In 2016, five red wolf pups were born at Wolf Haven (four survived). The following spring, eight red wolf pups were born – TO THE SAME PARENTS! F1945 (Nash) and M1482 (Tala) are now the proud parents of twelve offspring.
Jacob and Tamaska were part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan program, a federally managed program designed to maintain the genetic health and viability of this incredibly endangered species.
Jacob had recently turned 11, and though not considered old by Wolf Haven standards, he was approaching old age. We began to notice some changes in him; most notably, he seemed a little slower than usual. One morning, instead of eagerly waiting at the fence for food and dancing from foot to foot as usual, he hung back. Despite this change in behavior, Jacob continued to eat and move well, but on June 3, he was found lying in his daybed next to the large oak tree in his enclosure. Animal care staff brought Jacob to the clinic where blood work revealed advanced kidney failure. Sadly, there was nothing that could be done but help our friend pass peacefully. Jacob was humanely euthanized at the clinic without ever waking up.
Jacob’s passing took a toll on his enclosure mate, Tamaska. Often when a wolf loses his or her mate, we see what we would call grief manifest in myriad ways, just as we do with humans. Sometimes it is general lethargy, or lack of appetite, or some other change in behavior. For Tamaska, it was all of these things.
Initially we attributed these changes to her adjusting to life without Jacob, but when her behavior didn’t improve, we took her to the veterinary clinic. Bloodwork revealed that Tamaska had Addison’s disease, a disorder of the adrenal gland that is often exacerbated by stress. The most likely scenario is that she had this underlying condition for a while but the stress of Jacob’s passing was the tipping point. They were very bonded and it’s difficult to say what her quality of life would have been moving forward. We could have tried to manage it – the condition is fairly common in certain breeds of dogs – but it would have required us catching her up every 20 days for the rest of her life for injections. This might be ok with a domestic dog, but not a red wolf.
The kindest thing we could do was to help her pass on. Tamaska passed away on June 15, less than two weeks after Jacob died.
Tamaska and Jacob had been very bonded while they lived together at Wolf Haven. In death, we plan to put them together in our memorial garden – just as they should be. Rest in peace beautiful Tamaska and handsome Jacob.
Unique species nearly exterminated
What makes the red wolf so special? For one thing, the red wolf is one of only two wolf species indigenous to North America. Second, the red wolf can be found ONLY in the U.S. – no other country in the world has a native population of red wolves. Third, at its lowest point in the 1970s, the wild red wolf population had dwindled to a mere 14 wolves in the world.
This beautiful representative of our country is smaller than his gray wolf cousin, and typically weigh between 50-80 pounds. Wolf Haven International participates in a special program that is contributing to the recovery of the red wolf. The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) program is headquartered at Point Defiance Zoo in Washington State.
What happened to the red wolf?
Red wolves were victims of predator extermination programs and habitat loss. The original red wolf range extended throughout the southeast portion of the United States. As gray wolves were eradicated, coyotes experienced a population explosion and radically expanded their range east. Simultaneously, as the red wolf population fell, coyotes and red wolves began to interbreed.
How do you save a red wolf?
A red wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) was developed to manage and oversee the captive population of this endangered species, in consort with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Although the Service is currently not releasing captive red wolves into the wild, the SSP maintains a genetically diverse captive population as a safety net, should something happen to the wolves in the wild. Today there are approximately 75 free ranging (wild) red wolves roaming their native habitat in northeastern North Carolina in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, and a captive population of just under 200 red wolves among 45 facilities in the U.S. As is the case with the Mexican wolf SSP program, annual conferences are held during which representatives of participating facilities meet to discuss the status of the red wolf, and make critical transfer and breeding recommendations for the coming year. The 2015 red wolf SSP conference was held July 22-24 at Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, MO, outside of St. Louis.
Wolf Haven’s role in red wolf recovery efforts
In 2003, Wolf Haven was approved to participate in the Red Wolf SSP program as a captive breeding facility. The red wolves living here are essentially on loan to us from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and we follow very strict rules and guidelines for the care and maintenance of these animals. Interaction with humans is kept to a minimum and most observations are done by remote camera. Specialized enclosures have been built that meet the size, space and privacy requirements of the Red wolf SSP program.
Our red wolf residents – meet Jacob, Tamaska, Tala & Nash
There are currently four red wolves in residence in the sanctuary, though they are not on the visitor route. Jacob, Tamaska and Tala are all available for symbolic adoption, and Nash will be in the near future, once she has settled in at her new home.
by Wendy Spencer, Director of Animal Care and Kim Young, Director of Communications/ Wolf Haven International
Ruby was one of the red wolves living at Wolf Haven as part of the Red wolf Species Survival Plan program. She passed away in June. Below is a farewell written in her honor and sent to those caring people who had symbolically adopted her.
by Meghan Murphy, Animal Care Assistant
It is with great sadness that I am writing to you because our friend Ruby has passed away. Ruby was only nine years old and very happy and healthy. Her passing was sudden and unexpected and we are all grieving her loss.
During a routine morning walk through the sanctuary on Wednesday June 10, animal care staff noticed Ruby was not out running and posturing at the fence line with her neighbors as she usually does. When animal care staff investigated further, Ruby was found in one of her dens not moving. She had died during the night. Her belly was a little distended, which is not unusual after death, and there were no signs of injury.
The night before her death Ruby had been happily romping and running with her companion Tala, showing no signs of illness. Following her death a necropsy was performed and no cause of death was immediately found. The full results of the necropsy are currently pending.
It has been an honor to care for Ruby. Her bold, feisty and playful nature was a joy to behold. She will be greatly missed and will always remain in our hearts.
Thank you for your generosity, care and support of Ruby while she was with us at Wolf Haven. May her unique and vibrant spirit continue to live on in your heart.
by Wolf Haven volunteer Greg Wellsandt
On Saturday, Wolf Haven volunteer visit guide Traci was giving the first visit of the day, assisted by her flip chart turner, Greg (that’s me). At Enclosure #5, a howl started way out in the off-visit area. It took a long time to gain momentum, but soon the whole gang was fully engaged in the music making. Caedus and Ladyhawk put on a show at the front of their enclosure as did Klondike and Mehina.
Ruby and Tala even made an appearance to lend their unique voices. The howl went on for a long time much to the delight of the visitors who were snapping photos and recording the sounds. Finally, Ladyhawk had enough. She decided it was time to shut Caedus up because she was in the mood to play. She bent over in a quasi-submissive pose and attempted to get his attention. When that didn’t work, she tried to grab his jaw to stop the howling. Caedus gave it a thought for a moment, but went back to what he loves almost as much as eating, howling.
Ladyhawk was not to be deterred and continued to try to get Caedus’s attention. Finally, the howl started to diminish and the two became engaged in a bit of gentle roughhousing. Our sanctuary visitors were treated to a wonderful live display of wolf communication.