The Wild Release of Mexican Gray Wolves Slides, Tuba, Banjo, Fiddle, and Viola

Most wolves born in captivity spend their lives there, but five Mexican gray wolf siblings born at the Wolf Conservation Center on May 1, 2023 were destined for the wild!

In May 2023, the pups - Slides (named by Great Wolf Lodge), Tuba, Banjo, Fiddle, and Viola - were flown to New Mexico and successfully placed into the dens of the wild Dark Canyon pack and the Hail Canyon pack through a foster process. Fostering is a coordinated effort between the Mexican gray wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) and the Mexican Wolf Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program 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. Of course, fostering alone cannot augment the genetics of the wild population; adult and family group releases are needed as well.

All five pups received microchips which serve as identifiers if they are captured in the future. Slides was captured and collared by the IFT in fall 2023 - how exciting! He is a member of the Hail Canyon pack.

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.

The Pups

Lobo Pups Cross Foster 2023 Edit

Their Wild Homes

Generalized locations of the Dark Canyon and Hail Canyon packs.
Generalized locations of the Dark Canyon and Hail Canyon packs.


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. (2024), there is a single wild population comprising 257 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 many pups have been fostered. Only one of those wolves - Slides - is known to be alive.