May 17, 2012 at 5:50 PM
The smallest of eight red wolf pups born at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium this week has died. Zoo officials discovered the dead female Thursday morning. The cause of death is unknown.
The pups’ mother, an 8-year-old named Millie, appears to be taking good care of her remaining seven offspring — four males and three females — said Will Waddell, the zoo’s Red Wolf Recovery program coordinator.
Red wolves are one of the most endangered mammals on earth. The wild population numbers only about 100, all living along the coast of North Carolina. The Tacoma zoo is a key breeding facility in the ongoing effort to save the species from extinction.
The public should be able to see the newborn pups in a few weeks, when they venture out of their den.
May 17, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Red wolf pups born at Tacoma zoo will give the public a glimpse of one of the world’s rarest mammals
For nearly four decades, Washington has been the hub of a breeding program for endangered red wolves. But the public has rarely had a chance to oooh and aaah over the offpsring — until now.
A litter of eight pups, born this week at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, should begin venturing out of their den and into public view within three to four weeks. In the meantime, the zoo hopes to provide glimpses of the youngsters and their mom via a video feed. “It’s a remarkable opportunity for the public to connect with this species,” said Karen Goodrowe Beck, the zoo’s general curator.
A video screen grab shows Millie with some of her new pups in their den
With a wild population of about 100, red wolves are one of the rarest mammals. Even Africa’s mountain gorillas far outnumber them. The Tacoma zoo played a key role in rescuing the wolves from extinction beginning in the 1970s.
Once common from Texas to Pennsylvania to Florida, the animals were hunted and trapped until all that remained was a remnant population on the Gulf Coast. Federal biologists captured the last 17 wolves and brought them to a breeding facility at Point Defiance Zoo’s Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, in the shadow of Mount Rainier. The animals’ descendants were eventually released into the wild in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, the first effort in the U.S. to re-establish a species in its native habitat.
Red wolves in the wild
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo
Smaller than gray wolves, red wolves are known for patches of reddish fur behind their ears and on their necks. They’re often mistaken for coyotes, with which they interbreed.
The breeding program continues behind the scenes at Northwest Trek. Most of the animals born there now are destined for zoos that are part of a species conservation program, said Will Waddell, Point Defiance’s red wolf program coordinator. The animals in captivity represent a living reserve that could be tapped in case catastrophe strikes the wild population, he explained. “We’re a safety net.”
To pump fresh blood into the wild population, biologists occasionally slip newborn pups from the captive breeding programs at Northwest Trek and other zoos into the litters of wild females, who raise them as their own.
Pups from a breeding program at a Chicago zoo are transplanted to the wild
But the litter born to the 8-year-old female named Millie won’t be going anywhere — at least until they’re grown. One of four red wolves in a new exhibit at the Tacoma zoo, Millie gave birth to the first two pups on Mother’s Day. Then she kept going. Over the next 30 hours, she birthed six more pups. Zoo staff examined the newborns for the first time on Wednesday and found four males and four females.
Mother Millie keep a watchful eye out while zoo staff examine her pups
Photo courtesy Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
If all the youngsters survive, it’s likely that some of them will be eventually moved to other zoos, to help boost their breeding programs, Waddell said.
Meanwhile, the wild wolves in North Carolina are facing many of the same threats as their gray cousins, which were reintroduced to the Rocky Mountains starting in 1995. Several red wolves are shot every year, and others are killed by cars. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to establish additional populations, but local residents are wary.
May 11, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Now is the time to get out and go see the amazing changes underway in the Elwha for yourself. The road access to the Whiskey Bend trail has been reopened, and the lower dam is entirely gone … what are you waiting for?
The emerging landscapes of the former lake bottoms of the reservoirs of the Elwha dams make for fascinating hiking. These cliffs are at former Lake Mills.
There are a whole range of ways to explore and enjoy the emerging landscape. Here are some suggestions: take binoculars, wear sturdy boots, dress in layers and prepare to be in a very open, exposed landscape with wind, sun, the works. Mostly, bring your camera. What you see in the Elwha today is history in the making, year one in a changing ecosystem that will never look precisely like this again.
Here are some ways to go see it for yourself:
For elderly, wheel chair users, or others who want a quick easy sample:
The National Park Service has provided an overlook viewpoint to observe what was the lower dam site, where the river now runs free. There’s free parking, a portable toilet and easy strolling or rolling access road to the overlook, easily managed in a wheelchair. You will want binoculars to better appreciate the view, which is distant. There is a second overlook that is not handicapped-accessible, but reached by a short and easy hike. A good place to share a picnic lunch and think about all that has come and gone at this vista.
The overlook is clearly signed, and reached immediately after turning off Lower Dam Road from State Route 112 just off State Route 101, toward Forks. You’ll see the turn off on your left.
May 9, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Walking through the lowlands of southwest Washington, I have spotted plenty of signs of beavers at work. But I never came upon anything quite like this tree that I hiked by in late April.
From a distance, it seemed this hardwood was so precariously perched that a modest shove might knock it over. Then I got close, and gave it a push. It didn’t budge. The trunk still had a strong inner core of wood that had yet to be chewed through by the beaver’s teeth.
I wondered what was the beaver was up to. Why not just saw it all the way through, and be done with the job?
May 8, 2012 at 11:00 AM
I was at the Montlake Fill last week on a dreamy spring afternoon, with the sun in and out, the clouds a puffy parade and the birds in their full spring splendor. Even Puget Sound’s resident LBBs (little brown birds) color up for spring. Take a look at this goldfinch!
A goldfinch, in spring finery, at the Montlake Fill this week. Photo by Steve Ringman, The Seattle Times
International Migratory Bird Day is fast approaching, on the second Saturday in May, and many of our local long distance travelers have arrived by now and are busily nesting. The swallows at the pond closest to Husky Stadium, with its inviting standing snags, is swallow central right now, and an afternoon spent watching them dip and swoop is a fine thing indeed.
A tree swallow back from a foraging flight feeds its young, safely tucked in a snag at the Montlake Fill. Steve Ringman photo
The migration of the spring bringers is one of the great miracles of nature, with tiny birds powering all the way here from as far south as northern South America. The local birds also turn out in spring finery, to attract mates. “You have migration and transformation all at the same time,” said wildlife photographer and author Paul Bannick, who joined me at the fill. “Cross bills in the off season look like they shopped at the army surplus store. But in spring! They are just glowing red.”
The good news is that Bannick, who wowed readers with his book The Owl and the Woodpecker (Mountaineers Books, 2008) is working on another book that has him traveling and photographing birds all over the region. “Everything’s happening at once!” Bannick said. Spoken like a true birder.
May 4, 2012 at 9:00 AM
If you missed it when it aired last month, go to the KTCS website and watch Katie Campbell’s fine documentary on the Elwha and its restoration.
A new documentary on the Elwha produced by KTCS is a pleasure and suitable for all viewers, including students
Comprehensive, beautifully photographed and rich in history and context, it’s rewarding both for someone new to the story and those already steeped in it.
As the restoration and dam removal continues, the changes on the the Elwha are dramatic. Here are some more amazing aerial photos from Tom Roorda:
Dam? What dam? This aerial photo of the former site of Elwha Dam taken April 28 shows just how quickly and profoundly change has come to the Elwha. Tom Roorda, photo.
Meanwhile the sediment plume is still booming out of the river, as the fine material stuck behind Elwha Dam since 1910 is rinsed out by the river.
Sediment levels are about 50 times higher than normal in the river right now. Tom Roorda, photo, taken April 28. In this photo the plume of sediment flowing out of the Elwha is moving east in the saltwater Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Outmigrating smolts from coho planted between the dams right now will have to deal with higher sediment levels in the river. Clear water in side channels may prove important refuges for them. Born of 88 nests made by adult coho transported above the lower dam last fall, these baby coho are the first salmon born above Elwha Dam in 100 years.
Selected Northwest animal webcams
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