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Rocky was born on May 1, 2001 in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of New Mexico. This was the first litter to be born in New Mexico in decades. Unfortunately, due to a drought, the den area that his wild-born mother chose did not have access to water. To make matters worse, her mate and his brother had abandoned the pack known as the “Wild Cat Pack” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Through radio collar signals it was known that the mother had not left the den for days. When the USFWS went in to check the wild den, Rocky’s sister was already dead, and he was severely dehydrated and malnourished. Both mother and son were taken to the Albuquerque Zoo for immediate treatment. Once stabilized, they were transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility.
Rocky and his mother were placed with a Mexican gray wolf male in hopes that they could eventually be returned to the wild, but the newly formed pack was not sufficient for Rocky’s needs. His “rocky” start to life had left him with a rear knee infection, severe anemia, intestinal problems and parasites, as well as severe nutritional cataracts. He needed to receive blood transfusions and special care. When he was stable, he was flown to the Endangered Wolf Center accompanied by USFWS staff.
Rocky was placed with his great-grandfather, Francisco, and also had the companionship of another special pup, Anna. Francisco was in retirement after raising 19 of his own pups, and he was a wonderful surrogate father for Rocky. They bonded immediately, and Rocky would often come up to Francisco and rub underneath his chin. Anna was a pup the same age, but about twice the size of Rocky. Anna had been hand-reared after the loss of her littermates and was also being fostered by Francisco. She and Rocky quickly became bonded littermates and would play together most of the day.
With lots of care from the staff at the Endangered Wolf Center and the emotional companionship of other wolves, Rocky became healthy enough to undergo surgery for his nutritional cataracts. After a short stay at the Saint Louis Zoo for recovery, Rocky returned to the Endangered Wolf Center. Unfortunately, Rocky’s surgery was not able to improve his eyesight; he is blind in one eye and can see only light and dark shadows in the other. He has adapted well, however to his enclosure and surroundings, and dug a large den in the hillside, demonstrating excellent wild instincts and abilities.