CARLSBAD, N.M. - A southern New Mexico zoo has sent a Mexican gray wolf to Mexico for a breeding program.
The male wolf from the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park in Carlsbad was flown earlier this month to Centro Ecologico de Sonora in Hermosillo, Mexico, to be paired with a Mexican gray wolf female.
The wolf from Carlsbad is one of six Mexican gray wolf brothers at the park that came from the Wild Canid Research and Survival Center in Eureka, Mo.
Holly Payne, general curator for the Living Desert park, said the wolves have been in Carlsbad since 2005 and have not been bred.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums places the endangered wolves in institutions through the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, Payne said.
According to the survival plan, the Mexican gray wolf is the rarest, southernmost and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America.
Payne said Living Desert was contacted about a genetically important female wolf in the facility in Mexico.
"And since our six brothers also are important genetic-wise, they recommended breeding one of our males with the female in Mexico," Payne said.
A Mexican gray wolf breeding program began in the late 1970s.
The federal government began reintroducing the species along the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998, decades after it had been exterminated in the wild. The reintroduction effort has been hampered by illegal shootings and complaints from both ranchers and conservationists about the way the program has been managed.
Biologists had predicted a self-sustaining wild population of 100 wolves by 2006, but the latest count released early in 2010 found 42 between the two states.