Biologist Speaks to Red Wolf Educators
by Jessica Nanke
Over the years Art Beyer has learned a lot about red wolves—and he is still learning. As one of the Red Wolf Biologists for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Beyer has had the opportunity to study red wolf behavior, territorial patterns and pack dynamics on a very real level. During his presentation at the 2007 Red Wolf Species Survival Plan Education Summit, Beyer shared some of the day-to-day tasks necessary for effective red wolf monitoring and management.
After years of tracking and study, Beyer says its still tough work to locate wolves, identify their trails through the woods and find their den sites. To best record and manage the fragile population, it is vital that the biologists are able to locate and trap the wolves periodically. This allows them to identify the animals, monitor the population’s demographics and assess its overall health. Young wolf pups, which have had little or no human interaction, are easier to trap because they have no experience with that activity. But, Beyer says, the older wolves, even if they have been trapped only once before, are masters of observation. Finding the right place to set a trap and then adequately disguising it require careful procedures and a very experienced biologist.
The educators’ summit, held in late October 2007 at the Alligator River National Refuge in eastern North Carolina, gave twenty educators from around the country a chance to hear some of the latest news about red wolf recovery from red wolf experts like Art Beyer. The educators had a lot of questions for each of the featured speakers, especially Beyer. One of the first educators expressed concern for the safety and health of the wolf during trapping. Wouldn’t the trap’s strong clamp damage the physical ability of the wolf? Beyer assured the group that the traps are carefully monitored and checked at appropriate intervals. The traps themselves were demonstrated to the group. The simple device, when appropriately set and checked, was clearly effective.
Beyer reminded the educators that the goal of the recovery program is to keep the wolf population healthy and growing—traps that compromised the physical structure of the animal’s leg or diminished the animal’s ability to hunt would of course be in direct conflict with the goals of the recovery program.
When asked about the most frustrating part of his job, Beyer spoke specifically about the problems associated with losing a wolf that helps make up a breeding pair. A lot of time and research goes into arranging breeding pairs. Genetic diversity is important as well as the age and health of the wolf. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released five-year report indicates that humans are responsible for at least half of all red wolf deaths. This concerns Beyer. He reminded the educators how important their role was to educate the public.
For the educators participating at the Summit, Beyer’s presentation provided a more complete perspective on the red wolf recovery efforts. As the educators continue to teach the public, and to find new and creative ways to communicate the value of the endangered red wolf, they will continue to educate themselves on the current status of the recovery program.
About the author:
Jessica Nanke is an education intern at the North
Carolina Zoological Park.
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