June 11, 2011
Out-of-control wildfires threaten the home of Mexican Gray Wolves that came from the captive breeding program at the Eureka-based Endangered Wolf Center. Only 50 of these type of wolves were living in the wild.
A wildfire that started May 29 in Arizona is still raging out of control, threatening endangered wolves and other wildlife, and forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
Some of the wolves now threatened by devastating wildfires in Arizona originated in Eureka at The Endangered Wolf Center.
The center’s team worked to breed a number of Mexican Gray Wolves that were relocated over the past few years to wilderness areas in eastern Arizona, near the New Mexico border. Some of that area now is engulfed by a vicious fire, which has been deemed the third worst wildfire in Arizona’s history. The other two fires to which this one is being compared occurred in 2002 and 2005.
The fire started May 29, and has forced thousands of residents to evacuate.
“Wolves can burrow in, and firefighters in Arizona did see some recently near the fire line,” said Paul Zemitzsch, one of the center’s board members.
“But yesterday, firefighters indicated there was zero percent control over the fires. And we don’t know how many of the wolves have pups in danger, or if the pups are old enough to be as instinctual as the adults when it comes to handling a fire of this size.”
Only 50 of these endangered wolves exist in the wild overall, and the current fire threat could be a serious blow to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Program and the Endangered Wolf Center, said Zemitzsch.
The center is one of only two facilities in the world able to help the USFWS with a program to fit wolf pups with tracking collars that will allow for continuous tracking once a young wolf is released into the wild. Experts from the center indicate that adult wolves currently in the wild have similar collars but their pups do not—making it extremely difficult for wildlife experts to determine the safety of wolf pups in the Arizona/New Mexico wilderness areas.
“The Arizona fire is a very critical situation for us,” said Zemitzsch.
However, he said about the only step that can be taken to help now is to donate to The Endangered Wolf Center to ensure that the next generation of Mexican Gray Wolves survives to repopulate. The center’s volunteer team are happily watching six new pups that were born May 1.
Formerly called The Wild Canid Center, this non-profit organization is the premier wolf conservation, education, reproduction and research center in the United States. It is located on 63 isolated, wooded acres on Antire Road off Interstate 44. The center was founded in 1971 by the acclaimed naturalist and zoologist, the late Dr. Marlin Perkins, and his wife, Carol.
The center also is home to Maned Wolves, African Wild Dogs, Red Wolves and Small Fox.
Have you visited The Endangered Wolf Center lately, or donated to the group? Tell us in the comments.