EUREKA, MO - Once upon a time, well really it's the first time four endangered Mexican wolf pups born in captivity have been adopted out to two different packs in two different states at the exact same time.
“We did the first ever double foster of pups born in a managed care facility at the Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis,” says Regina Mossotti, Director Animal Care & Conservation Endangered Wolf Center. “We took those puppies all the way to New Mexico and Arizona and put them in two different wild dens, in both of those states.”
The chances with wolves of introducing them into the wild, into a den of newborns, and having a new mom take them in as her own?
Slim to rare.
But that's exactly what happened.
“Seven thousand square miles I believe the recovery area is,” says Sarah Holaday, Animal Keeper Endangered Wolf Center. “It can be really difficult to locate the dens. The wild moms make it difficult to see them so sometimes it just looks like a pile of rocks and there`s actually pups living inside.”
The adventure began in St. Louis, Missouri at the Endangered Wolf Center when a liter of six were born to Sibi and Lazarus.
There was a plane ride with the pups, named Grenville, Belinda, Bennie, and Spirit, from the Gateway City to the Grand Canyon state.
Then, a grueling hike and the brother-sister pairs were placed into two wild dens thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their partners.
“When we take the pups born in our facility and put them in the wild den, we make them smell like the den as much as possible,” says Mossotti. ‘We take smells from that wild litter and put them on our puppies and put them back in and mom and dad take care of them.”
“The reason why we do these fosters in the wild is so we can infuse new genetics from our managed care population into the wild population,” says Holaday. “With a critically endangered species like this, less than 150 left in the wild, it is so important to maintain genetic diversity. This is one awesome way we can do that.”
Wednesday afternoon mom Sibi on the left and dad Lazarus on the right were lounging in the nice spring day in St. Louis, unaware that four of their pups are breaking new ground in the work to save a species.