The Story of the Wolf
Mexican gray wolves roamed the forests of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico from prehistory until 1950. They were eliminated from the wild because of their perceived impact on the cattle industry and game animals.
Removing large predators such as wolves upsets ecosystem balances. As predators at the top of the food chain, wolves help limit populations of large plant-eating animals like deer and elk, which would otherwise over-graze the land. Elimination of wolves may also have led to an unhealthy increase in the numbers of coyotes and mountain lions. Reintroducing the Mexican wolf is a major step toward healing the Arizona wilderness. The conditions are ideal for returning the wolf's howl to its native mountains and forests.
Since 1994, the Phoenix Zoo has worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and other zoos to rebuild the world population. There are now over 200 wolves, all born in captivity, in 40 zoos in Mexico and the US. About 50 Mexican wolves now roam the wild of Arizona and New Mexico.
At the Phoenix Zoo, wolves have produced offspring that have been released into the wild. In addition to breeding wolves for reintroduction, the Phoenix Zoo communicates to over one million visitors per year the importance of conserving such endangered species and their habitat.
Wolves at the Phoenix Zoo
In 1996, the Phoenix Zoo's first pair of wolves, Chico and Rosa, gave birth to 3 pups. The female pup was chosen by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's Species Survival Plan and the Mexican Wolf Recovery Team to be paired up with a male wolf and released into the wild.
On May 7, 1999 Chico and his new mate, Eureka, produced one healthy pup that was later sent to another breeding facility. In 2003 Eureka was retired to Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where she lives with a retired male.
Currently the Zoo has Sonora and Morela, both females born in 2001. In the coming year we hope to bring in another male so that both girls can start their own legacy and further both the captive and wild wolf population.
The wolves at the Phoenix Zoo are managed in a way so that the least amount of interaction as possible is made between them and the animal keepers. This is done to keep the wolves as "wild" as possible, by fostering behaviors and characteristics that will enhance their ability to survive in the wild.