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Tidewater wolves may show global warming reaction

Tidewater wolves may show global warming reaction

By Joel Gallob
Of the News-Times

In early January, the scientific magazine "Nature" published two articles describing studies that found that plants and animals around the world have been responding to the onset of global warming in a variety of ways, from early flowering and egg hatching to pole-ward shifts of population.

Now it appears that the white wolves at the White Wolf Sanctuary near Tidewater are also responding to the incremental climate shift scientists say is being caused by man-made carbon dioxide pollution of the atmosphere.

The female wolves at the sanctuary usually go into estrus "right about Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th," sanctuary manager and owner Lois Tulleners said this week. "But they’re ahead of schedule this year."

Tulleners has six arctic wolves in her sanctuary in the Coast Range, up the Alsea River from Waldport. One of the female wolves, 4-year old Ventana, "started into heat this Sunday," said Tulleners. "Kyenne, the old female, is 8 years old. She and Journey, a 2-year old, look like they’ll be into it any day now. You can tell by the way the males are acting – sniffing at them more and more. That started going on really heavily this Sunday, too."

The males respond to the hormonal and chemical changes that occur in the females, she said. "It happens every year, of course, and this year, they’re about three weeks early," Tulleners said.

Tulleners cannot tell whether this year’s apparent early onset of estrus is tied to the reports of widespread biological changes some link to climate change worldwide. But she has no other explanation for the change in the wolves’ reproductive cycle.

One of the Nature studies stated that some animal populations have shifted their locations toward the poles, which is consistent with a general warming, as that would push animal populations towards cooler regions to stay in the temperature ranges they prefer. The other showed that some animals are migrating, hatching eggs and bearing young an average of five days earlier than they did in previous decades.

Over the past few decades, scientists say the average temperature around the planet has risen by one degree. That may not seen like a lot, yet it appears linked to the global retreat of glaciers. And the Nature studies stated that it appears to have prompted some noticeable biological shifts. Both of the studies involved reviews of thousands of different plant and animal species.

The White Wolf Sanctuary is closed when the wolves are in heat, and will reopen on March 10. Persons who want to schedule a visit to the sanctuary after that date are invited to call 528-3588.