PHOENIX – Scientists involved in Mexican wolf recovery say environmental groups distributing old and faulty data that calls for the release of captive adult wolves are not helping the recovery of the endangered subspecies. Biologists at the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) say maintaining a savvy wild-born population and limiting introductions of naïve captive-raised adult animals have been the keys to the ongoing success of the recovery program.
“This period of strong population growth has happened with almost the entire population being wild- born wolves,” said Jim Heffelfinger, a University of Arizona research scientist, AZGFD wildlife science coordinator and co-author of multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies on wolf recovery. “We’ve also learned that releasing captive singles and pairs that have spent their lives in a zoo setting has been ineffective in enhancing genetic diversity. The sobering truth is that in the last decade, no captive-raised adult wolf released in the wild has subsequently raised pups in the wild to contribute to the gene pool.”
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other environmental fundraising organizations have been pushing a narrative that captive-raised adult wolves should be released into the wild. A July 12 news release from the groups called for the release of three packs of zoo-raised wolves. The piece also misstated the number of wolves already released and omitted an entire year of successful cross-fostering data from their analysis.
Contrary to the incorrect information issued by these organizations, AZGFD and its conservation partners have released 20 wolves from captivity since 2014 through “cross-fostering,” or selectively placing genetically valuable pups from captivity into wild packs to be raised by wild parents and with wild siblings. The latest wolf survey (2017) documented an all-time record number of 114 Mexican wolves in 22 packs, with 26 potential