Two pups from the six-pup litter of a recently released captive-born female Mexican wolf, Ernesta (F1126) have been cross-fostered with the three-pup litter of another wild female (F923).
A pregnant Ernesta and her mate, M1249, were released in April of this year as the Coronado Pack, but shortly thereafter separated. M1249 returned to his original territory, but Ernesta settled south of the release site, dug a den and delivered a litter of pups around May 5. While the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team, which monitors the animals, maintained a food cache for Ernesta, it feared that without two adults to provision the pups, and with a mother with no previous experience in the wild, the survival chances for the litter were slim.
On May 15, the Field Team retrieved Ernesta and her pups. Ernesta and four of the pups were moved to the Servilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico, where Ernesta was reunited with her former mate, Wesley (M1051), forming a new family unit slated for eventual translocation into the Gila Wilderness Area in New Mexico sometime this summer.
The remaining two pups were introduced to the litter of the Dark Canyon pack female, F923, in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. Both litters were approximately two weeks old at the time. F923 is an experienced female who has successfully reared pups, and her pack exhibits appropriate wild behavior. By using cross-fostering in this instance, the Field Team hopes to introduce genetically desirable pups into the wild population; Ernesta is part of a genetically underrepresented lineage.