Eleven Mexican wolf pups journey from captive facilities across U.S. to join the wild population

PHOENIX — Eleven genetically valuable captive-born Mexican wolf pups have been placed into wild dens to be raised in the wild by their surrogate parents after another successful fostering season. Now in its seventh year, the Mexican wolf fostering program continues to help boost the genetic diversity of this endangered subspecies.

Over a three-week period this spring, 11 pups were fostered into five wild packs across New Mexico and Arizona. The pups traveled from captive facilities across the U.S. as part of a coordinated effort to place genetically diverse wolves into the wild population in support of recovery efforts.

Fostering is a proven method used by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) to increase genetic diversity in the wild Mexican wolf population. It begins with carefully managed breeding by the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) program to produce genetically diverse pups within the captive population. Within 14 days of whelping (being born), the captive-born pups are transported to the wild and mixed together with similarly aged wild pups.

Once all of the pups are placed back into the wild den, the breeding female’s maternal instinct kicks in. She will feed and care for both the wild and captive-born pups. With the help of her pack mates, the pups will be raised with the skills and knowledge needed for a life in the wild. The IFT has documented that fostered pups have the same survival rate as wild-born pups in their first year of life (about 50%).

“The care, planning and teamwork that went into this year’s cross-fostering is remarkable,” said Ed Davis, biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Many contributed to the success of this year’s efforts, including interns, biologists, veterinarians, captive facility staff, and individuals that provided flight support. It will take all of us continuing to work together to achieve greater genetic diversity in the wild population.”

Five different captive-born litters provided Mexican wolf pups for fostering into the wild population. The following facilities provided pups this year:
• Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois: one litter provided three pups fostered into the Whitewater Canyon Pack in New Mexico;
• El Paso Zoo in El Paso, Texas: one litter provided two pups fostered into the Dark Canyon Pack in New Mexico and one pup fostered into the Iron Creek Pack in New Mexico;
• Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York: one litter provided one pup fostered into the Iron Creek Pack in New Mexico;
• Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale AZ: one litter provided two pups fostered into the Panther Creek Pack in Arizona;
• Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, in Socorro, New Mexico: one litter provided two pups fostered into the Buzzard Peak Pack in New Mexico.

Aerial support for this year’s operations was provided by LightHawk Conservation Flying and the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Aviation Program.

“Although the 11 pups fostered is lower than hoped for, it is a major contribution to managing genetic improvements in the wild population,” said Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Mexican wolf coordinator. “Since the inception of the program, 83 pups have been placed into wild wolf dens and as a result, three of four genetic criteria have shown improvements, which bodes well for the long-term survival of the Mexican wolf. Planning has already begun for the 2023 fostering program, with a goal of getting more pups in dens next year than this year.”

Since the beginning of the cross-fostering program, a minimum of 13 pups have survived at least two years in the wild and reached breeding age. Four of these have reproduced in the wild, and a minimum of seven litters from cross-fostered wolves have been documented through 2021. In addition to the four cross-fostered wolves that have already been documented reproducing in the wild, the IFT has observed denning behavior this spring from three other 2-year-old cross-fostered wolves that are breeding for the first time in 2022. Results from observed denning behavior will not be documented until later in the spring and summer when pups become active and more visible.

Pups are too young to be radio collared when fostered, but genetic samples are taken so they can be identified if captured at a later date. It is likely that other fostered pups are currently alive and contributing to improving the genetic diversity of the wild population and helping meet recovery criteria, but have not yet been recaptured.

The IFT will continue to monitor the packs that pups were placed in through GPS and radio telemetry signals from collars on older wolves within the pack to avoid further disturbance. Later, through remote camera observations and efforts to capture the young of the year, the IFT plans to document additional survival of cross-fostered pups as well as genetically diverse offspring from cross-fostered wolves that are now having litters of their own.

The end-of-year census for 2021 showed a minimum of 196 wild Mexican wolves in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area. This marked a 5% increase in the population from a minimum of 186 wolves counted at the end of 2020. This is the sixth consecutive year of growth in the wild population and represents a doubling of the population since 2015.

Cross-fostering is a coordinated effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Lands Office, U.S. Forest Service, and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.

For more information on the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s website or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.

PHOENIX — ​​​​​​​The Arizona Game and Fish Department has contracted with the survey research firm Responsive Management to conduct a study of licensed anglers in the state. You may receive a phone call, text, or email from Responsive Management asking you to participate in a survey about your fishing participation and experiences. The phone calls will be from a Phoenix area phone number.

Selection for participation in the study among licensed anglers is random to maintain a scientifically valid study. If you receive a call, text, or email, please consider participating in the study to assist the Department in better understanding anglers’ participation in and opinions on fishing, as well as spending on fishing, which will help the Department determine the economic contribution of anglers in the state.

If you have questions or comments, please email them to us at FisheriesMgmt@azgfd.gov.

See the May 2022 Fishing Report HERE.

PHOENIX — ​​​​​​​The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has introduced a new option that allows hunting and fishing license holders to have their licenses automatically renewed upon expiration.

“Arizona’s annual licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase, but not everyone remembers when their licenses expire,” said Assistant Director Doug Cummings. “The voluntary auto renew option was added to improve customer convenience so they don’t have a gap when their license expires.”

Things to know before opting for license auto-renewal:

  • License auto-renewal is only available for the following licenses: ​​​​​​​Resident Hunt, Resident Fish, Resident Hunt/Fish Combo, Nonresident Fish, Nonresident Hunt/Fish Combo.
  • Customers must have an AZGFD portal account to add license auto-renewal. Customers should use their existing portal account. If assistance is needed to fix an existing portal account, email customer service at customer@azgfd.gov. Do not create a new portal account if one already exists.
  • Any credit card added to a portal account specifically for license auto-renewal will NOT be used for draw applications or any other AZGFD product.

Three steps to auto-renew a license:

1. Purchase a license, or use a valid license. Licenses can be purchased online at https://license.azgfd.com/. Log in to your portal account. On the next screen that appears, go to the “Manage Your Account” option and select “View Details.”

2. Add a credit card to be used to auto-renew a license.

– On the next screen after completing the step above, go to the “Manage License Auto Renew” option and select the “Manage” button.
– On the next screen, select “Add Card” (Visa, Mastercard, and Discover accepted). Ensure that the expiration date for the credit card is later than the expiration date of the valid license.
– The next screen requires consent to enter the credit card information in a secure, payment-processing center. Select “Add Card.”
– The next screen is where billing information and payment details can be entered or changed. Select “Next” at the bottom to be taken to a page to review the  order. NOTE: The amount shown will be $0.00 because the credit card won’t be charged until the license expires and is automatically renewed. Select “Pay” to complete the transaction.
​​​​​​​ – Select “Print” to print a copy of the receipt, and/or “Return to Website.”

3. Select the license(s) to be auto-renewed.

– After returning to the website, select “View Details” on the “My AZGFD Dashboard” tile.
– On the next screen, go to “Licenses” and select “View All Licenses.”
– The next screen shows all of the licenses. Select “Add” for any of the listed licenses to be auto-renewed. Trying to auto-renew before adding a credit card will prompt a reminder to first add a credit card (see Step 2).
– The next screen is a confirmation page. Selecting “Yes” gives AZGFD permission to automatically charge the card to auto-renew the license when the license expires. An email confirmation will indicate that the customer has signed up for auto-renew and for which license(s).
– The customer will be returned to the “My Dashboard” screen, and the process is complete.

To remove the auto-renew function from a license, click “View Details” on the “My AZGFD Dashboard” tile. On the “License” tile, click “View All Licenses.” The next screen shows all purchased licenses. Select “Remove” for those to no longer be auto-renewed. This will prompt a confirmation notice.

To update or change a credit card on file, go to the “Manage Your Account” option and select “View Details.” On the next screen, select “Manage License Renewal.” On the next screen, select “Update Card.” On the next screen, also select “Update Card.” The next screen provides the option to edit a billing address or payment details. Select “Finish,” then make the necessary changes on the next screen, review all changes and select “Finish,” then “Return to Website.” A confirmation will be generated that the credit card has been successfully updated.

More information:

  • An email will be sent 10 days before the expiration of the licenses enrolled in auto-renew, notifying customers who have enrolled and added their credit card of the upcoming charge.
  • An email will be sent on a successful transaction of auto-renew, including a link to access/print the new license.
  • An email will be sent on an unsuccessful attempt to auto-renew. The customer must then repurchase a new license on their own, then add auto-renew to that new license  to continue with license auto-renewal.

Customers can call 602-942-3000 or email licensesupport@azgfd.gov for questions or problems.

Mexican wolf pups about to be cross-fostered, shown in photo from 2020.

PHOENIX  ̶  The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program reached a major milestone on April 1 when six cross-fostered Mexican wolves matured to breeding age in the wild. In doing so, the six wolves are now able to be counted as contributing to the genetic recovery of the subspecies.

This achievement brings the total number of cross-fosters surviving in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico to 13 and highlights the continuing success of Mexican wolf recovery efforts by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and other conservation partners.

Cross-fostering is an innovative technique used by the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team to increase genetic diversity in Mexican wolf populations in the wild. Wolf pups are born in captivity at one of a number of different accredited breeding facilities across the country. When the pups are 14 days old or younger, they are placed into a den of wild Mexican wolves with pups of the same age. The surrogate wild wolf parents raise the new genetically diverse pups as if they were a part of the original litter.

An updated population viability analysis conducted for the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, First Revision (2017 recovery plan) called for at least nine released captive-born wolves being recruited into the wild population by 2022 to meet genetic diversity goals.

“We trounced that number,” said Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator. “The importance of this milestone cannot be overstated, as conserving genetic diversity is one of the major challenges to recovery and delisting of this subspecies.”

Mexican wolves were once widespread throughout the American Southwest. Towards the turn of the century, however, they were the subject of an eradication campaign because of conflicts with human interests at the time. By the mid-1900s, Mexican wolves had been effectively eliminated from the United States, and populations in Mexico were severely reduced. Following the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, Mexican wolves were listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species in 1976, thereby prompting recovery efforts to save the species from extinction.

Releasing captive-raised Mexican wolves into the wild has been part of the Mexican wolf recovery program since 1998. While the number of wolves in captive breeding facilities around the United States and Mexico today is a little under 400, they all originated from seven founders captured from the wild when the species was close to extinction in the 1970s. When individuals in a wildlife population are closely related, genetic management has to be part of recovery and can lead to substantial challenges to their propagation. Mexican wolves are no exception.

“It is a major milestone that cross-fostering efforts have resulted in this number of genetically valuable Mexican wolves being recruited into the wild population to help both the genetic recovery criteria and the number of wolves in the wild to meet recovery goals,” said Clay Crowder, AZGFD’s Assistant Director, Wildlife Management Division. “The Mexican wolf is a subspecies that was nearly lost to the wild, but with careful management as demonstrated by this benchmark, recovery and return to state management is a foreseeable goal. While the Endangered Species Act prescribes the need for recovery, the successful progress on the ground is proof of effective state, federal, and tribal management.”

Another high point occurred when a cross-fostered female Mexican wolf (F1866) in the Elk Horn pack was documented as pregnant. AZGFD Veterinarian Dr. Anne Justice-Allen used ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and determine that the female wolf is likely due to whelp (give birth) in late April. To date, at least four cross-fostered wolves have bred successfully in the wild, producing a total of seven genetically valuable litters. Once F1866, who came from the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri, whelps her pups, the total number of successful cross-foster parented litters will rise to eight.

“When we started the cross-fostering program seven years ago, we only hoped it would be successful,” said Maggie Dwire, Deputy Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “These milestones are proof that cross-fostering is a valid and viable tool that is contributing to the recovery of the species. We are grateful to all the captive facilities, partners, and field staff who work tirelessly year after year to make cross-fostering a success.”

Cross-fostering is a coordinated effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Lands Office, U.S. Forest Service, and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.

Cross-foster efforts for 2022 are planned to begin later this month in both Arizona and New Mexico.

Want to learn more about mountain lion management in Arizona? Read the recent guest opinion column in the Arizona Republic written by Brian Jansen, Ph.D., a mountain lion biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD).

The article is a condensed version of a longer article written by Dr. Jansen that is posted on the AZGFD website.

PHOENIX – The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) applauds the April 5 determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that the Lower Colorado River basin distinct population segment (DPS) of roundtail chub is not at risk of extinction in the foreseeable future and does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

As part of this action, USFWS also determined that the Gila chub, currently listed as endangered under the ESA, should be considered for delisting, based on a 2017 finding that ruled the roundtail, headwater and Gila chub are all a single species. That finding was informed in part by a scientific study authored by AZGFD.

“These decisions are a big win for chub and for those who manage in the Lower Colorado River basin,” said AZGFD Aquatic Wildlife Chief Julie Carter. “They will allow more flexibility and opportunities to protect and conserve chub through active management in Arizona.”

In determining the status of the Lower Colorado River roundtail chub, USFWS determined that the primary threats to it are non-native species and alterations to natural stream flows, which have reduced the distribution and abundance of the chub in the past and continue to affect populations today. These threats may also be exacerbated by climate change in the future. However, these threats do not pose a risk of extinction for the species, in part due to long-term conservation and land management efforts by stakeholders.

Recognized as a potentially sensitive species, many federal, state and county agencies and Tribal nations have initiated best management practices and conservation commitments for the species and its habitat. These conservation efforts have stabilized roundtail chub populations. Currently, biologists estimate that roundtail chub populations are distributed across 34% of its historical range in the Lower Colorado River Basin, and most of the existing populations are considered stable or increasing according to monitoring data, despite the co-occurrence of non-native species across much of the range.

The AZGFD, USFWS, and other partners will continue to remain engaged in the conservation status of the roundtail chub and the ecosystem it depends on. Established in 2004, the Range-wide Conservation Agreement was developed with seven state fish and wildlife agencies, federal land management agencies (including the USFWS), and Tribes working together to implement conservation actions for the roundtail chub, bluehead sucker and flannelmouth sucker. The Arizona Statewide Conservation Plan was established in 2007 with multiple state and federal agencies to implement conservation actions for five native fish species, including the roundtail chub. The AZGFD is committed to ensuring the long-term viability of roundtail chub populations in Arizona.

The roundtail chub is a member of the minnow family and is endemic to the Colorado River watershed with populations in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Adults can vary in size from 4 to 20 inches in length, and their lifespan can exceed 10 years. They are omnivorous, feeding on algae, aquatic and terrestrial insects, and fish.

The finding was published in the Federal Register on April 5, 2022 under Docket No. FWS-
R2-ES-2022-0001. The USFWS remains interested in information regarding the status and conservation of, and any potential threat to, the roundtail chub and the Gila chub. Please submit information by email to incomingazcorr@fws.gov.


PHOENIX — Wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation enthusiasts are reminded that the deadline to submit nominations for inductees into the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation’s Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame is April 29, 2022.

The Outdoor Hall of Fame annually recognizes individuals and organizations that have made significant and lasting contributions toward Arizona’s wildlife, the welfare of its natural resources, and the state’s outdoor heritage.

To submit a nomination:
Visit https://www.wildlifefortomorrow.org/halloffame and choose either the “Online Nomination Form” option or the “Download Nomination Form” option. If you choose to download the nomination form, please complete and scan it along with all supplemental materials and return by email to Rebecca Bouquot at info@wildlifefortomorrow.org, or complete and return it by mail along with all supplemental materials to:

Wildlife For Tomorrow Foundation
c/o Arizona Game and Fish Department
Attn: Rebecca Bouquot, Outdoor Hall of Fame Nominations
5000 W. Carefree Highway
Phoenix, AZ 85086

For questions or further information about nominations, call (602) 501-4788. ​​​​​​​

This year’s inductees are scheduled to be honored Aug. 20, 2022, at the annual Outdoor Hall of Fame Banquet held at the Hilton Phoenix Resort at the Peak, 7677 N. 16th Street, Phoenix. Banquet tickets will be available to purchase online soon.

Past Outdoor Hall of Fame inductees have been individuals with backgrounds in wildlife volunteerism, corporate leadership, politics, wildlife and the media, including Ben Avery, Barry Goldwater, Morris Udall, John McCain, Bill Quimby, Tom Woods and Steve Hirsch, as well as groups and organizations such as Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center Volunteers, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club, Arizona Deer Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Safari Club International, Audubon Arizona, Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project and others (see list of past inductees here, scroll down to the bottom).

Wildlife for Tomorrow was created in 1990 to enhance the management, protection and enjoyment of Arizona’s fish and wildlife resources. As the official 501(c)(3) partner of the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), WFT works to provide funds to advance key programs and initiatives beyond AZGFD’s self-funding capacity. For more information, visit https://www.wildlifefortomorrow.org/.

Subscribe to WFT for more information on how you can make an impact on wildlife conservation efforts in Arizona.

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved guidelines for fall 2023 through spring 2028 hunting seasons at its public meeting April 1 in Phoenix.

The hunt guidelines provide the biological and social parameters used by wildlife managers when developing the annual hunt recommendations (season structures, season lengths, season dates, permits allocated, etc.) These recommendations result in the hunts in which licensed hunters may participate.

Wildlife is held in the public trust; therefore, using science-based principles to shape the hunt guidelines remains paramount to ensure healthy, sustainable and diverse wildlife populations in perpetuity.

The approved hunt guidelines will not affect any current hunts, but will be adopted early with the upcoming recommendations for fall and spring.

To view the hunt guidelines, or for more information about the hunt guidelines and hunt recommendations processes, visit https://www.azgfd.com/Hunting/Guidelines/.

The next public meeting of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission will be Friday, April 1, at the Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters, Quail Room, 5000 W. Carefree Highway in Phoenix.

The meeting begins at 8 a.m.

A complete agenda and more information on viewing the meeting, or speaking to the commission, can be found here or at https://www.azgfd.com/agency/commission/meetingagenda/.

Pleasant Harbor July_Sept 2016