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Critically Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Leaves Westchester, NY for a Wild Future

Mexican Wolf M1141 in His Travel Crate
SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 – SOUTH SALEM, NY. – 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, a captive wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) left his Westchester home today to catch a flight that will bring him to his future “bride.” The Mexican wolf is en route to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Sevilleta Management facility in New Mexico.  This is the first step leading to the wolf’s most adventurous chapter – a life on the wild landscape of Sonora, Mexico. 

Mexican Wolf M1141 at Two Months Old

M1141 was born at the WCC in 2008, and although an average of 9,000 guests visit the WCC annually, visitors have never seen him. M1141 is among 14 wolves that live off-exhibit within the WCC’s 16-acre Endangered Species Facility – a natural environment where these incredibly elusive creatures can reside with minimal human contact. This setting and a strict diet of whole carcass road killed deer safeguards their natural behavior and best prepares them for a wild future.

The Mexican gray wolf or “lobo” (Canis lupus baileyi) is the southernmost and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in the North America. Once numbering in the thousands, the native species once roamed freely throughout the woodlands of the southwest U.S., and Mexico.  Between 1977 and 1980, the last five known wild Mexican wolves in the world were captured in Mexico and used to initiate a captive breeding program.

Mexican wolf reintroduction efforts began fifteen years ago, on March 28, 1998, when 11 captive-reared Mexican gray were released to the wild for the first time in a small portion in the wild southwest.  Because the entire existing Mexican wolf population is derived from such a limited founding population, genetic health is the primary consideration governing reproductive pairings and captive-to-wild release events. Both M11411 and his soon-to-be mate have genetic characteristics that will enhance the free-ranging wolf population currently in the wild. “With this release, we are attempting to establish a breeding wolf population in Mexico and also expand the genetic diversity of the wild population,” explained WCC curator Rebecca Bose.

The Mexican wolf remains one of North America’s most endangered mammals. Currently there are only 2 wild wolves living in Mexico and the end of 2012, only an estimated 75 Mexican wolves remained in the United States. Mexican wolves have struggled for a decade and a half, failing to come close to reaching the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan’s population goal of 100.  According to WCC director Maggie Howell, “Artificial boundaries, state politics, illegal killings and USFWS’s designation of all wild lobos as an ‘experimental, nonessential’ population, have put  recovery in a choke-hold.  So the release of these two lobos is an exciting step in the right direction!  We’re all incredibly honored to be able to help these wolves resume their rightful place in the wild.”  

The wolf pair  will not remain in New Mexico long, in coming weeks they’ll be transferred to their final stop before receiving the “call of the wild,” a pre-release facility in Mexico, Rancho La Mesa.  M1141 is the third Mexican wolf from the WCC to be chosen for release into the wild.