Dawn Villella/AP

Howling Surveys Can Save Wolves

May 28, 2009 08:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
A project in the North Woods of Maine calls for volunteers willing to howl at wolves, an unusual conservation effort that has been successful in the past.

Saving Maine's Wolves

According to the Bangor Daily News, the Wolf Inquiry Project has put out a call for volunteers "willing to spend a night howling like wolves in Maine's North Woods, and who won't be scared off if they get a response." The project is an example of a howling survey, and is aimed at determining if wolves are present in the state.

The director of the project, Laura Sebastianelli, said volunteers would face the challenge of "differentiating between coyote and wolf howls." Eastern coyotes prevalent in Maine tend to be bigger than their "western cousins," which may alter the way they sound, reported the Bangor Daily News. Sebastianelli's underlying goal is to save the wolves, mainly by locating them before they can be hunted or killed.

Background: Howling surveys

In the Haliburton Forest in Central Ontario, howling surveys carried out during the summer months have revealed that wolves living in the forest "are not restricted to the property boundaries," according to Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve Ltd.

Similar efforts in June 2008 in Okanogan County, Wash., revealed the possibility of a wolf pack—the first in Washington "since the 1930s," according to Joyce Campbell of Methow Valley News. Biologists observed howling by both pups and grown wolves. Scott Fitkin, a biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told Methow Valley News, "I'd never heard a pup. They have a higher pitch, not the deep howl."

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Related Topic: Risky conservation efforts

The howling surveys may seem odd and perhaps even dangerous for volunteers doing the howling, but other conservation efforts appear to pose risks as well.

Earlier this month, biologists began searching for the last remaining eastern massasauga rattlesnakes in the Chicago area. Their plan is to send the snakes to zoos and eventually to a captive breeding program where they can be bred and restored to healthier numbers. The efforts involve a "rattlesnake roundup" every spring for the "next several years" in four separate counties.

Reference: Spring break conservation work


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