosted the annual SSP meeting. SSP facilities house 300 Mexican wolves in 52 facilities – 34 across America and 18 in Mexico.
The GOOD news is that during the annual year-end survey, the Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) counted 75 wolves in the wild! Twenty pups were born in 2012. There are 37 wolves in the wild in Arizona and 38 in New Mexico. In 2009 only 40 Mexican gray wolves were found in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area! This is a huge increase but not enough. More wolves must be released here. The strategy of USFW, in the words of Ben Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director, Is to “increase the genetic viability of the wild population, and implement activities that support wolves in the wild. Releases are one of the most important tools we use for improving the genetic viability of the wild population”. We can and have made a difference; our work is not yet done. We must continue to write letters, speak about the need to release these wolves at state Fish and Game meetings and write letters to wildlife officials.
Please visit our website at wolfhaven.org, meet our wolves, learn about other programs we offer, become a member and a part of our journey. My hope is that one day from a camping spot in the Apache National forest or the Gila Wilderness area we can hear the magnificent Howl of the Lobos!
Written by MaryAnn Murphy
Wolf Haven International SW Volunteer Outreach
You can see Lorenzo, Gypsy, Diablo, and Noel on a guided tour at the Wolf Haven International Sanctuary. For more information visit their website. http://wolfhaven.org/hours.php