In the 1970s, the Mexican gray wolf nearly vanished from the Southwest. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroductions in New Mexico and Arizona in 1998, but conflicts with ranchers kept numbers low, and the already-endangered species became dangerously inbred. In 2015, an agency plan gave wolves more room to roam in New Mexico and allowed the release of captive bred animals to increase genetic variation, but the state sued and a federal court ruled in its favor, halting releases (“Line of descent,” HCN, 8/6/16).
In late April, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision; Fish and Wildlife can again release wolves into the New Mexico wild. Meanwhile, the first-ever Mexican wolf pup has been born through artificial insemination, using frozen semen, at a wildlife center in St. Louis. The technique may improve the species’ genetic diversity over time, enhancing its chances for survival.