It’s with heavy hearts that we report that Mexican gray wolf F749 gave birth to a single pup yesterday afternoon and the pup was stillborn. She went into labor on Thursday afternoon and Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) staff monitored her progress through the evening and overnight via an internal webcam stationed in her den. Early this morning, F749 emerged from her den for the first time in over 18 hours leaving her stillborn pup behind. The pup was female. A few hours later WCC staff confirmed the pup’s condition, and removed the pup in hopes that a necropsy (an autopsy performed on animals) will reveal why her pups were unable to survive. In late March, an ultrasound on F749 confirmed that she was at the time carrying at least 4 pups, all with strong heartbeats.
The Mexican gray wolf or “lobo” is America’s most endangered gray wolf. At last count only 83 remained in the wild and over 250 lobos live in captivity. The captive lobo population is currently hosted by a network of organizations in both the United States and Mexico participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP). A Species Survival Plan (SSP) is a breeding and management program designed to ensure the long-term sustainability of captive-based animal populations. The primary goal for the MWSSP is to breed wolves for maximum genetic integrity for reintroduction into both the United States and Mexico.
In order to maintain genetic diversity within the Mexican wolf population, the MWSSP management group determines which captive lobos will be permitted to breed by using software developed for the population management of endangered species. Wolf unions are chosen based on the genetic “value” of the individuals and the benefits their potential offspring would contribute to the diversity of their rare species. The ideal pairings have the lowest inbreeding coefficient and produce offspring that will best enhance the wild lobo gene pool. Because the entire existing Mexican wolf population descended from just seven founders rescued from extinction, genetic health is the primary consideration governing all wolf pairings.
Mexican wolf F749 is among twelve lobos who reside off-exhibit at the WCC and she is the most genetically valuable individual in the program. She’s one of the most prolific wolves in the MWSSP as well. Sadly, F749 has lost several litters in her 12 years, and the causes remain unknown. When left in her care, only 2 of her last 19 pups have survived. While the cause of this most recent stillbirth is also unknown, we hope that a necropsy will reveal some information that can help guide breeding selections for the MWSSP in the future.
Although F749 and her doting mate, M804, live off exhibit at the WCC, we help raise awareness for these critically endangered wolves and our efforts to recover them via live webcams.