Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mexican wolf conservation achieves two major milestones

First Mexican wolf pups cross-fostered in the wild confirmed alive and Mexico welcomes first wild-born litter in 30 years
The endangered Mexican wolf recovery effort has reason to celebrate with the achievement of two major milestones in the work to reestablish the species to its historic range.

Two weeks ago, biologists from the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team confirmed via a trail camera photo that the two pups cross-fostered in May from an Arizona wolf pack into New Mexico’s Dark Canyon pack are still alive and doing well. The photo shows the two cross-fostered pups along with the three pups that were naturally born into the Dark Canyon pack.

Cross-fostering is a technique to move very young pups from one litter into a different, similar-age litter with the hope that the receiving pack will raise them as their own. The cross-fostering effort of these pups was a first for Mexican wolves, although the technique has been used in the east coast red wolf recovery program. Cross-fostering allows genetic diversity to be improved in the wild Mexican wolf population without having to otherwise rely upon the release of naive wolves from captivity to achieve management objectives, including the goal of having the entire free-roaming population fully comprised of wild-born wolves that fare better in the environment.

“The success of this cross-fostering experiment is significant for the future of Mexican wolf conservation,” said Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for Game and Fish. “It allows biologists to help direct genetic diversity by moving desirable animals to other packs to improve and disperse specific genetic lineages. With this first cross-fostering attempt a success, we expect the technique to become an important tool for not only increasing the Mexican wolf population, but also the robustness and quality of the animals.”

News of the first wild-born litter of Mexican wolf pups in Mexico also signals the accomplishment of another major milestone. Biologists in Mexico have been working to reestablish a population of Mexican wolves south of the international boundary for several years, and recently sighted the first litter born in the country in 30 years.

“Supporting Mexico’s program to reestablish the Mexican wolf is imperative to the outcome and success of all recovery efforts for the subspecies given that Mexico makes up 90 percent of this wolf subspecies’ core historic range. Recognition of the role Mexico plays is a primary element to successful Mexican wolf recovery,” said deVos.

The Mexican wolf reintroduction project in Arizona-New Mexico is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service -- Wildlife Services, and several participating counties in Arizona.