Wolf pups bred in captivity at a Kansas zoo are now part of a wild pack in Arizona.
The pups from the critically-endangered Mexican wolf species were part of a litter born at the Sedgwick County Zoo. Now they are being raised as wild wolves in a national forest.
The zoo in Wichita sent four pups to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year as part of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.
“Cross-fostering is a technique in which wolf pups from one litter are placed with another litter of pups the same age,” Sedgwick County Zoo spokesperson Jennica King said in a statement. “The wolf mother will adopt the new pups as her own, allowing the SCZ pups to be raised as wild wolves. Placing pups from human care into a wild litter not only helps increase the population size in the wild but also helps increase genetic diversity.”
Mexican wolves are native to the southwest United States and Mexico, but the species is critically endangered. In the late 1970s, the last seven remaining wild Mexican wolves were taken into human care in an effort to save the species, King said. There are now 163 Mexican wolves in the wild.
Two pups from the zoo’s litter remain in Wichita with parents Angus and Nova.
State game and fish officials in Arizona reported that three of the wolf pups were successfully cross-fostered into the pack.
They said biologists used remote trail cameras late last month to document eight Mexican wolf pups in the Hoodoo Pack in the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. When the cross-fostering was completed in April, there were five wild Mexican wolf pups and four cross-fostered pups in the litter.
Biologists will begin fall trapping efforts later this month to document cross-fostered wolves that have survived and to deploy tracking collars to monitor and manage the wolf population in Arizona.
Since 2014, there have been 52 genetically diverse wolf pups cross-fostered into the wild to work toward genetic recovery of the Mexican wolf population.