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California Wolf Center

Four Captive-Bred Mexican Gray Wolf Pups Successfully Introduced to Wild Wolf Pack in Arizona Through Cross-Fostering

California Wolf Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team Work Together to Save the Endangered Subspecies

May 29, 2020 - Julian, CA - The California Wolf Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the return of wild wolves to their natural habitat, today announced that four endangered Mexican gray wolf pups born at their conservation facility have been successfully introduced to a wild wolf pack in Arizona through cross-fostering.

Eight puppies were born to captive parents, Frida and Phoenix, at the California Wolf Center on April 28, 2020 through their Mexican gray wolf breeding program. Four of the pups were selected at 14 days old to be introduced to the Rocky Prairie Pack in the east central portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. This introduction serves as just one part of a larger effort to save the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf and reintroduce them to their natural range. The other four pups in the litter will remain at the California Wolf Center to further contribute to the captive breeding population.

Collaboration between the California Wolf Center and the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team—which is made up of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, U.S. Forest Service, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe—made it possible to fly four pups born at the Center in San Diego County to their new home in the Arizona wilderness.

The young wolves were placed in their foster dens by scientists from the Interagency Field Team (IFT) on May 12, 2020. This cross-fostering is part of an effort to restore the rare gray wolf subspecies to its former range and increase genetic diversity in the wild population.

About Cross-Fostering

Cross-fostering is a technique where captive-bred wolf puppies from one litter are “adopted out” to an experienced wild female with a new litter, who will raise them as her own. The strong parenting instincts of wolves make this a very promising strategy for bolstering genetics in the wild Mexican gray wolf population.

Placing pups from captivity into a wild litter improves the genetic diversity of the species. This method of reintroducing wolves into the wild at a young age also ensures that they are raised by parents with an established territory and experience who will teach them how to survive on their own.

Fostering is a relatively new technique for the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program. With fewer than 163 individuals left in the wild—found in Arizona and New Mexico—these four pups (three females and one male), born at the California Wolf Center on April 28, 2020 represent vital new genetics needed for a critically endangered population.

“We’re excited to be part of another successful cross-foster, bringing us one step closer to restoring the Mexican gray wolf to their natural habitat,” said Lorraine Frigolet, Executive Director for California Wolf Center. “By working with these agencies and collaborating with other facilities to ensure genetic diversity among thriving wild wolf packs, we’re increasing their chances for survival and population growth for future generations.”

Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery

The Mexican wolf is the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in North America. Once common throughout portions of the southwestern United States and Mexico, it was all but eliminated from the wild by the 1970s. In 1977, efforts were initiated to conserve the species through the creation of a bi-national captive breeding program that began with just seven unrelated Mexican wolves.

Since 1997, California Wolf Center has played an integral role in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, a captive breeding and host program intended to prevent the extinction of Mexican gray wolves. All Mexican gray wolves residing at California Wolf Center are candidates to be released into the wild through a reintroduction program managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

California Wolf Center is one of only two organizations working with the Southwest community sharing the landscape with the returning wolf population. The nonprofit organization provides information and financial support for techniques that ranchers can use to reduce wolf-livestock conflict and steward the wild spaces where Mexican gray wolves reside.

For more information on the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program, visit www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf or www.azgfd.gov/wolf

To learn more about California Wolf Center’s involvement in Mexican gray wolf recovery, visit californiawolfcenter.org/education/wolves-in-the-southwest

About the California Wolf Center

The California Wolf Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the return of wild wolves to their natural habitat and to the people who share the landscape with them. We foster communities coming together to ensure wolves, livestock, and people thrive in today’s world. Learn more at californiawolfcenter.org

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Lorraine Frigolet, Executive Director

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