SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. — The Wolf Conservation Center in Lewisboro welcomed some new additions when an off-exhibit Mexican gray wolf breeding pair gave birth to eight new pups – five boys and three girls.
"Mama Wolf" F749 and "Papa Wolf" M740 welcomed their first litter of pups early Sunday. The center is home to 16 Mexican gray wolves, not including the new arrivals. Two breeding pairs are kept "off exhibit" at the center, to limit contact with humans, but a video of them can be seen on YouTube. With about 400 Mexican wolves left worldwide, the staff considers the pups a valuable addition to a critically endangered species.
“There are only 58 [Mexican gray] wolves in the wild in the U.S., and they live in the southwest in New Mexico and Arizona,” said Maggie Howell, managing director for the Wolf Conservation Center.
One of the center's goals is to help repopulate the species through the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.
“With the Mexican gray wolf, we relocate the adults into the wild,” Howell said. “They’re not accustomed to people, and they’re really shy. So that’s why they’re off-exhibit here. We looked for the best candidates for release.”
Even though the Mexican grays are reclusive, the pregnancy didn't come entirely as a surprise. Thanks to the center's partnership with WildEarth.tv, hundreds of supporters have been prying into the private lives of both breeding pairs for the past few weeks through its eight webcams. Many noticed that F749 appeared to be close to giving birth.
“People never get to see these guys except through the webcams,” Howell said. “They’re getting to be like rock stars. We’ve had thousands of visitors [to the website] with some regulars that are totally hooked. For scheduled events, like feeding them a road-kill deer, we’ve seen as many as 150 [viewers] at a time.”
The new pups will stay at the center and grow into adulthood before the staff considers the next step, Howell said.
“We will let nature take its course,” she said. “Then they become part of the [Mexican Wolf Recovery] Program, and they may get that call of the wild and be sent to Arizona [to be released].”
The center has one other breeding pair, and the staff believes more pups may be on the way.
“It’s possible we could be celebrating another litter because we saw some encouraging behavior over the winter,” Howell said. “They were doing things like creating dens, which is a sign. F749 was clearly pregnant – she had a big belly and gave birth to eight pups. But sometimes they only give birth to two or three, so they might not show as much. So, we are still on pup alert."