Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center Celebrates the Successful Birth of Two Miracle Pups
Thanks to a tri-agency partnership between Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, Arizona Game & Fish, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the population of Arizona’s Mexican Gray Wolf, North America’s smallest and most endangered wolf, has grown.
The increase from 84 to 86 Mexican Gray Wolves now living in Arizona’s wild comes from the recent birth of two pups at Southwest Wildlife through a cross-foster process. The pups, which were born on April 30, were flown six days later by Arizona Game & Fish and released into the wild into the same den.
“This represents a new level of our participation in the species survival program and there were so many firsts in this story,” said Dr. Leo Egar, director of animal health, welfare and survival at Southwest Wildlife. “Not only did we have unprecedented births of two of the most endangered wolves in North America, but then following the births, we were able to go in under the cover of darkness several days later, removed the pups and got them on an Arizona Game & Fish plane and take them to near, native dens, where awaiting biologists snuck into the den and placed the pups. Three agencies were working as a collaborative team to make this happen, and it was quite extraordinary.”
This effort began at the 2021 Annual Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan meeting. Two wolves, Melly and Moonlight, needed a home and Southwest Wildlife agreed to take them. Due to the age of the animals and both having previous breeding situations with no reproduction, the chances for new pups were extremely unlikely. By using a cross-fostering process, Melly and Moonlight produced two pups, which is now a first for Southwest Wildlife. What makes these births even more extraordinary is that Melly may be the oldest Mexican Gray Wolf to give birth.
“We are truly honored to have participated in the conservation of this critically endangered species,” Egar said. “As an ethical wildlife education and rehabilitation facility, Southwest Wildlife is dedicated to providing the opportunity for wildlife to live in the wild where they belong, and we will only breed as part of a structured species survival plan. Providing wolf pups with the chance to grow up wild and eventually provide their genes to better the wild population as a whole by cross-fostering could improve the quality of life of an endangered species, and we are proud to have been part of that process.”