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Wildlife officials 'cross-foster' 11 Mexican gray wolf pups into wild packs

Mexican wolf pup
Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team
A Mexican wolf pup is given a health check before being "cross-fostered," or placed into a wild den.

Wildlife officials say 11 captive-born endangered Mexican gray wolf pups have been placed into wild dens in an effort to increase genetic diversity within the species.

Over three weeks this spring the pups were cross-fostered into packs in New Mexico and Arizona from facilities across the U.S.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the pups were mixed with similarly aged wolves within 14 days of being born and will be raised by the mother wolf and the rest of the pack.

Officials say 11 pups was a lower number than they’d hoped for this season.

Since the beginning of the program, 83 pups have been placed in wild dens and 13 have survived to breeding age. Four have reproduced.

Wolf advocates, however, say releasing more adult wolves into the wild would help the species recover more quickly and be a more effective way to diversify the animal’s genetics.

At last count there were at least 196 wild Mexican wolves in the Southwest.