Journey to the Wild: Six Mexican Wolf Pups Take Flight

On May 16, 2024, six 13-day-old Mexican wolf pups from the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri were flown to the wilderness of New Mexico. Their mission: to be fostered into two wild packs – a significant step in the conservation of this critically endangered species.

Fostering, Full-Circle

This extraordinary endeavor is a collaborative effort involving the Endangered Wolf Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many dedicated partners. These pups represent a beacon of hope for the Mexican wolf, a species once teetering on the brink of extinction. 

Notably, one of the wild mothers who received fostered pups this year was herself a foster, born at the Endangered Wolf Center in 2020. This highlights the success and growth of the fostering program and for our team on the ground in New Mexico, a full-circle moment they won’t soon forget.

After receiving a veterinary exam, six healthy Mexican wolf pups are ready to fly to their new home in the wilds of  New Mexico.


What Is the Goal of Wolf Pup Fostering?

Fostering is a challenging and sophisticated conservation strategy where wolf pups born in human care are placed with a wild litter. Because wolves are family-oriented pack animals, wild mothers adopt these pups as her own, which allows fostering to be such an important tool in the conservation toolbox for this species. 

Because wolves are family-oriented, pack animals, they are instinctually nurturing, which is why fostering is such an important tool in the conservation toolbox for this species. 

The primary goal of this practice is to increase genetic diversity within the wild population. With about 257 Mexican wolves in the wild according to a recent survey by the USFWS, the genetics these six pups contribute are invaluable. 

Danielle Rosenstein (left) and Rachel Crosby care for the pups before the Interagency Field Team hikes to locate the wild den.

Pups are placed in a ventilated backpack carrier for the trek into the mountains of New Mexico.


The Challenge of Pup Fostering

Fostering wolf pups is not a simple task. The process involves navigating mountainous terrain and timing is crucial — wild and captive litters must be born within a few days of each other, and the transfer needs to occur before the pups are fourteen days old. These requirements ensure the best chance of successful adoption by the wild mothers. 

A Proven Strategy

Since the inception of Mexican wolf pup fostering efforts in 2016 by the Endangered Wolf Center, over 100 pups born in human care have been successfully placed into wild dens, 46 of which have come from the EWC. These efforts have become a key component of the Mexican wolf recovery program.

The Importance of Mexican Wolves

Mexican wolves are a keystone species, meaning their presence is crucial for maintaining the health of their ecosystem. They help control prey populations, which benefits plant life and reduces the spread of disease, creating a more balanced and healthy environment for all species, including humans.

“Mexican wolves play a crucial role in ecosystem health as a keystone species, so their conservation is vital for preserving our wild areas. With such low numbers left in the wild, every fostered pup brings us closer to ensuring a thriving population of this endangered species.”

Sarah Holaday, Director of Animal Care and Conservation at the Endangered Wolf Center and Co-vice Chair of the Mexican Wolf SAFE Program

Nashoba (left), the pups’ father, and one of his daughters from last year’s litter. 

Join the Effort

The journey of these six pups is more than a flight; it is a lifeline for a species and an ecosystem. Through continued efforts and public support, we can ensure that the howl of the Mexican wolf continues to echo through the mountains of New Mexico and beyond.

 Collaborative Conservation: A United Effort

We want to express our sincere gratitude to our conservation collaborators who came together for the foster event: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Mexican Wolf SAFE program, the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game, the USDA Forest Service, the USDA Wildlife Services, and LightHawk Conservation Flying.

Protecting a species requires teamwork that transcends organizational boundaries. It’s a collective effort where each person’s contribution matters. Through the unwavering support of passionate donors year after year, we continue our mission to protect the heart of the wild, the critically endangered Mexican wolf.

How You Can Help

Join us in supporting the conservation of the Mexican wolf by making a donation today.