Esprit: Life and Death of a Wolf Pup

 

3-5-ForJudges1_Page_01So few Mexican wolf pups.  And now we have lost another one.

Earlier this month I wrote about the nine pups born in 2015 and given names in this year’s contest.  (Last year there were seventeen named pups.)  Born in April or May a year ago, the pups, now juveniles, are almost full grown and are old enough to venture out on their own, sometimes for short jaunts away from the pack, other times to pair up and start a new family.

Just as I sat down to start this post about the lives of those young wolves, the monthly update* for March landed in my inbox.  I scrolled to the end of the report hoping there were no mortalities, but found instead the sad news that the Marble Pack pup, fp1442—named Esprit, had died.  The report provided no details, but said her death was under investigation.

The young female had still been traveling with her pack which consisted of her father and one male sibling.  Her mother (AF1340) died earlier in the year when she was captured  during the annual count.

According to Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation  (edited by L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani) at this age juvenile wolves are honing their hunting skills while traveling with their families.  They usually leave their natal packs between the ages of 9 and 36 months— when exactly that occurs is a function of “the complex and often subtle interactions within each family.”

Once the Marble Pack lost their alpha female they became a “disrupted family.”  Although this is not uncommon with  field studies pointing to ” . . . much turnover in packs and populations” due to dispersal of juveniles and “deaths from disease, fights with neighboring packs, and hunting by humans,” the Mexican gray wolf population has had an especially conflicted relationship with the human population in its home range.  Over the course of seventeen years (1998-2014) and 111 investigated wolf deaths, 55% were caused by illegal shooting and trapping and another 14% from vehicle collisions.

To increase the numbers and the genetic diversity of the wild population the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to introduce more captive wolves and pups in Arizona and New Mexico this year.  With the population numbering 97 at the end of 2015, down from a high of 110 in 2014, they should implement their plan sooner than later.

********************************************************************************************************To find FWS press releases, monthly monitoring reports, and annual progress reports go to The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program.  For more information and tips on ways to take action on behalf of wolves go to mexicanwolves.org

 

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