Record 27 Mexican wolf pups fostered into Arizona and New Mexico

Jun 4, 2024, 4:25 AM

Wolf pups fostered...

A record 27 Mexican wolf pups were fostered into wild dens in Arizona and New Mexico, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials announced. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

PHOENIX — A record 27 Mexican wolf pups were fostered into wild dens in Arizona and New Mexico, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials announced Friday.

The newborn wolf pups came from six genetically diverse litters held in five Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) locations. The AZA Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) member locations across the country placed pups into eight wild dens in Arizona and New Mexico over a the course of a month starting in April.

“It has taken time, but we are seeing fostering yield results as genetic indicators in the wild stabilize and improve,” Maggie Dwire, Deputy Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release. “The hope is this surge of pups will continue to push those trends in the right direction, resulting in a healthier wild population and bringing us closer to recovery.”

How were the wolf pups fostered?

Fostering is a method used by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team to increase genetic diversity in the wild Mexican wolf population, according to the release. The SAFE program produces genetically diverse pups with selective breeding.

Within 14 days of being born, the SAFE-born pups are transported to dens of wild wolf packs and integrated with similarly aged wild pups, officials say. After the pups are placed into the wild den, the breeding female will spend the next several weeks caring for both the wild and SAFE-born pups.

“With the help of her pack mates, the pups will be raised with the skills and knowledge needed for a life in the wild,” officials said in the release.

The Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan calls for 22 released wolves to survive to breeding age to achieve recovery. A minimum of 18 pups have survived from each foster released between 2016 and 2022, according to officials.

At least 10 fostered wolves successfully bred and produced litters in the wild, officials stated. The fostered wolves have produced more than 20 litters and several of those offspring have gone on to produce pups of their own.

“This points to the ability of spreading the genetic contribution of the fosters into a wide geographic area, amplifying the benefit of the foster program,” Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department Mexican Wolf Coordinator said.

“In addition, these pups will learn how to live successfully in the wild from an experienced female which is yet another benefit of fostering over release of adults that have been maintained in captivity.”

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Record 27 Mexican wolf pups fostered into Arizona and New Mexico