November is Mexican wolf annual physical month at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. In 2008 we had two new zookeepers on staff and they had never participated in wolf physicals before.
Early in the month we did a practice run so that all of the zookeepers would know what to do. Seven of us walked to the back of the exhibit in single file and then spread out in a line across the exhibit. Our six male Mexican wolves were in front of us and we slowly moved towards the front of the exhibit. All six wolves eventually entered their holding area, which is exactly what we wanted them to do. The holding area is a building with two dens and an outside area. The holding area is smaller than the exhibit, so it is easier to restrain a wolf for a physical. That day we just left the exhibit and did not lock the wolves into their holding area.
A few weeks later we took the same steps as we did during the practice run. This time we locked the wolves in their holding area and performed yearly physicals on all of them. The wolves were checked for overall health, given vaccinations, had blood drawn, were weighed and their transponders were read.
Every Mexican wolf has a microchip so that it can be identified. We actually had to implant a new microchip into one of the wolves because the old one was not functioning. This is a very simple procedure. The microchip is inserted between the shoulder blades using a syringe. It is almost like giving a shot. We have a handheld device that we rub over the body of the wolf that allows us to read its identification number.
When the physicals were over the wolves were released back into their exhibit. All six were healthy, and we will do this entire process again in November 2009!
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in New Mexico hosted the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) Annual Meeting in July 2008. On the evening of July 23, the participants were invited to a barbeque dinner at the zoo and served by zoo staff. It was a pleasant evening to take a stroll through the zoo and to see the construction of our new off-exhibit Mexican wolf pens. A silent auction was held as well. Many of the auction items were handcrafted by zoo staff. During dinner a local band called Wing and A Prayer performed for us. Our very own veterinarian is a member of this band! A good time was had by all!
The entire day of July 24 was spent listening to very interesting presentations on Mexican wolves. Part of the day was dedicated to assuring that all of the captive Mexican wolves had homes for the year. Also, some wolves were chosen to be paired up to breed. That night we all drove to Rattlesnake Springs to have a picnic dinner and to bird watch. After dinner, we drove to Carlsbad Caverns National Park to watch the bat flight. At sunset, thousands of bats fly out of the caverns in search of food. This is an amazing sight to see!
Then, on July 25, more presentations were given and any issues that occurred with placing the wolves for the next year were resolved. On the morning of July 26, participants had the chance to take a special guided tour of Carlsbad Caverns.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park was honored to host the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan Annual Meeting! Participants were from facilities that house Mexican wolves from all over the United States and Mexico. The meeting was a great success with help from Friends of Living Desert and Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park staff members. It was a fun but exhausting few days here in Carlsbad, New Mexico!
Mexican Wolf at Living Desert SP
Mexican Wolf in the Shade
Mexican Wolf Portrait
Mexican Wolf SSP Meeting, July 2008
Pairing Mexican Wolves for Breeding