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Conservation of a Species

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One of the most endangered wild Canidaes on earth is the North American red wolf; known by the scientific name of Canis Rufus. The reasons for this are the lack of natural environment for them to roam, the lack of food due to human hunting, an intensive predator control program, and the interbreeding of the red wolf and coyotes in the wild. There is one thing that is being done to help the recovery of the species and that is the restoration program. That along with other projects could help bring back the red wolf from the brink of extinction. The red wolf is one of two wolves native to North America, the other one being the gray wolf. They get their name from the reddish tint they have in their fur mostly behind the ears and on the legs and neck. Their size is in between the coyote and the gray wolf. The average adult is around 4 feet long from the end of their tail to the tip of the nose, and 26 to 31 inches tall at shoulder height. Average weight is between 50 to 80 pounds.
They tend to hunt alone or in small packs of 5 to 8 individuals; often the individuals are the pups from the breeding pair. The breeding pair or alpha male and female are likely to mate for life. The gestation period for the red wolves is 60 to 63 days, mating season is late winter and the litter size varies from 2 to 8 pups. Only having one litter a year could be seen as a problem but there is nothing that can be done to change that. Their diet consists mainly of small animals such as raccoons, rabbits, rodents, and at times they are also known to eat deer, insects and berries.
The lack of food supply is a major contributor for why they are endangered. With hunting season in many of the states that were once the home of the red wolves, of the majority of the animals that they feed on, at the same time as their mating season; the lack of food hinders the ability for them to produce offspring. If they have to scavenge for food they may not have enough nutrients in their bodies to bring a large litter of pups to term. Another threat to red wolves includes the loss of environment in which they can live. With more people in the world this means less space for animals do to human development. The destruction of their habitat by human action such as, industrial production and the harvesting of natural resources, including mining and logging as well as urbanization makes repopulation difficult. With urbanization, the growth of human population leading to the growth of urban areas, also being a major factor to their small numbers. Their natural habitat once ranged throughout the southeastern United States, from Florida to Pennsylvania and as far west as Texas and Oklahoma. (Defenders of Wildlife, 2011) But the biggest contributor to red wolves becoming an endangered species is the intensive predator control programs that were once in place. It was believed that red wolves were the overall cause of cattle deaths that led to the extensive predator control programs in the early part of the last century. (Wolf Conservation Center, n.d.)The predator programs were carried out with no thought as to how it would affect the ecosystem. A very small amount of illegal hunting of red wolves still takes place, mostly by game hunters and by farmers for fear of losing livestock. By the 1960s the red wolf populations were decimated. The few that remained were found along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas. In 1973 they were declared endangered.
Hunted to the fringe of extinction, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service started to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as they could. They were able to round up fewer than 20 pure red wolves to breed in captivity. In 1980 red wolves were declared extinct in the wild by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2011) After rounding them up and after enough red wolves were bred in captivity they initiated a restoration program in 1987 at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, which is located in northeastern North Carolina. Since the start of the restoration program they have expanded to a total of 1.5 million acres that includes private property, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands and three national wildlife refuges. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2011) Now there is an estimated 115 red wolves that roam the areas of land that were mentioned above and are the only wild population of red wolves in the world. While another 175 red wolves comprise the captive breeding program.
While the restoration program is well under way and a dramatic increase in population of about 150 percent they are finally on their way to recovery, but there are still a few things that can be done to help them recover faster. The education of people in the areas where the red wolves roam meaning getting the word out to local towns and farmers to be on the lookout for them. In order for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to have better knowledge of how they are recovering out in the wild. Also to let the human populations in the area know that the red wolf is an endangered species; so that people can take action to help reduce the risk of red wolves from being hunted or shot by local farmers and ranchers. An implementation of a fundraising program to help with the cost of the captive breeding program would help the government have access to more facilities to help increase the size of the program. Also recruit more private citizens that have the room and ability to breed red wolves on their lands. As an incentive they could be given tax breaks for out of pocket expenses that they would incur as they helped breed and raise the pups to adulthood before they were release back into their natural habitat. Another more controversial option would be a cloning program. There are positive and negative factors to a cloning program. A positive factor is that it would increase the population. Cloning of animals has been done before; scientists have successfully cloned sheep for scientific research. It was done through the Roslin Institute in the United Kingdom. There they were able to transfer human genes that produce proteins into cows and sheep. They were trying to see if doing so they could produce alpha-1-antitrypsin to treat cystic fibrosis among other lung conditions and also a blood clotting agent factor IX to treat haemophilia. Dolly the sheep lived for almost 7 years when she was euthanized because she developed a virus-induced lung tumor; a condition sheep that are raised inside are prone to get. (animalresearch.info, 2011) While dolly was alive she was able to mate and produce offspring which were normal and in the normal way. So knowing that clones can reproduce on their own, shows that it could be done with other species. 7 years is in the average life expectancy for a red wolf that lives in the wild. Their life expectancy increases to up to 15 years in captivity. The cloning program would help them as a species to increase their numbers and for once released into their natural habitat to start reproducing on their own to further increase the number of red wolves in the wild. The cloning program would have a downside to it; the program would not increase the gene pool of the red wolves, due to the cloning process not bring in new and different genes. It would however help in the short run to help boost their numbers.
The extinction of red wolves from the wild has had a larger impact on the ecosystems than what most people think. The red wolf was considered the top predator in North America before they became endangered. With them removed as top predator, the animals that they fed on had a large advantage to grow in numbers since they were not being hunted by the red wolves. So all the rabbits, raccoons and rodents had almost free rein in the ecosystem; their numbers would multiply enormously. With their numbers growing they would start to spread out and with them spreading out and eating more of the plants in the area, causing the plants to struggle to maintaining their numbers. If the plants could not sustain the animal population, then the animals would start to affect the farming communities in the area by eating the crops they were growing. So by the intensive predator control program the farmers and ranchers were only giving themselves a break for a short period of time. After enough time the other animals that the red wolves hunted would likely start to affect the humans in the area.
The predator control programs do more harm than good. The red wolves have been nearly wiped out of their natural habitat with only 115 living in the wild and 175 making up the captive breeding program. The causes were the predator control programs along with a lack of environment and an insufficient food source due to human hunting seasons. The breeding program has helped them recover from the brink of extinction, but with a little more help they could come even farther. Help like education about the species, a fundraising program and even a cloning program could help them recover at an even faster pace then what they are now. References
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (2011). Red Wolf Recovery Program. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from http://www.fws.gov/redwolf/
Defenders of Wildlife. (2011). Red Wolf. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/red_wolf.php
Wolf Conservation Center. (n.d.). History of the red wolves. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from http://nywolf.org/typo3/wolves/red-wolves/history.html
Animal Research Info. (2011). Cloning Dolly the sheep. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from http://www.animalresearch.info/en/medical/timeline/Dolly…...

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