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13.02.2016
A  A  Now that the team knows where the den is, they double back to the trucks and fetch the puppies, plus Erin and me. When, after a moment, it becomes obvious that Erin needs at least one hand free to lower herself beneath the bushes, I take one of the puppies and she ducks in after Ford. When fostering pups, the team has made it a standard practice to take urine or excrement from the wild pups and rub it into the fur of the captive-born pups. Until the 1800s, they were common in the longleaf pine savannas and deciduous forests of the southeastern United States.
I was lucky enough to be able to shadow them across the seasons and partake in some of the work. The female may be more accepting of the foreign pups, the thinking goes, if they smell of her own. But red wolves were nearly annihilated by habitat degradation, persecution, and interbreeding with the coyote. In this passage, I am shadowing two red wolf biologists, Chris and Ford, as they a€?fostera€? two red wolf puppies which had been born at the Lincoln Park Zoo into a wild den in northeastern North Carolina. Young pups also depend on their mothers to regulate their body temperature and they didn't want to keep the mother away. The dogma of wolf experts around the world, at the time, was that any human interference with a wolf's den would result in the mother killing the pups. The biologists enjoy the feeling of doing something to help their charges, a cherished sentiment of something going well for the wolves.


Today, reintroduced red wolves are found only on peninsular northeastern North Carolina within less than one percent of their former historic range. Practice and repetition had shown them that the adult red wolves never flee too far from the dens when the biologists show up. TheseA  moments are a reservoir of strength to draw upon later when they find vehicle-battered red wolves on the shoulders of highways and refuge roads, and wolves dead from blood loss and bullet holes. Fostering is a process of slipping zoo-born red wolf puppies into the dens of wild red wolf females who have birthed a similarly-aged litter.
It looks for all the world like it's trying to bark or yelp but all that comes out is a squeaky, unsteady whine. When this scene starts, the biologists had just found the wild den in an unruly patch of dense myrtle scrub and they are preparing to move the zoo-born pups into it. It is five to seven degrees cooler under the network of tightly spaced, tiny myrtle leaves. After studying puppies from twelve wild litters between 1999 and 2004, the research team found that handling neonatal puppies did not result in the mothers' abandoning them, and that it did not negatively affect the puppies' survival. Fish and Wildlife Servicea€™s pioneering program over the course of a year to craft an intimate portrait of the red wolf, its natural history, and its restoration. Her engaging portrait of this top-level predator traces the intense effort of conservation personnel to restore a species that has slipped to the verge of extinction. It's an invasive process for any wild animal, let alone an endangered one, but getting the blood samples has also has become a vital monitoring step to prevent the offspring from coyote and wolf crosses from getting into the red wolf population.


Beeland weaves together the voices of scientists, conservationists, and local landowners while posing larger questions about human coexistence with red wolves, our understanding of what defines this animal as a distinct species and how climate change may swamp the only place it is currently found in the wild. Their fur is the color of dark peat, but their heads show a large helping of auburn hair, the color of dried pine straw lit with a summer's sunset.
The Chicago pups are slate gray and have traces of white on their paws, but they have the same characteristic auburn heads. One of the zoo-born pups wanders from the puppy pile and crawls on jerky legs to the front den wall. Having stretched himself as far as he can, he loses his balance and careens to one side, then crawls back to the swarming puppy pile. His sister, meanwhile, has crawled atop the two natal pups and come to a rest with her back legs stretched out over both the other pups' back ends.
I feel privileged to be here, and hopeful that these four will grow up and one day have puppies of their own.




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