2021 has been an eventful and record-breaking pup foster season at the Endangered Wolf Center.

In total, 22 pups born in managed care – half of which came from the Endangered Wolf Center – were fostered into eight wild packs this spring.

Two of our Mexican wolf mothers, Vera and Zana, gave birth to litters that were fostered into four wild packs in New Mexico and Arizona. Their valuable genetics will strengthen the health of this critically endangered wild population.



An Unforgettable Journey

At only ten days old, the pups may not remember their journeys to the wild, but the experience is unforgettable for our team.

In fact, the pups were so tiny that their ears and eyes were still closed. They relied entirely on our team to safely transport them to the wild. Partnering with state and federal agencies, the biologists worked to get them settled into a den with their new brothers and sisters – a task our team didn’t take lightly.

It was still dark outside at about 4 a.m. when a small group of our Animal Care experts brought several pups from our Mexican wolf litters in for veterinary exams.

Once the pups were weighed, microchipped, and given their health exams, they were driven to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, MO, where they flew off to their new wild homes.

The pups traveled with our Animal Care team to Arizona and New Mexico from Missouri on donated flights. Two of Vera’s pups went into the Owl Canyon Pack in New Mexico and three went into the Elk Horn Pack in Arizona; just a few weeks later, three of Zana’s pups were placed into the Lava Pack in New Mexico and three into the Hoodoo Pack in Arizona.



Fostering Pups is Making a Difference

The wild Mexican wolf population is already seeing the benefits of fostering wolf pups as an important conservation technique.

The Endangered Wolf Center works in collaboration with many state, federal, and native American agencies, as well as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) partners, all of which work together to save this critically endangered wolf. The SSP, which is made up of over 50 zoological institutions across North America, helps with breeding genetically healthy animals, which uses science and genetic information to help strengthen the population.

The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) has documented that fostered pups have the same survival rate as wild-born pups in their first year. “The data shows this technique is working, and for a critically endangered animal that was once down to just a handful of individuals left in the wild, this incredibly creative and innovative conservation effort is proving to be invaluable,” said Regina Mossotti, EWC’s Director of Animal Care and Conservation and the USFWS/SSP’s Pup Foster Advisor.


The Journey Continues

The travel may be over, but for these 11 newly wild pups, the journey is just beginning.



It’s hard to be wild. Wolves continue to experience hardships that come from an unfortunate legacy of misinformation and villainization through folklore. Because of this, wolves are misunderstood and therefore, unfortunately, feared. This causes their conservation to be difficult and often a polarizing topic.

Can Wolves and Humans Coexist?

Absolutely. As our world changes rapidly, coexistence with wildlife is becoming more important than ever.

“Our relationship with wildlife and wild places has been out of balance. Programs like cross-fostering show that great strides are being made to help the wild rebound, recover, and continue to support healthy ecosystems,” said Virginia Busch, CEO of the Endangered Wolf Center.

As a keystone species, wolves play a critical role in the health of an ecosystem. By strengthening wolf populations in the wild, there is a ripple effect of environmental health that impacts plants, animals, and humans.



We thank the many individuals and organizations that helped to make this possible.

Aerial Transportation: Aero Charter, APLux, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and Lighthawk Conservation Flying

EWC Wildlife Release Heroes:
Jim and Lionelle Elsesser, Jane Habbegger, Geraldine Hufker, Peg Kaltenthaler, Jim and Kathy Runk, Celeste Ruwwe, Jay and Sharlla Smith, Doug and Joyce Wiley, Karen Winnick, Dr. Rhiannon McKnight, and Dr. Tammy Smith

Special thanks to the coordinated efforts of:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Lands Office, U.S. Forest Service, and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.

You Can Help Endangered Wolves

If you would like to become a Wildlife Release Hero, please make a donation here and mention “Wildlife Release Fund” in the comments section.