The population of Arizona’s Mexican Gray Wolf, North America’s smallest and most endangered wolf has grown, thanks to collaborative efforts between Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Arizona Game & Fish and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The increase from 84 to 86 Mexican Gray Wolves, living in Arizona’s wild, comes from the recent birth of two pups through a cross-foster process at Southwest Wildlife, according to a press release.
The pups, born April 30 at Southwest Wildlife outside of Scottsdale, were flown six days later by Arizona Fish and Game and released into the wild into the same den.
“This represents a new level of our participation in the species survival program and there were so many firsts in this story. Not only did we have unprecedented births of two of the most endangered wolves in North America, but then following the births we were able to go in under the cover of darkness several days later, removed the pups and got them on an Arizona Fish and Game plane and take them to near native dens where awaiting biologists snuck into the den and placed the pups. Three agencies were working as a collaborative team to make this happen and it was quite extraordinary,” said Dr. Leo Egar, director of Animal Health, Welfare and Survival at Southwest Wildlife.
What makes these births extraordinary is that the female wolf, Melly, may be the oldest Mexican Gray Wolf to give birth, according to the release, noting at the pairing of two wolves, Melly and Moonlight, was discussed at the 2021 Annual Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan meeting.
The pair needed a home and Southwest Wildlife agreed to take them since both wolves were intact. Due to the age of the animals and them having previous breeding situations with no reproduction, the chances for new pups were highly unlikely.
However, by using a cross-fostering process, Melly and Moonlight produced two pups, which is a first for Southwest Wildlife, noted the release.
“We are truly honored to have participated in the conservation of this critically endangered species. As an ethical wildlife education and rehabilitation facility, Southwest Wildlife is dedicated to providing the opportunity for wildlife to live in the wild where they belong, and we will only breed as part of structured species survival plan. Providing wolf pups with the chance to grow up wild and eventually provide their genes to better the wild population as a whole by cross-fostering could improve the quality of life of an endangered species and we are proud to have been part of that process,” said Egar.
Linda Searles officially founded Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in 1994. Since then, SWCC has rehabilitated thousands of sick, injured, orphaned or displaced wild animals. More than 70 percent have been successfully released back into the wild. Trained staff and volunteers are on call to respond to any wild mammal emergency that may arise.
Visit SouthwestWildlfe.org or call 480-471-9109 for more information.
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