Most wolves born in captivity spend their lives there, but one lucky Mexican gray wolf pup born at the Wolf Conservation Center on May 3, 2022 was destined for the wild!
In May 2022, the pup (named "Crumbo" in honor of Kim Crumbo, a supporter of rewilding and Mexican wolves) was flown to New Mexico and successfully placed in the den of the wild Iron Creek pack through a “cross-foster.” Cross-fostering is a coordinated effort between the Mexican gray wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP) and is a technique employed to enhance the genetic health of the wild gene pool of Mexican wolves. Captive-born pups are introduced into a similar-aged wild litter so the pups can grow up as wild wolves and aid in the recovery of their endangered species.
Crumbo (also known as f2736) received a microchip before her release to the wild but while the chip will serve to identify her if she's captured by the IFT in the future, it does not transmit her location.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS)’s Initial Release and Translocation Proposal for 2021, Mexican gray wolves within the wild population are as related to one another as full siblings. This cross-foster recovery technique provides the opportunity to augment the population’s genetics with the hope the pups will eventually spread their genes to the greater population.
Iron Creek Pack
When Hope was cross fostered into the Iron Creek Pack in May 2022, the family consisted of parents AM1240, AF1278 (Acalia), M2545 (Polaris), M2549 (Anuk), and pups born in 2021 and 2022.
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only seven remaining rescued from extinction in captivity. In 1998, the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S. (2022), there is a single wild population comprising 241 individuals.
The WCC has been a critical partner in the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program for nearly two decades. The goal of the Recovery Plan is to restore Mexican gray wolves to a portion of their ancestral range in the southwest United States and Mexico. To date, three adult Mexican gray wolves from the center have been released in the wild and two pups have been cross-fostered.