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In the News: Students from points afar get hands-on training at Wolf Haven

The Olympian, November 1, 2012 (posted 11/3/12)

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Emily Blade cradled the head of an anesthetized Mexican gray wolf as her colleagues hoisted the animal onto a piece of canvas.

The team of mostly university students was recording the weight of the 11-year-old wolf, known as Lorenzo, at Wolf Haven International near Tenino.

It took two men to hold a metal rod connected by a chain to the canvas to accurately gauge the animal’s weight: 85.2 pounds.

It was one of many steps necessary during Lorenzo’s annual checkup, which is required by the Species Survival Plan program.

Endangered Mexican gray wolves are “one of the rarest mammals” in the world, said Diane Gallegos, executive director of Wolf Haven.

Students and professionals were at Wolf Haven this week to learn about wildlife handling and chemical immobilization from Dr. Mark Johnson, a wildlife veterinarian and the founder of Global Wildlife Resources, a nonprofit organization based in Montana.

It’s the eighth year Johnson has taught the three-day course at Wolf Haven; his career in handling wildlife spans 20 years.

Johnson became involved with Wolf Haven in the early 1990s while heading up a wolf-relocation project at Yellowstone National Park.

He and the sanctuary have similar philosophies about animal care.

“They learn how to give care, honor and respect to the animals,” Johnson said. “They learn not to joke at the animal’s expense and to work together.”

The 17 students and professionals who signed up for the course traveled from as far away as Alaska, Mexico, Montana and Pennsylvania.

The group spent two days in the classroom before putting its knowledge to use, giving annual checkups to Mexican gray wolves.

The animals were brought to an area covered with temporary tents, protecting against potential rain.

Each wolf was transported from its sanctuary pen to the site in a large crate. Groups anesthetized them, then carried each wolf to a blanket on the ground.

Everyone kept quiet, speaking in whispers to avoid creating further stress for the wolves.

That quiet was interrupted by an occasional chorus of howls from the rest of the sanctuary’s pack.

Anesthesia keeps the wolves down for about 45 minutes.

In that time, the groups drew blood, administered vaccinations, took measurements and constantly monitored the animals’ heart rate and temperature.

Lorenzo’s temperature began dropping shortly after he was brought to the exam site.

Wolves’ blood temperature should be between 100 and 103 degrees, but Lorenzo’s was dropping to about 99.6.

To counteract that, the group put blankets and hand warmers on the animal’s body until he was able to sustain a constant temperature.

Another wolf’s temperature rose to 106 degrees. The team removed all blankets and laid the wolf on the cool ground.
Johnson and some of the sanctuary’s staff and other trained veterinarians were there to offer assistance, but the exam was intended to be headed up by the students.

“We leave it to the group as long as possible,” Johnson said. “We want them to be strong individuals and as confident as possible.”

Many will take the skills they learned this week at Wolf Haven back to their jobs or course work and future careers.

“Talk to each other about how you are going to do this,” Johnson told the group as members divided up tasks.

One kept a close eye on the animal’s breathing and temperature. Another focused on inoculations, while everyone else took turns practicing blood draws.

Kathy Gruenthal, a student at Humboldt State University in California, was having trouble finding a vein.

One of the staffers was able to assist, showing her how to adjust her angle when inserting the needle into the animal’s leg.

The third time was the charm as she eased back the blood-filled syringe.

Colleague Casey Pozzanghera of the University of Alaska Fairbanks said he had taken a class with Johnson at the University of Montana before.

“It’s impressive to do more hands-on stuff,” Pozzanghera said.

Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476ckrotzer@theolympian.com
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This article is from the Olympian. It also appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and the Seattle Times.

Please write a letter to the editor thanking the papers for publishing this story and expressing support for Mexican gray wolf recovery. The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision makers.  Tips for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.

Letter Writing Tips & Talking Points

Below are a few suggestions for ensuring your message gets through clearly-your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few key points, so don’t try to use all of these. If you need additional help or want someone to review your letter before you send it, email it to info@mexicanwolves.org.
  • Start by thanking paper for publishing this article. This makes your letter immediately relevant and increases its chances of being published.
  • Remind readers that, at last count, just 58 wolves, including six breeding pairs, survived in the wild. These wolves are critically endangered and deserve greater protections.
  • Convey how important new releases of wolves into the wild are to increase the population’s numbers and genetic health.
  • Tell readers why you support wolves and stress that the majority of New Mexico and Arizona voters support the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Polling showed 69% support in New Mexico and 77% support in Arizona.
  • Talk about your personal connection to wolves and why the issue is important to you. If you’re a grandmother wanting your grandchildren to have the opportunity to hear wolves in the wild, or a hunter who recognizes that wolves make game herds healthier, or a businessperson who knows that wolves have brought millions in ecotourism dollars to Yellowstone, say so.
  • Describe the ecological benefits of wolves to entire ecosystems and all wildlife.  Wildlife biologists believe that Mexican wolves will improve the overall health of the Southwest and its rivers and streams – just as the return of gray wolves to Yellowstone has helped restore balance to its lands and waters.
  • Keep your letter brief, between 150-300 words or within the paper’s stated limits.
  • Provide your name, address, occupation, and phone number; your full address, occupation, and phone number will not be published, but they are required in order to have your letter published.

Submit a letter to the Olympian here (250 words or less).

Submit a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle here (less than 200 words).

Submit a letter to the Seattle Times here
(200 word limit).

Note: the photograph posted with this article is an older photo; this is not one of the wolves the students worked with.

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