Members of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team process a pair of captive-born wolf pups in 2017 to be raised in the wild. The process, known as cross-fostering, was recently done again with pups in Arizona and New Mexico.
VERMILION CLIFFS—Northern Arizona’s picturesque, red-rocked, steeply eroded Vermilion Cliffs are home to a bounty of wildlife. However, today it’s also home to the state’s newest resident: a recently hatched wild California condor nestling.
The nestling is the first confirmed hatching in the wild in Arizona this breeding season. Any additional birds only serve to help bolster the overall population of condors, which was listed as an endangered species in 1967.
A biologist with The Peregrine Fund confirmed seeing the first nestling of the current breeding season Tuesday, June 11. The young bird is believed to have hatched around April 23 to condors 266M (male) and 296F (female).
The historical California Condor population declined to just 22 individuals in the 1980s when the greater California Condor Recovery Program was initiated to save the species from extinction. Today the birds can be seen above Arizona, Utah, California and Mexico.
California condor populations have slowly increased since the first captive-reared birds were released into the wild at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in 1996. As of December 2018, there were 488 total condors worldwide, with 166 in captivity and 312 in the wild, more than 88 of which can be seen soaring above in Arizona and Utah skies.
With a wingspan of up to 9.5 feet, California condors are the largest flying land bird in North America and are opportunistic scavengers that utilize thermal updrafts to help them soar and glide up to 50 mph. They can also travel more than 100 miles per day in search of food.
Condors can live up to 60 years in the wild and nest in caves or on rock ledges with a single egg laid on the floor of the cave or ledge. The egg then hatches about 56 days after incubation.
Young condors fledge — or take their first flight — at five to six months of age, but may stay in the nesting area for up to one year.
The Arizona-Utah recovery effort is a cooperative program by federal, state and private partners, including The Peregrine Fund, Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Kaibab and Dixie national forests among many other supporting groups and individuals.
Dozen zoo-born Mexican wolf pups find new homes in wild after successful fostering effort
ALBUQUERQUE – Twelve Mexican wolf pups are now being cared for and raised by surrogate wild wolf parents after successful efforts to introduce them into existing wolf litters in Arizona and New Mexico.
The young wolves were placed in their foster dens by scientists from the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan group and Interagency Field Team (IFT). The cross-fostering is part of an effort to restore the rare gray wolf subspecies to its former range and increase genetic diversity in the wild population.
Five Mexican wolf pups were placed into wild dens in Arizona and seven pups were placed into wild dens in New Mexico from April 18 to May 10, 2019, in accordance with the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. Cross-fostering is a proven way to introduce pups into the litter of an experienced wild female. Typically, survival rates using this technique are higher than other wolf release methods.
Six of the pups came from the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri, three from the Mesker Park Zoo in Indiana, two from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas, and one from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. In addition, three wild-born pups were removed from the Frieborn Pack in New Mexico and placed at the Endangered Wolf Center.
“We expanded our cross-fostering work this year both in the number of pups placed in the wild and the number of partners helping with the effort,” said Amy Lueders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “The support of our partners, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Endangered Wolf Center, the Mesker Park Zoo, the Sedgwick County Zoo and the Wolf Conservation Center continues to play a critical role in the success of Mexican wolf recovery.”
“This is one of the most important conservation efforts in the history of Mexican wolf recovery,” said Jim deVos, Assistant Director for Wildlife Management at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Given the very small initial population of wolves, infusing new genetics into the growing wolf population is a crucial step to recovery. The field team worked tirelessly to locate dens and transfer pups to make this important contribution to wildlife conservation a success.”
The IFT will continue to monitor the packs through GPS and radio telemetry signals from collars placed on the wolves to avoid further disturbance. Later, through remote camera observations and efforts to trap the young of the year, the IFT plans to document the survival of the cross-fostered pups.
Partners in the effort to recover Mexican wolves include the Service, the government of Mexico, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, U.S. Forest Service, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service –Wildlife Services, participating counties and the members of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.
For more information on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, visit the Service’s Mexican Wolf website or visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department website on wolves.