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

Captive breeding and management of the Mexican wolf began in the late 1970's with the capture of the last remaining Mexican wolves in the wild in Mexico. This effort quickly became an essential component of Mexican wolf recovery, as it saved the Mexican wolf from extinction and has provided wolves for reintroduction to the wild in the United States and Mexico. Today, the captive population is managed under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums through the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP). The purpose of the SSP is to re-establish the Mexican wolf in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.  

Approximately 50 SSP facilities participate in the SSP, housing 300+ Mexican wolves in facilities such as zoos in the United States and Mexico. Although these wolves are spread out between facilities, they are managed as a single population. Mexican wolves are routinely transferred among the facilities to breed according to genetic management objectives to maintain the health and diversity of the population. 

Some captive Mexican wolves are available for reintroduction to the wild. These animals may be transferred to one of three pre-release facilities where they will be evaluated for release suitability and will undergo an acclimation process. Because there is a possibility that captive Mexican wolves may not survive in the wild, only animals with genes well represented in captivity are selected for release, ensuring the remaining genetic integrity of the captive population. 

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: June 30, 2020