29 November 2022

Mexican Wolf Recovery Program

I am getting close to wrapping up my internship here at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. I have been here for about ten months now, which means I only have about two months left. One opportunity I have gotten to continue working with that I mentioned in my earlier blogs is that about five months before starting this internship I was volunteering with the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When I got accepted for this internship, I mentioned to my supervisors how this was a project I would like to continue participating in. My supervisors were all for it and encouraged me to stay involved knowing this is a direction I would like to try to move towards after my internship.

The Mexican wolf is a subspecies of grey wolf, and it was realized that this subspecies was in danger of extinction. By the late 1970s they were considered extinct in the wild. It was listed as endangered in 1976 under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In 1977 through 1982 it was agreed between Mexico and the United States that they would establish a captive breeding program with the seven remaining wolves that were captured. The goal of this captive breeding program was to save the subspecies from absolute extinction and to allow the numbers to increase to provide animals for any future reintroduction into the wild. USFWS then created a recovery team in 1979 to map out a recovery strategy for the Mexican wolf, the plan was approved in 1982. In 1998 eleven of the wolves were released into the wild for the first time, these wolves were released in Arizona by the New Mexico border.

There are three sights in New Mexico that serve as captive breeding and holding facilities. One is at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, the ABQ BioPark, and the Ladder Ranch. In my time with volunteering with the team I have had many hands-on experiences. Over the last year I have worked at both the Sevilleta and the Ladder Ranch facilities. In order to make sure the wolves are healthy we go into the pens capture the wolves that we need to work on, verify their PIT tags are correct before working on them, give them their yearly vaccinations, draw blood, and regulate their temperature for each process. If they are being transported, we provide fluids subcutaneously so they can stay hydrated during their travel. If they are being released into the wild, we do all of that and make sure to put radio collars on them. Once they are done with their checkups, they are either put in crates to be relocated or are released back into their pens. All the work done to them is recorded on data sheets and everything happens very quickly, and we are in and out of the facility so we can make sure to not provide too much stress to them or the other wolves in the facility. I have also gotten to help with observations and supply food caches for the wild wolves in the area as well as telemetry work.

It has been a great experience getting to work with these endangered animals and I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have been presented with and those I have gotten to be a part. I am especially grateful for the experiences I have gotten to continue to be a part of because of my wonderful and supportive supervisors.

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