Back in the days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was said to have handed out medals to “Hero Mothers.” If the Fish and Wildlife Service gave a similar medal to wolves, Mexican wolf Anna (F685) would surely qualify. Anna, the sole surviving offspring of genetically valuable Ghost Ranch lineage wolf Santa Ana (M412), has set the standard for rearing large and successful litters.
Some of Anna’s 2004 puppies
Anna, a wolf with McBride and Ghost Ranch lineage genes, was first paired with Prietito (M536), a McBride and Aragon lineage cross, in 2003. Their puppies would bear genes from all three lineages of Mexican wolves: McBride, Ghost Ranch, and Aragon. On April 25 Anna delivered eight puppies. The first-time mom quickly learned how to care for her large, hungry, squirming brood. By fall the pups had grown so large that the staff at the Endangered Wolf Center (previously called Wild Canid Survival and Research Center) had to expand the pack’s pen to give them more room to romp and explore. All eight pups survived to adulthood.
The following year, Anna and Prietito bred again. Sadly, Prietito had to be euthanized due to an agressive cancer before the birth of Anna’s second litter of ten. Wild Canid staff turned to an experienced male, Dude (M572), to act as foster father and help Anna raise her puppies. Video cameras installed in Anna’s den box allowed animal care specialists to monitor the large litter from the very beginning. With Dude’s help, Anna again successfully raised every single pup to adulthood.
Eighteen pups in two years should be enough for any mom, but Anna was just getting started. In 2005 she was paired with her new companion, Dude, another McBride and Aragon cross. On April 9, Anna gave birth to a record twelve tri-lineage Mexican wolf puppies. Given the size of the litter, it wasn’t surprising that three of the puppies died. Still, Anna and Dude stayed busy all spring and summer raising the nine surviving pups. They were fortunate to have help from the pups’ older siblings from the previous year. Wild Canid staff reported in a letter sent to “adopters” of the Mexican wolves that some of the older siblings were even seen grooming the little pups.
After a well-deserved rest from parenthood in 2006 and 2007, Anna and Dude became the parents of eleven more puppies on April 6, 2008. Eight of them survived to be raised by their parents and extended lobo family.
Raising pups in multi-age packs may have advantages beyond that of ensuring pup survival. Pups reared in large families seem to learn “negotiating” skills that may help them survive in the wild. One of Anna’s 2003 pups, Laredo (M806), undoubtedly benefitted from growing up as a member of a large family. Now the alpha male of the Bluestem Pack in Arizona, Laredo will be the subject of a future lobo biography.
Acknowledgements: The biographies of Anna: Miracle Puppy, Anna and Rocky, and Anna: Amazing Mom, draw heavily on material in updates sent to Mexican wolf “adopters” at the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center, as well as on material from the Wild Canid Review newsletter. The author is grateful for this information.