Wildlife managers are placing captive-born wolf pups with wild wolf litters to try to boost the genetic diversity of Mexican gray wolves, the Mercury News reports.
According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) are endangered, and a 2019 survey by the agency estimated their population size to be at least 163 individuals.
"Managing genetics is one of the biggest challenges facing Mexican wolf conservation, even as constant progress is being made on numeric recovery," Jim deVos from the Arizona Game and Fish Department tells the Mercury News. "Science has proven that cross-fostering young pups works in increasing genetic diversity."
Officials placed 20 captive-bred wolves less than 14 days old into dens with wolf pups of similar ages, it adds. A dozen of the pups were spread across four wolf packs in eastern Arizona and eight across three packs in western New Mexico. Officials say these foster pups have the same survival rate as wild-born pups and that this approach of introducing new wolves also has a better survival rate than other approaches, the Mercury News notes.