While Follow the Pack was in the field in Arizona, Mexican wolf project biologists were getting ready to do their yearly count of the wild population. They fly low over each wolf pack in a helicopter, counting both collared and uncollared animals. They also look for uncollared wolves that are not with known packs. Besides counting wolves, they also try to capture some by shooting them with tranquilizer darts. Then they land, examine and weigh each wolf, take its temperature, take a blood sample, and give it shots to prevent common wolf diseases. They put radio collars on animals that have no collars, and replace collars that are wearing out or have weak batteries.
The official date for counting Mexican wolves is December 31 of each year. The actual count happens in mid-January. Because wolf puppies aren’t born until April or May of each year, biologists are sure that any wolf they find alive in the wild in mid-January was also there at the end of December.
Biologists count wolves in the middle of winter, rather than in the summer, because some wolf pups born in the spring don’t survive though the fall and into winter. If they counted all the pups alive in July or August, they would overestimate the number of wolves in the population the following year.
After they finish counting the lobos in the wild, project biologists write a report about what they find. Watch for the report in the news and on this website in February.