Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden announced the arrival of a litter of Mexican Gray Wolves, the most endangered wolf species in the world. The arrival of the first Mexican gray wolf litter in Evansville was not by conventional means. The litter of wolf pups arrived on a LightHawk* flight at Tri-State Aero, Inc. and were immediately given into the care of Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden staff.
Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden received its first Mexican Gray Wolves - a male and a female wolf pair - November 2012. Experienced parents, they were sent to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden to stand ready to help rear foster pups if the need should arise. A genetically important aged female wolf in the Mexican Gray Wolf Species Survival Program had repeatedly lost her litters. The decision to pull any pups she produced this year and foster them to an experienced pair was reached in July by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Mexican Gray Wolf Species Survival Plan in consultation with Dr. Susan Lyndaker Lindsey, Animal Curator at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden and Behavioral and Husbandry Advisor to the USFWS Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program and the Species Survival Plan. Dr. Lindsey has previous experience rearing wolf pup litters that are not socialized to humans and fostering them to adult wolves to form packs. Selection of the initial wolf pair for Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden was based upon the need for an experienced pair of wolves and the unique conservation contribution that Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden could offer to the future of this critically endangered wolf.
The litter of pups was born at the Wolf Conservation Center in Westchester County, New York on May 8, 2013 and pulled within hours of their birth with the goal of being in the care of the Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden staff within 24 hours. The pups will be partially hand reared and then fostered to the resident pair at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden within a few months. Although their birth mother was successful with one litter in her lifetime, her other litters have been totally lost or large portions of her litters lost within the first few weeks of life. The reasons behind these deaths are not known so the arriving litter is considered fragile by the USFWS and Mesker staff. But being cared for by Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden staff, and the foster pair of wolves, is considered their best chance for surviving and contributing to the genetics of this endangered species.
The male wolf, Nagual, was born on May 4, 2005 at Wild Canid Survival and Research Center near Eureka, MO. On May 22, 2009, he was transferred to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Sevilleta Wolf Management Center, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, NM. Dr. Lindsey fostered two orphan wild born pups to this male later that year. The female was born on April 22, 2007 at the California Wolf Center near Julian, CA. She was transferred to the USFWS Sevilleta Wolf Management Center, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro, NM on Nov. 23, 2009 and later placed with Nagual. This pair had pups in 2010 and 2011 and raised them all successfully in a large pack. They have proven to be excellent parents.
Mexican Gray Wolves are a very significant addition to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden's animal collection. There are only approximately 300 Mexican Gray Wolves in captivity and 60-70 in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico. These wolves have also been recently released in Mexico.
Click here to see a video of the interview with Dr. Susan Lyndaker Lindsey, Animal Curator at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden and Behavioral and Husbandry Advisor to the USFWS Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program and the Species Survival Plan.
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Photo credit: Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center