Mexican Wolf
Southwest Region Ecological Services
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Mexican wolves held at Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in 2011. Credit: USFWS.
Mexican wolves held at Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in 2011. Credit: USFWS.
Captive Management for the Mexican Wolf    
Species Survival Plan Captive Facilities
The captive population of Mexican wolves is managed under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums through the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (AZA Mexican Wolf SSP). This captive management program is an essential component of Mexican wolf recovery. The Mexican Wolf SSP was initiated in 1977 to 1980 with the capture of the last remaining Mexican wolves in the wild in Mexico. The SSP is a bi-national captive breeding program between the U.S. and Mexico whose primary purpose is to raise wolves for reintroduction into both the United States and Mexico. Specifically, the purpose of the SSP is to re-establish the Mexican wolf in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research. This captive population is the sole source of Mexican wolves available to re-establish the species in the wild and is imperative to the success of the Blue Range Mexican wolf reintroduction project and any additional potential reintroduction areas that may be identified in the future. The SSP has steadily expanded throughout the years and currently houses approximately 300 Mexican wolves in 49 facilities in the United States and Mexico. Mexican wolves are routinely transferred among the zoos and other SSP holding facilities in order to facilitate genetic exchange, thus maintaining the health and genetic diversity of the captive population. The SSP maintains the goal of housing a minimum of 240 wolves in captivity at all times to ensure the security of the species in captivity, while still being able to produce surplus animals for reintroduction. Mexican wolves from captive SSP facilities that are subsequently identified for potential release are first sent to one of three pre-release facilities (see below) to be evaluated for release suitability and to undergo an acclimation process. All wolves selected for release are genetically redundant to the captive population, meaning their genes are already well represented. This minimizes any adverse effects on the genetic integrity of the remaining captive population, in the event wolves released to the wild do not survive.

Pre-release Captive Facilities
A captive Mexican wolf at the fence. Credit: USFWS.
A captive Mexican wolf at Ladder Ranch Pre-release Facility. Credit: USFWS.
Mexican wolves are acclimated prior to release to the wild in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved facilities designed to house wolves in a manner that fosters wild characteristics and behaviors. These include the Sevilleta and Ladder Ranch Wolf Management Facilities, both of which are located in New Mexico within the Mexican Wolf Recovery Area, and Wolf Haven International, located in Tenino, Washington. Wolves at these facilities are managed in a manner that minimizes human contact in order to promote avoidance behavior, and to maximize pair bonding, breeding, pup rearing, and healthy pack structure development. They are then evaluated and selected for release to the wild based on their genetic makeup, reproductive performance, behavior, physical suitability, and their overall response to the adaptation process. The Sevilleta and Ladder Ranch facilities have proven very successful in breeding wolves for release purposes, and they continue to be an integral part of Mexican wolf recovery efforts.
Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan Home Page


Last updated: April 8, 2019