Wolf Conservation Center Wolf School episode 02 – Conservation of endangered Mexican grey and red wolves in the United States

Episode two of wolf school is here and this time we are joined by Regan Downey Director of Education for the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in New York State USA.

The mission of the WCC is to recover wolf populations across North America through education programming, participation in recovery programs, and advocacy efforts. 

Regan starts off the episode with a presentation about the center’s conservation work, including breeding and reintroduction programs of the endangered Mexican grey wolf and red wolf species. The second half of the episode takes us outside to the wolf enclosure to meet the center’s three ambassador wolves.

Alawa, Zephyr, and Nikai are a small family unit who bridge the gap between humans and wild wolves. They play an important role in the center because most people are afraid of wolves.

Wolves have been hunted for more than 400 years in the USA with the first arrival of European settlers. This was in part because humans wanted to protect themselves from wolves but more importantly protect their food source, including livestock and wild animal prey like elk, deer, and caribou, from wolves.

Even today we still see anti wolf campaigns in some areas of the southern USA, mostly ranchers who want to protect their livestock. In 1973 the United States government listed wolves under the endangered species act making it illegal to harm, or trap engendered wolf species such as the Mexican grey wolf. Sadly there are still states which allow annual wolf hunts or the killing of wolves by land owners.

Map of wild wolf populations in the USA.

400 years ago, the wild wolf population in the USA was estimated at 250,000 animals, that number dropped to around 800 by 1970. Following the introduction of the endangered species act, along with specific programs for wolf recovery wolf populations rebound to just over 6500 animals today, isolated in a few pockets around the country.

Regan discusses several of the conservation initiatives around the country since 1987 that have helped to reintroduce wolves back into the wild. In particular, she talks about the species survival program in place for the rarer Mexican grey wolf and red wolf populations.

We then learn more about WCC’s partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) captive breeding programs of these unique species, and their ongoing work to release wolves back into the wild.

Make sure to watch until the end as we get a private guided tour around the wolf enclosure.

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