Endangered Mexican wolves welcome 7 pups at Albuquerque zoo

Two endangered Mexican gray wolves housed at the Albuquerque zoo are the proud parents of seven pups, officials announced Tuesday.

The recently came out of their den for the first time. Zookeepers have only been able to view the pups by camera so far because the mother is being protective. Whenever possible, the pups will undergo an exam and their sexes will be determined.

The ABQ BioPark is part of a nationwide captive-breeding network that supports the recovery of the endangered predators in the Southwest U.S. The goal of the program is to make the most genetically diverse matches to improve the health of Mexican .

"Every new lobo that we welcome boosts overall survival of wolves in the wild," zoo manager Lynn Tupa said.

The latest survey shows there are at least 163 wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona. That's a nearly 25% increase from those counted at the end of 2018. Included in the population are pups that were born in captivity and then placed with wild packs so they could be raised in a process known as cross-fostering.

The Albuquerque zoo has been part of the breeding effort for years, having welcomed 79 pups since 1983.

The latest pups were the second litter for the wolf pair at the zoo. Officials say mortality is often high in litters born to first time mothers, and about 30 percent of Mexican wolf pups die by their first birthday. Two pups that were born last spring did not survive.

Tupa said second litters are generally larger, but staffers were still surprised to see seven pups.

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