Regina Mossotti, Director of Animal Care and Conservation, conducts a quick pup check.

News Release April 29, 2016
For Immediate Use

Mexican wolf pups fly into the recovery effort

The Endangered Wolf Center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collaborate to fly two 9-day-old pups born at the Center from St. Louis to their new family in the wilds of New Mexico.

ST. LOUIS — The Endangered Wolf Center flew two just-born critically endangered Mexican wolf pups to New Mexico to be cross-fostered by a wild pack on Saturday, April 23, 2016. This historic collaborative effort between the Endangered Wolf Center staff and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services represents the first time pups born in captivity have been “adopted out” in this way.

This technique of inserting captive born pups into wild dens has never been tried with Mexican wolves. With fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild, these two pups born April 15, 2016 (male pup mp1461, named Lindbergh after the famous St. Louis aviator, and female pup fp1462, named Vida) represent a vital new component of the recovery effort.

“Years of work went into this moment,” said Regina Mossotti, Director of Animal Care and Conservation at the Endangered Wolf Center, “and we are elated to be a part of history. The Endangered Wolf Center has been working over the last 45 years to help make breakthroughs in conservation efforts. Getting these pups from a den in St. Louis to a den in New Mexico successfully was nothing short of exhilarating—and exhausting!”

Pups in backpack

Lindbergh and Vida travel by backpack to their new den.

The two pups flew to New Mexico, under the care of Mossotti and Animal Keeper Emma Miller. “Our staff are the best in the field and they did an excellent job of making sure these pups were warm, safe and healthy every step on their way into the wild,” said Virginia Busch, Executive Director of the Endangered Wolf Center.

Cross-fostering is a technique where wolf puppies from one litter are placed with another litter. The wolf mother will adopt the additions as her own. Placing pups from captivity into a wild litter helps increase genetic diversity. It is also a wonderful way to have wild parents (with an established territory and experience) raise and teach the pups how to survive.

Extreme terrain and logistics make it very challenging, and timing has to be just right. Wild and captive litters have to be born within a few days of each other, and generally the transfer from captivity to the wild has to occur before the pups are 10 days old. This means the wild den location needs to be known, a flight needs to be scheduled, perfect weather conditions need to exist and many other logistics need to be coordinated. All of these factors make the successful efforts of the Endangered Wolf Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services all the more remarkable.

The pack that the pups were released into was the SBP (Sheepherders Baseball Park) Pack, named after a New Mexico landmark in their territory. The father is M1284 (collared) and the mom is M1392.

Mexican wolves are the smallest, southernmost and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf. At one point, Mexican wolves numbered only five in the wild. When those five were captured and brought into managed breeding facilities, the Mexican wolf was declared extinct in the wild in 1980. The first release of Mexican wolves back in the wild took place in March 1998, with nine of the 11 wolves released coming from the Endangered Wolf Center. The 2015 survey of Mexican wolves counted 97.

Mexican wolves were native to New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Today, they can be found in New Mexico and Arizona, and Mexico.

The Endangered Wolf Center was founded in 1971 by Dr. Marlin Perkins, longtime host of TV’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and former director of the Saint Louis Zoo, and his wife Carol. It is located on the grounds of Washington University’s Tyson Research Center in Eureka,
Missouri, about 20 miles southwest of St. Louis.

For more information contact:
Steve Parker
Director of Operations
[email protected]
636-938-5900 office 314-724-8037 cell

Pups' new home

The two pups’ new landscape.