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Tribute to Diablo, a Mexican gray wolf

Diablo's final portrait, 2017

Diablo’s final portrait (Julie Lawrence for Wolf Haven International, 2017)

At 17, Diablo defied the odds- most wolves never live to see their 10th birthday let alone their 17th – so we knew that we were on borrowed time. We realized that eventually his age would catch up with him and the day would come when we would need to say goodbye. That day came on Sunday, June 25.

Until nearly the end, Diablo enjoyed good quality of life. He had some age-related challenges; he had become hard of hearing, his vision wasn’t as sharp and he had generalized stiffness and weakness. This was particularly pronounced in his back-end, especially if he laid in the same spot for a long time and then tried to get up. All things considered, though, he was as spry as a 17 year-old wolf could be.

Gypsy and Diablo

Gypsy and Diablo  photo taken by Julie Lawrence

Diablo was immediately identifiable because of the twin notches in his ears.  He was born at a zoo in Detroit, where it is believed that the notches were caused by sibling squabbles. Diablo came to live at Wolf Haven in 2004 when he was three years old.

A Mexican gray wolf, Diablo was a participant in a federally managed Species Survival Plan program designed to preserve the survival and health of this critically endangered subspecies of the gray wolf. His longstanding companion was Gypsy, a female Mexican wolf.  Because their enclosure was on the public visitor route, over the years hundreds of people were privileged to see the beauty and unique coloration of this rare breed. Beyond  this, though, visitors could bear witness to a bonded pair that carried themselves with dignity and grace.

Young Diablo (2004)

Young Diablo (2004) taken by Julie Lawrence

Diablo was a teacher to us in so many ways and he undoubtedly touched everyone who encountered him. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to care for him all these years but there is definitely a void in the sanctuary, not only for his longtime companion Gypsy, but for all of us.

Rest in peace sweet Diablo.

Lovingly written by Wendy Spencer and Kim Young
Wolf Haven

Helping Save Mexican Wolves – A piece of my heart

Nearly exterminated in the wild during by the 1930s, the Mexican wolf remains one of the most endangered mammals in North America. In May, Wolf Haven’s Director of Animal Care Wendy Spencer assisted in the care & observation of two wolves scheduled for future release. This is Part 12 – the final chapter in an ongoing series of blog posts about her experience in Arizona.

The following morning, all was quiet at the pen. The wolves had opted to sleep in so it would be almost 40 minutes before I saw either one of them and even then, it was brief. We had heard fence fighting all night long until about 2:30 in the morning, so after such a long day and night, they were most likely exhausted. Since this was to be my last morning at the blind and watching the wolves, I said a little prayer and wished them a long, happy and safe life.

Beautiful Arizona skyline

Beautiful Arizona skyline

Back at camp, it was time to pack up and get on the road to Albuquerque. There was definitely a part of me that did not want to leave, so it was with mixed emotions that I loaded up and said goodbye. As I made towards Alpine, winding along the dry, dusty roads, I was reflected on the week that just passed. It was truly one of the most profound experiences I have ever had and even though it had only been a week, I felt as though I was leaving a little piece of my heart in the  Apache forest and with all those who lived there too.

Update: The day I departed, the IFT set traps by the pen in hopes of trapping and collaring the unknown wolf.  I received word a few days later that they were indeed able to trap and collar her and she is now identified as F1305. Because the free ranging pair continued to localize around the pen site and appeared prepared to defend their territory if the Coronado pack was released, it was with great disappointment that the IFT decided to return M1051 and F1126 back to captivity. It was by no means an easy decision for the field team but after giving it very careful consideration and evaluating all the pros and cons associated with going forward with the release, it was decided that removing the Coronado pack and returning them to captivity was in the best interest of all the wolves involved. However, just because the pair did not go out this season, they are still slated for release at some point in the next year. The Alpine wilderness has not seen the last of these two.

 

Helping Save Mexican Wolves (#6) – disappointment

Nearly exterminated in the wild during by the 1930s, the Mexican wolf remains one of the most endangered mammals in North America. In May, Wolf Haven’s Director of Animal Care Wendy Spencer assisted in the care & observation of two wolves scheduled for future release. This is Part 6 of an ongoing series of blog posts about her experience in Arizona.

One of the two collared wolves intended for release into the wild.

One of the two collared wolves intended for release into the wild.

A few hours later Quinn from the IFT (Interagency Field Team) showed up at camp and he and I drove down to the pen to feed and water the wolves. As we approached the pen, we noticed the wolves were running hard and because it was already in the 70’s,it was important to do what we needed to as expediently as possible and then get out. The pen is situated in the center of a basin, will hillside surrounding all but the northern side. The pen itself looked very similar to the set-up we have at home. It was approximately 1/3 of an acre in size and is comprised of  9 gauge, 8 ft high vertical fencing with an overhang as well as a 3 ft ground skirt hog -ringed to the bottom of the vertical at a 90 degree angle.  It took the field team about 2 weeks to construct the pen- a very ambitious endeavor in the middle of nowhere! There was little “furniture” inside the pen aside from a wooden den box but there were several down trees and stumps that the wolves had dug day beds next to.

Eight foot high vertical fencing with overhang & ground skirt.

Eight foot high vertical fencing with overhang & ground skirt.

We quickly fed out 2 back elk legs and changed their water troughs before exiting the pen. Once again, the field team needed a fresh eye to look at the female to try and determine whether or not she was nursing, and a quick glance was all I needed. As much as I had hoped otherwise, I felt very confident that there were no pups- it was much easier to see in person that her abdomen was tucked up which was inconsistent with nursing. It takes 10-14 days for the female’s milk to dry up, so if she did whelp or abort or reabsorb, it had been at least that long.

Print left by one of penned Mexican gray wolves.

Print left by one of penned Mexican gray wolves.

This was not the news that the IFT was hoping to hear. The release date had already been pushed back once due to the prospect of pups, but if there were indeed no pups, what would that now mean for release? I was told that most likely the date would be pushed back up- perhaps after the holiday weekend. No doubt an IFT conference call was in order….. (to be continued)