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Wolf Conservation Center Mourns Endangered Mexican Wolf M1140

Dear friends,

It’s with a heavy heart that I share sad news about a beloved lobo. Mexican gray wolf M1140, affectionately nicknamed “Mateo” by Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) supporters, passed away today.

F1140 was born on April 22, 2008 at the WCC. He never received the opportunity to take his rightful place on the wild landscape like brother and litter-mate M1141 did in 2015. Nor did he ever wear the badge of parenthood like littermates F1143 and M1139. But he was loved. Loved by his family and treasured by hundreds of people he would never know.

For all his 8 years, M1140 resided off-exhibit with his family in a remote enclosure. Wolves are naturally fearful of people, and a number of our Mexican gray wolves are candidates for release. Maintaining their timidity around people is essential if we want them to have a good chance of survival if released into the wild. The WCC’s Endangered Species Facility houses five vast enclosures which provide a natural environment where these most elusive creatures can reside with minimal human contact. Most of these enclosures are equipped with wireless surveillance cameras to allow WCC staff to observe food and water intake and monitor the physical well-being of each wolf without the animals’ knowledge.

Because these webcams are available to the public, M1140 unknowingly crept into our homes and our hearts, helping to raise awareness for the importance and plight of his wild kin.

In late July, M1140 displayed respiratory symptoms. The following day WCC staff captured the elusive lobo to examine him in person. He looked healthy at a glance, but one could easily hear he was in a bit of respiratory distress.

WCC Volunteer Veterinarian Dr. Paul Maus examined M1140, drew blood, and took x-rays of his throat, head, and chest. Very little was revealed at first, so we returned M1140 to his home after administering a strong antibiotic. M1140 remained energetic in the following days, but his respiratory symptoms continued. We captured the reluctant wolf again a few days later to ensure a healthy intake of water and to administer steroids. Again, M1140 continued to look good – he displayed healthy behavior. But his breathing and blood-work reflected otherwise. We carried on monitoring M1140 while specialists continued to review his blood-work and medical images. Over the weekend our worst fears were confirmed. M1140 had cancer.

M1140’s respiratory issue was an early indicator of a fast-growing nasal tumor, a deadly ailment that is thought to be prevalent in the managed population of Mexican gray wolves due to low genetic diversity. All Mexican wolves descended from just 7 founders rescued from extinction. Since 1995 more than 25 cases of nasal tumors have been documented in the captive populations of Mexican wolves in both Mexico and the U.S.. Although cancer represents only 3.3% of the causes of death in the registered Mexican wolf populations; 44.4% of these neoplasms are nasal tumors. In its great majority these tumors are locally aggressive but rarely metastasize. Mexican wolf F1145 (a.k.a. Anastasia) fell victim to the same cancer, but faster growing, in August of last year. She was M1140’s sister and littermate.

Thus on August 16, WCC staff brought M1140 to be seen by WCC veterinarian Dr Charlie Duffy VMD where his cancer was confirmed to have advanced – aggressively grown inward. M1140 is no longer in pain now. We put the sweet wolf to sleep.

It’s never easy saying goodbye. Especially when there is such strength in one’s will to live. But despite M1140’s tenacity, his wild grit had waned. His battle was lost.

As we remember M1140, we hope he had an awareness of the love and appreciation we have for him. He was a beautiful wolf, a loyal bother and son, and valued contributor to the recovery of his rare and at-risk species. His memory lives on and will serve to remind us of our obligation to restore Mexican wolves to their rightful places in our landscapes, in our hearts, and in our culture.

Our hearts go out M1140’s sister F1143, his niece F1505 (a.k.a. Trumpet), and those of you he had unknowingly touched. R.I.P., Sweet lobo.

Maggie Howell, WCC Executive Drector