Good News! Six Cross-Fostered Mexican Wolf Pups May Be The Key For The Recovery Of Their Species In Arizona & New Mexico

Photo of Mexican wolf pups by Susan Dicks/Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team

Last week, the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program announced that it had reached a major milestone on April 1st when six cross-fostered Mexican wolves matured to breeding age in the wild. In doing so, the six wolves are now able to be counted as contributing to the genetic recovery of the subspecies.

This achievement brings the total number of cross-fosters surviving in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico to 13 and highlights the continuing success of Mexican wolf recovery efforts by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and other conservation partners.

Cross-fostering is an innovative technique used by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team to increase genetic diversity in Mexican wolf populations in the wild. Wolf pups are born in captivity at one of several different accredited breeding facilities across the country. When the pups are 14 days old, they are placed into a den of wild Mexican wolves with pups of the same age. The surrogate wild wolf parents raise the new genetically diverse pups as if they were a part of the original litter.

An updated population viability analysis conducted for the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, in 2017, called for at least nine released captive-born wolves being recruited into the wild population by 2022 to meet genetic diversity goals.

“We trounced that number,” Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, said in a statement. “The importance of this milestone cannot be overstated, as conserving genetic diversity is one of the major challenges in recovery and delisting of this subspecies.”

Mexican wolves were once widespread throughout the American Southwest. Towards the turn of the century, however, they were the subject of an eradication campaign due to conflicts with human interests at the time. By the mid-1900s, Mexican wolves had been effectively eliminated from the United States, and populations in Mexico were severely reduced. Following the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, Mexican wolves were listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species in 1976, thereby prompting recovery efforts to save the species from extinction.

Releasing captive-raised Mexican wolves into the wild has been a part of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program since 1998.  While the number of wolves in captive breeding facilities around the United States and Mexico today is a little under 400, they all originated from seven founders captured from the wild when the species was close to extinction in the 1970s. When individuals in a wild population are closely related, genetic management must be part of recovery and can lead to substantial challenges to their propagation. Mexican wolves are no exception.

“It is a major milestone that cross-fostering efforts have resulted in this number of genetically valuable Mexican wolves being recruited into the wild population to help both the genetic recovery criteria and the number of wolves in the wild to meet recovery goals,” stated Clay Crowder, AZGFD’s Assistant Director, Wildlife Management Division. “The Mexican wolf is a subspecies that was nearly lost in the wild, but with careful management as demonstrated by this benchmark, their recovery and return to state management is a foreseeable goal. While the Endangered Species Act prescribes the need for recovery, the successful progress on the ground is proof of effective state, federal, and tribal management.”

Cross-fostering efforts for 2022 are planned to begin later this month in both Arizona and New Mexico.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

More on this topic

Popular stories

Breaking! Animals Asia’s New PSA ‘The Only Cure Is Kindness’ Aims To Raise Funds To Save More Bears From The Bear Bile Industry In...

A growing number of celebrities are joining Animals Asia for their ‘The Only Cure Is Kindness’ campaign which is aimed at saving bears from the...

Conservation Groups Urge Federal Agencies To Prohibit The Killing Of Wildlife With Snowmobiles

More than 60 conservation groups from across North America filed letters today urging the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to immediately...

Shocking Undercover Investigation Reveals Physical Abuse Of Captive Sloths At Sloth Encounters In New York

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released the findings of a recent undercover investigation at Sloth Encounters in Hauppauge, New York, owned by Larry...