By CHRISTIAN WADE
Two Mexican wolf pups born in captivity last week in Westchester County have been flown to a wildlife refuge in Indiana, part of a federally funded program aimed at preventing the extinction of one of North America’s rarest mammals.
The healthy male pups, which were born Wednesday at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, and flown by private jet a few days later to the Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden in Evansville, Ind., where they will be raised by other Mexican wolves. The pups are named F749 and M804.
Maggie Howell, executive director of the conservation center, said the efforts are necessary to ensure the survival of the pups, whose mother — known only as No. F749 — has had at least one other litter of pups that didn’t survive.
“It always a difficult decision to take pups away from their mother, but this is about more than the survival of the pack,” she said. “This is about the survival of the species.”
She said the Indiana zoo was best equipped to ensure the pups’ survival.
Mexican wolves, which were nearly hunted to extinction in the late-1970s, currently number 300 in captivity and about 75 in the wild, Howell said.
She said the two pups born last week will likely be raised in captivity in Indiana but said their offspring would be candidates for release into the wild when they reach adulthood.
The work is guided by the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, which uses computer software to determine which wolves will have the best genetic makeup to be passed down through future generations, thus ensuring the survival of the species.
The Wolf Conservation Center, located at 7 Buck Run in South Salem, was founded in 1999 to protect wolves and to educate the public about them. The center has 22 Mexican and three red wolves living in captivity on the 27-acre wooded grounds.