ROYAL OAK —Construction has begun on the new Cotton Family wolf habitat at the Detroit Zoo. The 2-acre sanctuary will feature grassy meadows, trees, a flowing stream and pond, dens, and elevated rock outcroppings from which the wolves can survey their surroundings and zoo visitors. The habitat is slated to open in 2015.
“Like many others in Michigan, our family is so excited to help save wolves — cousins of man’s best friend — in a protected sanctuary at the Detroit Zoo,” says David Cotton, whose family donated $500,000 toward the development of the wolf habitat.
For decades, the Detroit Zoological Society has played a role in the conservation of wolves in Michigan. In 1952, the Detroit Zoo sent four wolves to Isle Royale in the Upper Peninsula to be released as part of a program to re-establish the species. As with other native Michigan animals living at the zoo, the organization will be engaged in conserving wolves in the wild.
“Our core mission is celebrating and saving wildlife, and while we work with many exotics, we also save native Michigan species,” said Ron Kagan, DZS executive director and CEO.
IN OTHER ZOO NEWS, the Detroit Zoological Society’s breeding program for the Wyoming toad has produced a record nearly 4,000 tadpoles for release into the wild in its efforts to preserve the federally endangered amphibian.
“This is the largest number of tadpoles we have ever sent back to Wyoming,” says Marcy Sieggreen, curator of amphibians at the zoo. The majority of the tadpoles were released into the Laramie Basin, a protected Wyoming wetland, while 16 were reserved for future breeding at other facilities.
“The tadpoles are returned to Wyoming before the middle of July so they have plenty of time to grow and metamorphose in the wetlands where they’ll live. It takes them approximately four to five weeks to change into toadlets,” Sieggreen says.
The Wyoming toad (Bufo baxteri) is a dark brown, gray or greenish amphibian with small, dark blotches. The average length is 2.2 inches, with the females slightly larger than the males.
Once abundant in the wetlands and irrigated meadows of Wyoming’s southeastern plains, the Wyoming toad was listed as extinct in the wild in 1994, meaning populations are no longer producing offspring that survive to adulthood in the wild.
The cause of the declines are not well understood, but it is likely that more than one factor contributed to the situation in the past, with habitat loss and infectious diseases suspected as major drivers.