Update: Mexican Wolf Recovery Program

In an update released by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, one of the partners in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, two young adult Mexican gray wolves were observed and positively identified as the offspring of Ernesta. Ernesta was the female Mexican gray wolf that resided at Brookfield Zoo from 2010 - 2012 and was released to the wild in 2014 as part of the recovery program. Sadly, Ernesta's remains were found in January 2015, but as you can see from the below release, she has contributed greatly to the program as her legacy lives on with her pups. We are extremely proud to be a partner in the recovery program and to be able to contribute to this important conservation effort for the Mexican wolf population.

Biologists with the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) recently learned a fostered wolf pup introduced to a pack in 2014 has produced a wild offspring of her own.


In a critical breakthrough in Mexican wolf management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported that a genetic test of male 1561 revealed that it is the offspring of male 1293 and female 1346.  The female was one of two pups fostered into the den of the Dark Canyon Pack in New Mexico in 2014 and the daughter of Ernesta, a wolf who resided at Brookfield Zoo before being released in Arizona.

“We now have proof that a fostered pup not only survived to adulthood, but that it is reproducing and contributing genetically important young into the wild,” said Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “This is fantastic news for the program and demonstrates that fostering Mexican wolves so they grow up wild is effective and provides a critical step forward for wolf recovery.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Department support this fostering technique that introduces very young pups in professional care and places them into a wild-born litter of the same age. The pups are then raised in the wild rather than in a professional care setting.


Critics of the Commission’s decision to restrict releases in Arizona solely to fostering pups argued that until these pups reproduce there would be no genetic rescue.

“One of the key challenges to recovery of the Mexican wolf is long-term genetic management given that all Mexican wolves alive today originated from a founder population of only seven animals,” deVos said. “This approach has been used in genetic management of other species but until this month was unproven for Mexican wolves,” said deVos.
In April of 2016, the Chicago Zoological Society assisted in cross-fostering by adding two pups, Blaze and Brook, born at Brookfield Zoo on April 25 to the Elk Horn Pack. In September, Blaze was found and fitted with a collar to monitor his location and learn important information about the animal’s survival, dispersal, and potential new pack formation in the future.

All photos are courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Posted: 1/6/2017 5:23:17 PM by Bryan Todd Oakley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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