EL PASO, TX (KTSM) – The El Paso Zoo and Botanical Gardens is part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) cross-fostering and breeding program dedicated to helping boost the genetic diversity of the endangered subspecies, the Mexican Gray Wolf.

Three of the five born at the El Paso Zoo have been released into five wild wolf packs throughout New Mexico and Arizona along with nine other captive-born ‘pups.’

Earlier this year, two female and three male puppies were born to the El Paso Zoo’s resident wolf parents, Tazanna and Tulio.

In the spring the 12 pups were plunked in across the U.S. as part of a coordinated effort, according to the El Paso Zoo, to be placed with genetically diverse, captive born wolves in the wild population in support of recovery efforts. Now in its seventh year, the Mexican wolf fostering program continues to help boost the genetic diversity.

It is great to see all the different generations of wolves in one facility and also outstanding to be repopulating the wild wolf population and adding genetic diversity to the wild population.

Joe Montisano, Director, El Paso Zoo

Cross-fostering has been a proven method used by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) to increase genetic diversity in the wild Mexican Wolf population. The process begins with carefully managed breeding by the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) program to produce genetically diverse pups within the captive population.

Within 14 days of being born, the captive-born pups are transported to the wild and mixed with similarly aged wild pups. Once all the pups are placed back into the wild den, the breeding female’s maternal instinct kicks in. She will feed and care for both the wild and captive-born pups. With the help of her pack mates, the pups will be raised with the skills and knowledge needed for a life in the wild.

Since the inception of the program, 83 pups have been placed into wild wolf dens and as a
result, three of four genetic metrics have shown improvements, which bodes well for the long term survival of the Mexican wolf. Planning has already begun for the 2023 fostering program, with a
goal of getting more pups in dens next year than this year.

Jim deVos, Mexican Wolf Coordinator, Arizona Game and Fish Department

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