Six years ago today, the Wolf Conservation Center family grew. During the early morning hours on April 22, 2008, Mexican gray wolf F613 quietly had six pups in her den and created a new holiday- “B’Earth Day.” The six newborn pups (three girls and three boys) were not only adorable, they were and still remain an essential contribution to the recovery of their rare species.
After a week had passed, WCC curator Rebecca Bose gave the pups their first checkup. At this age, pups are still blind, their eyes not opening until about 10 days of age. Since these wolves are a part of the Mexican wolf Species Survival Plan, it was important that they received as little human contact as possible so they retained their natural wariness of people.
WCC staff became reacquainted with the litter when the pups were two months old. This is also when the pups were officially given their alphanumeric “names.”
Also at this age, beginning at about 5 weeks old, the pups emerged from the den to explore the world around them. Because the tiny explorers cannot go far, adult wild wolves will travel less during this season, keeping most activities focused on the den or rendezvous site. All ears and paws, the pups romp, play, bite, and tackle one another. This of course is great fun for the siblings, but it’s also a way for the pups to sharpen important skills that they’ll require as adults and lets them establish which sibling will be dominant in the pack hierarchy. By the time the pups celebrated their first birthday in 2009, one male yearling was clearly his father’s right hand man, shadowing every move of his handsome role model.
As the siblings matured, opportunities came knocking. As a part of ongoing efforts to reintroduce critically endangered Mexican gray wolves into a portion of their ancestral home in the United States southwest and northern Mexico, U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) selected one of the pups to be relaesed into the wild! Mexican gray wolf M1141 was transferred from the WCC in September of 2013 to meet his “bride” at USFWS’ Sevilleta Management facility in New Mexico to prep him for his eventual home on the wild landscape of northern Mexico. At Sevilleta, the lobo couple hit it off and even engaged in a copulatory tie in February. Today, they reside at pre-release facility south of the border in Northern Mexico. Any day now M1141 and his presumably pregnant companion should receive the “call of the wild.” Although M1141 is the third Mexican wolf from the WCC to be chosen for release into the wild, he’s a pioneer among his litter-mates.
All grown up now, the five remaining “Earth Day Pups” reside with their soon to be 14-year-old mother, F613. So today on their birthday, we’re keeping our hopes high that one day we can offer more of them the ultimate gift – an opportunity to bring their ancestral home on the wild landscape back to balance. Happy B’Earth Day, Lobos!