In eastern Arizona, one of the big success stories for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo continues to roam the range.
You can't visit AF521, an 11-yearold female Mexican wolf that has whelped a litter every year since 2002, when she and her pups were released.
"She's been in the wild for six years and that's a long time for a Mexican wolf," said Maggie Dwire, assistant recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque.
Dwire said AF521 probably is preparing to whelp another litter, although researchers are not entirely sure because her mate's radio signals have been close to those of a younger female in recent weeks.
At 11, AF521 is nearing the end of her litter-producing years. Born at the zoo in 1997, she was dubbed Estrella, which is Spanish for "star."
Wolves trade in their names for numbers when the wildlife service gets them,
One reason the Mexican wolf population hasn't grown faster is that the real remorseless killer - man - has shot many wolves, even though in most cases it is a federal crime to do so.
AF521 previously on WHAP:
and last year another article:
"She’s been one of our most successful breeders," Dwire said. "I think she’s bred every year."
AF521’s new pups, as many as five of them, will be born into a formidable world. The mortality rate in the wild is high for Mexican grays.
Pups can starve. Some get into trouble killing livestock, which can mean they’re either shot by a rancher or recaptured to be kept inside a fence at the agency’s reserve. They can be run over on country roads and every year, some are shot by people ...
The wildlife service offers a reward to capture wolf killers, but they’re never caught.
AF521’s pups have suffered all those fates, but others have grown to become alphas, or leaders, in other packs. In human terms, AF521 is a grandmother many times over.