Captive-born endangered Mexican wolf pups placed into wild dens in Arizona

May 29, 2022, 2:00 PM | Updated: 6:20 pm

A Mexican grey wolf rests in the shade in a habitat at the Phoenix Zoo on June 17, 2021 in Phoenix,...

A Mexican grey wolf rests in the shade in a habitat at the Phoenix Zoo on June 17, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Caitlin O'Hara/Getty Images)

(Photo by Caitlin O'Hara/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Eleven captive-born Mexican wolf pups were placed in wild dens across Arizona and New Mexico, Arizona Game & Fish announced on Friday.

Mexican wolves are the most endangered gray wolf subspecies in North America, although their numbers have increased in each of the last five years up to 196 in 2021, according to a press release.

Fostering pups from captive facilities to wild dens is a proven method to increase genetic diversity, according to the release.

It starts with breeding by the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, and within 14 days of birth, the pups are transported to the wild to mix in with similarly aged wolves. The breeding female will feed and raise the wild and captive-born pups alike.

“Although the 11 pups fostered is lower than hoped for, it is a major contribution to managing genetic improvements in the wild population,” Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Mexican wolf coordinator, said in a statement.

“Planning has already begun for the 2023 fostering program, with a goal of getting more pups in dens next year than this year.”

Five different captive-born litters provided Mexican wolf pups for fostering this year, including the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, which provided two pups to the Panther Creek Pack in Arizona, according to the release.

“Many contributed to the success of this year’s efforts, including interns, biologists, veterinarians, captive facility staff, and individuals that provided flight support,” Ed Davis, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement.

The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team will monitor the packs in which captive-born pups were placed in using GPS and radio telemetry signals from collars on older wolves.

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Captive-born endangered Mexican wolf pups placed into wild dens in Arizona