In memory of Kane the red wolf

January 28th, 2020

80 lbs of handsome, dominance, confidence and brawn. That was male red wolf 1390, better known as Kane. 

A good looking red wolf with a handsome smile and a notorious history, Kane was known around the red wolf cooperators as one who didn’t play nice with his female companions. In fact, he could be considered a bully. He kept his female companions from eating, while he ate all the food. Most of his companions had to be removed from the habitat and Kane was subsequently transferred to another facility to play his games again. 

Several facilities where he lived had some fond stories to share about his dominant, yet endearing personality. Kim Wheeler, president of the Red Wolf Coalition affectionately remembers Kane’s bold attitude. She recalls a time he stole a camera bag from a biologist who was photographing him and a game of tug o’ war ensued. Kim gave Kane his name. She recalls thinking it just seemed fitting to his strong, confident personality. 

Kane was known to approach his caregivers and one facility recalls him mock charging them. In his younger years, he was fond of female caregivers and was known to run the fence line with them as they walked by. By the time Kane came to Reflection, he had developed a bad boy reputation, but was definitely revered, admired and loved.

I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Red Wolf Species Survival Plan captive coordinator Will Waddell. After hellos and how are yous were exchanged, his somewhat hesitating words were, “so, I’ve got this wolf….” Knowing Will, I knew there was something more to his statement and its content. Will went on to tell me that Kane had been aggressive toward the females he was housed with and came way too close to caregivers. Will knew I had a lone female and I knew she could handle herself, even though she was small. The proper paperwork was completed and we awaited transfer. 

When Kane arrived, we were awed by his size, handsomeness and his laid back attitude toward us. When a red wolf arrives at a new facility, the animal is usually timid, unsure and spends time hiding, but not Kane. We loaded him into our isolation habitat for an acclimation period and he was out investigating, curious and definitely interested in us, even taking a rat from us. He held his head high and was so sure of himself. The defining moment would arrive when he would go into the habitat that his new companion, Mom, lived in. He would be arriving on her turf. Keep in mind, Mom is a small female with a dominant, matriarchal personality. During Kane’s time in isolation, he could smell and see Mom, so he knew quite a bit about her. 

The day came for us to allow Kane into the enclosure with Mom. As Kane left isolation and walked into Mom’s enclosure, we were hopeful and nervous. They both approached a pile of deer meat we had left for them and I remember thinking, this is it, the moment of truth. As Kane went in to take what he wanted, Mom approached him from the backside and promptly bit him in the rear haunch! At that moment, Kane had met his match and we knew this pairing was going to work. Mom continued to keep Kane in check, barking at him, biting him and making him play fairly. As the years went by, there were times Kane would challenge her, but it was never more than a snarl or small charge.

Kane became a wonderful companion to Mom and an excellent exhibit animal. He was readily visible for guests, he howled often and loudly and was a magnificently beautiful animal.

Mom reminded Kane how to be respectful and kind and their relationship was fair and amicable.

Kane lived out his life with us at Reflection and we all had very warm feelings for him. His illness was thankfully brief. He left us with so many memories and was a wolf no one will ever forget.

What tracks will you leave behind? Kane leaves us as beauty, not beast. Vital, not vicious. Fierce, fabulous and a favorite.

Eulogy by Tish Gailmard, Director of Wildlife

Below is the obituary for Kane the red wolf.

Kane, Canis rufus, died on January 4, 2020  at the age of 14y 9m after a brief battle with gallbladder cancer. 

Kane was born into a litter of 5 (3.2)  in Asheboro, NC at the North Carolina Zoo on April 22, 2005 and was assigned studbook number 1390 . As a member of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, he was transferred to different facilities based on the needs of the population. He later moved to Durham Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC. He was then transferred to Sandy Ridge, NC which is the small, private location for the wild release site at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. He then transferred to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, FL where he stayed for approximately 2 years before going to Jackson Zoo, Jackson, MS for about 1 year. 

Kane then came to Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center on December 9, 2012 at 7y 8m. He lived peacefully as a companion with female red wolf 1275 in a large habitat.

He is preceded in death by his sire, red wolf 1125 and dam, red wolf 1197 and 2 male siblings, red wolf 1389 and 1391 and 1 female sibling red wolf 1393. He is survived by one female sibling red wolf 1392 of North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, NC and numerous cousins.

Kane participated in many scientific studies including several on irritable bowel disease with the Smithsonian Conservation Research Center, a study with North Carolina State University on progressive retinal atrophy and many college level studies on the relationships between enclosure mates and breeding pairs. Additionally, his sperm is cryogenically stored in a sperm bank for future in vitro fertilization use. Kane could be easily seen by his public and was often heard howling with his peers.

He will be fondly remembered as a dominant, very handsome male who represented the red wolf species with confidence, grace and confirmation.

Support our work. Adopt a wolf today.

Our symbolic adoptions keep our endangered American red wolf program going year-round. Plus they make great gifts!

Posted by Tish Gailmard

Originally Published in the lookout mountain mirror

Do you know a woman who needs an outdoor adventure? Here’s an opportunity to nominate her for an exciting trip. Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan of DNK Presents host an unprecedented event each year, the Live Adventurously, Women’s Adventure Giveaway. This event is a chance for people to nominate a woman in their lives who may win a customized extended backcountry adventure weekend guided by outdoor pros Danielle and Kate. 

This trip takes four women off the grid for four days. Cell phones are taken away! Danielle and Kate will select the adventure activities and may include backpacking, mountain biking, rappelling, bouldering, zip lining, paddling or another thrilling experience! 

When asked why they started this event, Danielle replied, “There are so many reasons! I didn’t notice until Kate and I began getting our wilderness and outdoor guiding certifications that we were definitely outnumbered being women and in the LGBTQ+ family. Fortunately, this number is increasing as well as people of color in the outdoors. Growing our company since 2014, we’ve focused on women’s empowerment and getting more women and girls in the outdoors. We on our women-only adventures saw that many women were having breakthrough moments and surprising themselves saying things such as, 'I never thought I could carry everything I needed for the weekend on my back, make fire, filter my own water and have a blast doing it!' We saw women go on to summit mountains, ask for raises at work and do other amazing things. We noticed these outdoor experiences weren't just fun and educational, but empowering, showing women they could do much more than they thought they could and they got to meet other amazing women who enjoyed the outdoors as well."

"We decided it would be cool to do a give back in some way for women in our community since their stories and experiences had greatly inspired so many. We knew many women ourselves we wanted to share an adventure with and every time we spoke about our adventures, women would mention, 'I know someone who should do this,' or 'so and so needs to do this but she can't because of X' (insert some excuse here). This is what brought the idea of a nomination based giveaway - we found everyone knows someone who could use an adventure in her life!"

"We also produced an award-winning documentary film, Live Adventurously that follows the four women who won our inaugural Women's Adventure Giveaway.” You can see the trailer (embedded here as well) and learn more about the event on the website.

Reflection Riding recently hosted an outdoor viewing of this film. Watching this film proved these women left empowered, excited and more knowledgeable of the outdoors and of themselves. There was lots of laughing, storytelling and camaraderie. It’s good to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself a little and these women definitely did that! 

In addition to a fantastic weekend, DNK Presents has approximately 20 local and corporate sponsors who provide the participating women with over $1,500.00 worth of free gear so they can keep on adventuring. 
For 2019, DNK Presents has opened the giveaway to women in and outside the Chattanooga area. Anyone in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama are welcome to nominate a woman they know who could use an adventure in her life. The winners of the giveaway will need to provide transportation to and from Chattanooga for the weekend of the trip May 16-19, 2019 and 1 or 2 dates prior to the weekend trip. 

Have someone in mind? From now until February 28, 2019, you can nominate a deserving woman. Danielle and Kate say they keep the nomination fairly general because any woman is deserving of the nomination! They recommend nominating a woman who could be overworked, a selfless individual, a busy parent, has overcome an obstacle in her life, has always wanted to try something new in the outdoors, etc. This adventure will provide women with self discovery, empowerment and confidence so they can see how truly amazing they are!

Requirements for nominees include: must be able to carry at least 35lbs on their back, can ride a bicycle (basic), be willing to give up their phone/technology for 4 days, open to living in the woods for 4 days with little to no modern amenities, have an adventurous spirit and willingness to try new things, open to video and photos taken, available May 16-19 for the adventure weekend and a few other dates beforehand. Click here share her story for a chance to win a life changing, wild, adventurous weekend!

You can also schedule your next great adventure with Danielle and Kate! Their trips range from guided hikes, paddling trips, to week long backpacking and yoga retreats in the Grand Canyon, mountain bike rides and clinics in Sedona, Utah, North Carolina, and so much more to come!

Danielle & Kate state,” We truly live our lives adventurously and know the benefits of unplugging from technology, trying something new and immersing yourself in nature. Our own adventures have increased our confidence, inspired us to start a business and boosted our mental, physical and spiritual health and wellness. Because of this we have made it our mission to facilitate these experiences for others."

Several DNK adventurers comment that their trip was no pressure. Their pace helped eliminate jitters and fears about trying new things and thrived in a environment of support, but also space for independence. 

Everyone needs to recharge and unplug from technology,  take adventures to help us know where we belong and to recognize your life should be your greatest adventure - step outside your comfort zone and gain confidence and empowerment through experiential learning.

Posted by Tish Gailmard  | Category: Recreation

With Red Wolf mating season almost over, Director of Wildlife Tish Gailmard explains that it's near impossible to tell whether a female wolf is pregnant until the pups are born. We hope this year brings another litter! Read Tish's explanation below of why Red Wolf breeding is a concern worth your attention as well as different methods for breeding the captive population.

Photo by Bartel/USFWS

The Red Wolf is the most endangered canid in the world. With only 27-35 wild Red Wolves roaming one recovery release site in northeastern North Carolina and 200 in captivity, breeding can be critical to this species’ survival.

Reflection Riding is a breeding and exhibit facility for Red Wolves and has been since its membership in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan began in 1996. We’ve had litters in 2007, 2011 and 2016.

You might ask what’s the big deal? Why is Red Wolf breeding a concern?

There a few things you need to know.

First of all, we almost lost this species to extinction. In 1980, the Red Wolf was forced into extinction in the wild to conserve the last 17 remaining Red Wolves. Of these 17, only 14 were strong enough to begin a captive breeding program to save this species. That’s a really small gene pool. When you are breeding an endangered species in captivity, it is critical to maintain genetic diversity - we must diversify and grow the family tree. That means hyper vigilance over the breeding co-efficient. We must select Red Wolves to breed that are the least genetically alike. Luckily, science provides the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) with a software program that tracks each Red Wolf’s pedigree - a road map of who’s closely related and who’s less related. Wouldn’t want to breed siblings, right? The idea is for the family tree to fork! 

Secondly, Red Wolves and coyotes can breed. This causes a serious dilution of genes resulting in hybrid offspring. Hybridization can quickly kill the family tree.

Thirdly, Red Wolves only breed one time per year. Males only produce sperm one time per year and females only go into estrus one time per year.  

So what do we do with all this information?

In captivity, we must determine which Red Wolves will breed based on their genetic value and we have to find a suitable mate - one who is the least related. As an institutional representative and management team member, I attend a summit meeting each summer where we determine who’s going to breed with whom based on the needs of the population. We must determine how many litters need to be produced to maintain or grow the population (whichever is deemed necessary for that breeding season), refer to the mean kinship list ( a measure of importance of an animal. Animals with low mean kinship are genetically important.  Mean kinship is calculated by the kinship (relatedness) of that animal with the entire current population (including itself). Therefore mean kinships per animal are relative to the current population) and begin the process of matchmaking. 

We’ve transferred Red Wolves to breed at our facility from as far away as Sioux Falls, SD. Red Wolves do not fly commercially, so all this travel requires driving or private planes. Usually, two institutions will pick a midpoint to meet and pick up or drop off a Red Wolf. Once the Red Wolf arrives at its new facility, there is usually an acclimation period (we call it a Hey, Howdy! time) where the Red Wolves are separated by fencing and have limited visual sight and physical proximity. After about 1 week of this introduction, the Red Wolves are placed in the same enclosure and with a little luck, (cue the Barry White music) they like each other and the relationship begins.

Red Wolf breeding season is January, February, March with the most northwestern facilities typically breeding last. After a 63 day gestation, pups are born in April and May. Litters can range from 1-9 pups. Eyes and ears open after 2 weeks and pups begin to wander out of the birthing place after about 5 weeks.

In the wild population, we do not engineer the breeding. Red Wolves select their own mates. To prevent Red Wolves from mating with coyotes and producing offspring - creative, out of the box thinking biologists came up with an innovative idea - a first in canid recovery. Sterilize coyotes in the recovery area and put them back on the landscape as place holders. Because this is their territory, they will hold out any fertile coyotes who try to move in and if they breed a Red Wolf, no offspring will occur. Brilliant and very successful! (Unfortunately, this has been halted by the state of North Carolina and US Fish and Wildlife based on a gross misinterpretation of data and inaccurate data- more on that in another entry.)

Another out of the box idea is introducing new genes into the wild population with cross fostering. When wild litters and captive litters are born within a few days of one another, captive pups can be fostered into a wild litter and are accepted by the mother with 100% success. This  genius idea is also a first in canid recovery. (and yes, it too has been halted by North Carolina and USFW). Less politics, more wolves!

In some cases when a genetically valuable Red Wolf has not bred, artificial insemination can be an option. Reflection Riding was fortunate enough to participate in this research. All of our current males have been collected and cryopreserved for future use. The research team that worked on this project consisted of our veterinarian, Dr. Chris Keller and his team from Mountain Hospital for Animals and two post doc students, one from the Smithsonian Conservation Institute and another who was on the team that first developed artificial insemination in dogs.

Luckily, Red Wolves breed fairly well in the wild and in captivity provided they are with the correct mate and are of breeding age. Reflection Riding has been fortunate enough to have successful pairs and hope to produce more litters in the future. As a very involved cooperator in the RWSSP, it’s our duty to support this program and this magnificent species. 

Red Wolves, not beast and vital, not vicious.

Posted by Tish Gailmard  | Category: Wildlife

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