The Chicago Zoological Society is excited to announce the birth of a litter of Mexican gray wolves, who recently emerged from a den site at Brookfield Zoo’s Regenstein Wolf Woods habitat. Born in late May to first-time mother Zana, 3, and first-time father Flint, 5, the puppies are now becoming more active and visible. Guests have a chance to view them along with their parents playing and exploring their nearly two-acre outdoor environment.
The birth of the wolf pups is the first for this subspecies at Brookfield Zoo and helps support conservation efforts by increasing the genetic diversity. Zana was born at the San Cayetano Reserve in Mexico and Flint was born at the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri. They were both reared by their parents and raised within multigenerational wolf packs. With the upbringing they have experienced, staff at Brookfield Zoo are very encouraged they will be successful parents. Both the mother and the father care for and raise the pups in a social group called a pack.
“The Chicago Zoological Society is very excited about the birth of this litter. It is rewarding to be a part of a successful international program for the recovery of Mexican gray wolves in North America,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs. “Additionally, this is such a wonderful opportunity for our guests to see the wolf puppies as they interact with each other and their parents as a family unit and develop into adults.”
The Mexican gray wolf breeding program is managed for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Mexican Gray Wolf Species Survival Plan. Mexican gray wolves are the rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies of North American gray wolves, and if it were not for the recovery program, the subspecies would likely be extinct in their historical range of the Southwest and Mexico.
Chicago Zoological Society animal care staff recently received training from the USFWS at the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri. There, they were taught proper handling of the pups in anticipation of neonatal well-being exams, which will occur when the pups are six weeks old. This is also when staff will learn the official number of pups born. Although this particular litter was born too late in the season to be a part of USFWS’s pup-fostering efforts occurring with wild wolves, all the puppies are potential candidates for future release to the wild when they are adults. In pup-fostering, very young pups are moved from one litter to another similar-age wild litter so that the receiving pack raises the pups as their own. The technique shows promise to improve the genetic diversity of the wild wolf population. The first successful fostering of Mexican gray wolf pups in the wild included offspring born to a wolf from Brookfield Zoo that was released to the wild.
The puppies from the current litter will remain at Brookfield Zoo at least until a second litter is born next year to Zana and Flint, which will provide the yearling wolves the opportunity to help raise the second litter and establish good parenting skills.
The Chicago Zoological Society plays a pivotal role in the recovery program, demonstrating its commitment to helping the Mexican gray wolf population in the wild and raising awareness about an iconic North American species that was on the brink of extinction.
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Photo credit: Brookfield Zoo