St. Vincent Field Diary
by Thom Lewis
June 21, 2005
After completing the sea turtle nesting beach survey and a few other duties, it was time to radio track the pair of red wolves (male 1124 and female 982) on St. Vincent Island. I had returned only eight days earlier from a 33-day detail to Canada, during which volunteers and staff tracked the wolves; this gave me the impression that the wolves had not shown signs of denning. Although I had tracked the wolves in widely separated locations on Saturday June 4th, I was intrigued by the comment that a volunteer who had tracked them on Monday, June 7th made. Robin stopped by the office and said that she had found the wolves “in the usual location." This piqued my curiosity and made me wonder—if the wolves had been found consistently in one location, could they have denned without anyone realizing it?
I began my radio tracking transect on the island at Indian Pass and made stops at approximately one-mile intervals. About two miles in I picked up the weak signals of both male 1124 and female 982. The signals indicated that the male was to the southeast and the female was to the east. I continued down the transect line toward the location of the female since it was in the area that Robin considered "the usual location.” I decreased the travel distance between stops to every quarter-mile to narrow down female 982's location. After the second stop her signal became loud and I knew I was getting close to her location. As I proceeded down the road I saw two, ten-meter sections of the sandy road that had been disturbed by animal activity. Upon closer examination I discovered what appeared to be canid sign. After ruling out other carnivores such as otter, bobcat and fox, I realized that these wolf tracks included both adult and smaller tracks, and were the result of our red wolf pair rendezvousing with their litter of pups.
I finished tracking the female, who was very near the rendezvous site, and then located the male to the southeast. I got permission from Assistant Refuge Manager Monica Harris to close the road and placed “Closed Area” signs at intersections to the east and west of the location to allow the wolves undisturbed use of the area.
Once I returned to the office I notified the red wolf recovery program of the good news. Examination of the radio tracking data suggest that the female had denned and given birth sometime between April 26 and May 11. This is the first litter of wolf pups born in the wild on St. Vincent NWR since 1998. Female 982 was a member of that litter and, after being shipped to Alligator River NWR for a short period, returned to be the breeding female at St. Vincent NWR. After four unsuccessful breeding seasons with male 779, he was replaced last winter with male 1124. Shortly after release onto the island, male 1124 and female 982 found one another, showed behavior of pair bonding and produced pups this spring. The pups will be allowed to get wild experience on St. Vincent Island and eventually be used to help augment the wild population in eastern North Carolina.
About the author:
Thom Lewis is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist.
He works at the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge in
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