Mexican wolf recovery moves forward with captive pups released to wild wolves

Mexican wolf pup

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Mexican wolf recovery efforts are one step closer after 12 Mexican wolf pups were successfully placed with wild adult wolves. The plan is for the surrogate adult wolves to raise the pups, which were raised in captivity, among their own existing litters in Arizona and New Mexico. FWS hopes that the effort will “restore the rare gray wolf subspecies to its former range and increase genetic diversity in the wild population.” Placing pups with wild parents has a higher survival rate than other “wolf release methods,” according to FWS.

“We expanded our cross-fostering work this year both in the number of pups placed in the wild and the number of partners helping with the effort,” said Amy Lueders, FWS’s Southwest Regional Director. “The support of our partners, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Endangered Wolf Center, the Mesker Park Zoo, the Sedgwick County Zoo and the Wolf Conservation Center continues to play a critical role in the success of Mexican wolf recovery.”

According to FWS, the wolf pups came from several different locations:

  • Five came from the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri;
  • Three came from the Mesker Park Zoo in Indiana;
  • Two came from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas; and
  • One came from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York.

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Three wild-born pups were also captured and removed from the Frieborn Pack in New Mexico and relocated to the Endangered Wolf Center.

Scientists with the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan group and the Interagency Field Team (IFT) did the physical placement of the pups in foster dens with five pups placed in dens in Arizona and seven pups placed in dens in New Mexico from April 18 to May 10, 2019 per the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan.

“This is one of the most important conservation efforts in the history of Mexican wolf recovery,” said Jim deVos, Assistant Director for Wildlife Management at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Given the very small initial population of wolves, infusing new genetics into the growing wolf population is a crucial step to recovery. The field team worked tirelessly to locate dens and transfer pups to make this important contribution to wildlife conservation a success.” 

While the pups may be with wild parents, that doesn’t mean that scientists have cut ties with them. IFT will keep tabs on the pups through GPS and radio telemetry signals as well as via remote camera observations. They also plan “to trap the young of the year…to document the survival of the cross-fostered pups.”


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