A litter of Mexican gray wolf cubs sighted in the western Sierra Madre have raised hopes that the species is making a comeback after having been declared endangered in 1970.
Authorities have announced that the five healthy-looking cubs are the offspring of a couple that were raised in captivity, and released in the wild in December last year. It was in May that photos were obtained by the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Conanp) showing the female with enlarged mammary glands, indicating she was feeding a litter.
An expedition into the area in June confirmed the birth of the cubs. It is the first known birth of wolf cubs in the wild in Mexico in 30 years. Conanp said efforts to revitalize the species have been under way since 2007 through a joint program with the United States.
“This first litter represents an important step in the recovery program, because these will be individuals that have never had contact with human beings, as wolves bred in captivity inevitably do,” the commission said.
Hunting, trapping and poisoning have been blamed for wiping out the population both in Mexico and the southwestern U.S. The last five survivors in the U.S. were captured between 1977 and 1980 and then bred. The first of the offspring were released in 1998, mainly in Arizona and New Mexico.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say they have seen population increases in each of the last four years, and estimate there are more than 83 of the wolves in those two states.