HOWL Colorado

No Alaskan Wolf Pups to be Saved this year?

[thumbnail icon url=”no-alaskan-wolf-pups-to-be-saved-this-year” filename=”news” year=”2009″ month=”12″ day=”01″] Maria Ferguson, of the Wolf Howl Animal Preserve, has been involved with an initiative which could place orphaned wolf pups in Alaska at authorized, approved sanctuaries around the country. 

Alaska, in response to public pressure – it does work – set up Wolf Pup Protocols for dealing with pups left behind by their culling practices. Maria Ferguson is discovering that not everything is as it should be.

Ferguson wrote the following and published it on their website – The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center’s own Darlene Kobobel is also part of this initiative.

Most of you know that I’ve been involved with a project  since November of last  year that would have saved the lives of Alaskan Wolf Pups. Last spring in addition to 14 adult Wolves killed, 14 pups were shot in their dens in action taken by Alaska’s Predator Control Program. The information was leaked to the press and due to the public outcry, the Division of Wildlife Conservation with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) put into place on November 11, 2008 Wolf Pup Protocols, signed by the Director Doug Larsen.

I read about this protocol in an article from an online paper in Juneau and wanted to offer Wolf Howl Animal Preserve as a place that would provide a home for any orphaned pups as an alternative to death in the 2009 cull. I contacted, by phone, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) as they were listed as the facility that would be looking into providing these homes in States other than Alaska, according to the protocols. Much to my amazement, the Director, Mike Miller didn’t even know anything about the protocol let alone being named a facility that would be seeking out homes for pups. I found it strange but became encouraged when Mike called me back and verified that he would indeed be doing this. He asked me at this point if I would be willing to find other facilities in the lower 48 that would also provide homes for orphaned pups. I readily accepted and immediately sought out other licensed and permitted Wolf facilities experienced in socializing Wolf pups. While I was busy finding suitable homes, Mike emailed me at the end of November that he informed ADF&G of what we were doing and that  approved facilities must have a stellar reputation, be well known or AZA approved. They are leery of “Wolf Parks,” small facilities, kennels or Road Side Zoos. They don’t have the time to confiscate a wolf from a bad placement or deal with problems if the animal is not in a proper facility. Otherwise they are happy we are doing the leg work. You can judge the facilities.

I could appreciate the concern that ADF&G had about placing pups in facilities that they did not personally know and I took the responsibility that Mike gave me seriously. I above anyone involved wouldn’t want to be responsible for bad placement. I said “No” to many places willing to take Wolves because I felt there would be a risk that the pups would possibly need rescuing at some point or that they were not financially or legally stable.

On February 9, 2009, Mike asked me for my prioritized list of facilities as he would be traveling to Juneau to meet with the new ADF&G permit person as the old one had quit her job. I finalized and delivered the list of facilities to him along with some questions and comments the facilities had regarding the pups being brought into the individual States on February 20, 2009.

On March 17, 2009, I hadn’t heard back from Mike or the ADF&G yet and I read several disturbing articles regarding the Predator Control Program in Alaska. The first article stated that ADF&G had started using helicopters on Saturday, March 11, 2009 and 30 Wolves were killed. ADF&G were hoping to kill another 70 in addition to Wolves taken by private plane hunters.

Another disturbing article was written by Bill Sherwonit who sat through days of an Alaskan Board of Game Meeting regarding the Predator Control Program. In the article, he informed us that the ADF&G was getting ready to use carbon-monoxide gas to kill wolf pups in dens, at least in some control areas.
After reading these two articles I became concerned. I tried contacting Mike Miller by phone and email. Staff at the AWCC informed me that he was busy with a project with the ADF&G regarding some wildlife he held at the center and it may take awhile for him to get back to me. In the meantime, Darlene Kobobel, the Director of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, informed me that a Karen Blejwas with ADF&G was contacting AZA facilities looking for possible placement of animals from Alaska, one of those being Wolf Pups. We thought that perhaps she was the new contact person Mike was going to be meeting with. I immediately sent an email to her with my list of facilities. Within an hour, I received a reply back that seriously shook me up.

Hi Maria,

I did contact Mike Miller to ask if he knew of any AZA-accredited facilities that were interested in wolf pups, however I was unaware that he had asked you to coordinate a placement effort on ADF&G’s behalf. As I told Mike in my email, we will only place wolf pups at AZA-accredited facilities. None of the facilities on your list meet that criterion. Although I appreciate your efforts to find good homes for any wolf pups that might need one, ADF&G will continue to work with our AZA contacts to find placements that meet department standards.

Thank you for your interest in Alaska’s wildlife.

Karen Blejwas

I was mortified as I had worked on this project since November and found wonderful homes for 24 orphaned pups if the need arose. Also, the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center is an AZA certified facility. The only difference between accredited and certified is that the first is open to the public on a regular basis and the other schedules private tours. I failed to see why this would make a difference.

If you don’t know what being AZA accredited is, here is a brief explanation from the AZA website

I would also like to add that while applying for an AZA accreditation your facility needs a mentor and is responsible for supplying expenses for their travel, lodging and meals. If and when your facility is approved, a percentage of your profit is then taken by the AZA. Cha-ching.

I will add that most Wolf facilities have No AZA accreditation of any sort since they don’t operate or take in profits, like public Zoos. We do, however, have permits from State Fish & Wildlife agencies and licenses from the USDA APHIS division along with annual inspections. I would like to tell you that in my opinion and that of others associated with Wolf caretaking, Wolves do NOT do well in a typical Zoo setting. The enclosures are often too small and their inherent fear of people prevent them from being relaxed with large amounts of visitors flooding the zoo on a daily basis. Our first three Wolves came from a Zoo setting where they developed some fears that took over a year to correct. Luckily they were still young enough to alleviate most of their fears but unfortunately not all of them.

I wrote Mike Miller an email asking what happened here and miraculously received an immediate reply, this was it:

The State of Alaska doesn’t expect to obtain any orphaned wolf pups this spring. If they do they can only place wolf pups in AZA accredited facilities. The good news is that the State has received requests from AZA approved facilities, so any orphaned wolf pups will have homes to go to. We should all be concerned about the animals and in this case all the wolf pups will live long lives.

I emailed him back immediately asking for the list of these AZA facilities that requested pups but haven’t received a reply to date.

Darlene Kobobel also wrote Karen Blejwas and received a reply that her facility didn’t meet their requirements even though it was AZA certified. Blejwas also stated that in the “unlikely event” that there would be any Wolf pups they would continue to seek out homes for them with AZA accredited facilities.

I agree with Blejwas when she says in the “unlikely event” there will be any Wolf pups as they began their cull early this year and the Wolves would have been pregnant. Therefore unborn pups were slaughtered along with their parents. My fear is that some of these females got away and if their mates and packs were killed they won’t be able to feed their pups alone this spring. It will be a slow death for all of them.

I am truly heartbroken for the Wolves in Alaska and don’t understand why my hard work and diligence in this project wasn’t enough for the ADF&G to spare the lives of pups. Once they gave our facilities a chance, they would see that there were options. I personally don’t think they wanted to work that hard to save them.

I again wrote Karen Blejwas from the ADF&G stating the qualifications of the facilities I gave her in detail, Wolf Park for example 30 years experience in the field, founded by Dr. Erich Klinghammer a well respected figure in the Wolf world. Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, AZA certified and able to participate in the SSP’s Mexican Gray Wolf Breeding program. Our facilities credential and experience in socializing Wolf pups. I also asked her why with such a credible list in her hands would they choose to kill pups instead. I received no reply.

So my questions are these,

– Was the protocol something written because they expected no takers, as no where in the original protocol does it say that facilities must be AZA accredited? Did we call their bluff?

– Why didn’t the Director of the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center know before I did and anyone who read the newspaper that his facility was named in the protocol as a resource for finding homes for pups?

– Did the ADF&G when writing this protocol know there wouldn’t be any orphaned pups this year and that they would indeed carry out the cull while the mother Wolves were still pregnant?

I would like to make public to you at this point all the wonderful people and facilities, in no particular order and including our own that were willing to provide excellent forever homes for these pups. I appreciate what you were trying to do and your valuable time that you gave me in my research. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Pat Goodmann, Wolf Park
Will Pryor, The Wolf Mountain Nature Center
Darlene Kobobel, Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
Ken Weber, Mission Wolf
James Stein, Lakota Wolf Preserve
Wolf Howl Animal Preserve

So what Maria Ferguson’s experience tells us is that public pressure makes government officials and others do something. The problem is, that public pressure needs to be constant, and continuous. Our jobs as citizens is to hold our officials, appointed and elected, accountable.

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