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Field Journal: Gray Wolves of Yellowstone


Monday, November 4, 1996

Keeping track of the species
Reported by Will Waddell

One way I coordinate the red wolf SSP (Species Survival Plan) is by keeping all the records about the red wolf population that are sent to me by other zoos. An important part of my job is keeping this information about the wolves in what is called a studbook.

All of the wolves are given studbook numbers when they are born (like male number 312). Studbook numbers are kept in a computerized database called SPARKS, which stands for Single Population Animal Record Keeping System. While many zoos give names to their wolves, the studbook number stays with each wolf throughout its life. We also update certain events that can occur in each animal's lifetime — like when it was born, when it was moved to another zoo, where it was moved, when and how many pups it has, and when it dies. All this information is important for knowing how a species is doing.

Sue Behrns and I spent a lot of time preparing for our yearly species-survival master-plan meeting. We met last week at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. Keeping good records is important for master plans. The information that we keep in the SPARKS database helps when we decide which wolves should be paired for the breeding season because it shows us how the the wolves are related to each other. We can also decide which wolves could possibly be released in the wild.

There were not many pups born in the red wolf captive breeding program this past spring. This has been our plan for the last few years because there is not enough space at the participating zoos to allow too many wolves to have pups right now. We had some pups born here in Tacoma this year but they didn't survive. Two male and two female pups were born at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville in April (their studbook numbers are 816, 817, 818, and 819). Two male pups were also born at the Oglebay Zoo, West Virginia, in May (their studbook numbers are 841 and 842). Births always happen in April and May and the usual number in a litter is four or five.

  There were many pups born in the wild this year at the different reintroduction sites. Fourteen pups were born at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We don't know yet how many were born in eastern North Carolina but I'll get the information after the biologist there begins trapping later this fall.
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