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Press Release: FEDS RELEASE GOOD NEWS ABOUT IMPERILED MEXICAN WOLVES

The annual count of Mexican wolves in the wild has revealed marginal gains after a year of record deaths

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 8, 2019


Contact:

Emily Renn, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, (928) 202-1325, emily@gcwolfrecovery.org

Mary Katherine Ray, Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter, 575-772-5655, mkrscrim@gmail.com

Kelly Burke, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, 928-606-7870, gcwildlands@yahoo.com

Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club -Grand Canyon Chapter, 602-253-8633, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, maggie@nywolf.org

FEDS RELEASE GOOD NEWS ABOUT IMPERILED MEXICAN WOLVES

The annual count of Mexican wolves in the wild has revealed

marginal gains after a year of record deaths

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service released the results of its annual wild Mexican gray wolf population count today, revealing that the number of wolves has increased to a minimum of 131 wolves. This increase of 12% from last year comes despite a record number of wolf deaths for the recovery effort in 2018, and ongoing critical concern for genetic diversity in the wild population.

Wolf advocates braced for the news, while the annual count was delayed due to the partial government shutdown and as a sweeping delisting edict was issued for northern gray wolves by the Trump administration. With today’s release of the count results, wolf supporters across the country express cautious hope.

“The increase in Mexican gray wolves in the wild is a boost for the recovery of this rare animal,” said Kelly Burke. “But we know that the population number is not the sole indicator of recovery progress. For this population of wolves, genetic health is paramount. Currently, Mexican wolves in the wild are as closely genetically related as siblings. And by that measure, we still have a long way to full recovery.”

In Arizona and New Mexico, where the wolves currently roam in the U.S., state agencies have stymied the release of well-bonded, adult pairs with pups since 2006, despite public pressure. The recovery team, has instead focused on cross-fostering, an experimental technique that places pups from captivity into active, wild dens. The technique has had marginal success, but its effectiveness for promoting genetic diversity is not realized until the pups are of breeding age.

"Despite a terrible year for wolf losses, lobos proved resilient", said Mary Katherine Ray, Wildlife Chair of the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter. "Our hopes for their survival and the ecological integrity of the habitats where they live are renewed."

“Mexican wolf’s genetic imperilment requires an active program of releasing more genetically diverse wolves into the wild to capitalize on the remaining genetic potential available in the captive population. While we applaud the agency's dedication to cross-fostering, this should not be the only strategy. We need additional genetic diversity in the wild packs now. Not two years from now, but today,” said Maggie Howell, Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center.

“While we are pleased with the increase in the Mexican wolf population, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we see a stronger commitment to recovery from the US Fish and Wildlife Service – that means more packs introduced sooner, rather than later,” said Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club. “The Service must focus on the science and recovery, disregarding the political obstacles previously erected by state game agencies.”

"We need more wolves in more places for meaningful wolf recovery for all future generations in the Southwest," said Emily Renn of the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.

Wolves breed only once a year. The count must occur in January and February to capture the population at its most stable point. The federal government shutdown nearly threatened this important checkpoint for assessing recovery of Mexican wolves.

Background on Mexican Gray Wolves:

The lobo, or Mexican gray wolf, is the smallest, most genetically distinct, and one of the rarest subspecies of gray wolf. The subspecies was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1976, but recovery efforts have suffered without implementation of recommended recovery actions by responsible wildlife agencies.

Although lobos once widely roamed across the southwestern United States and Mexico, the Mexican wolf was purposefully eradicated from the U.S. on behalf of American livestock, hunting, and trapping interests. In 1998, after the few remaining wolves were put into captivity to save the species, the Service released 11 Mexican wolves to a small area on the border of Arizona and New Mexico now known as the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.

Mexican wolves are at tremendous risk due to their small population size, limited gene pool, threats from trapping, and illegal killings.

More at www.mexicanwolves.org.

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Grand Canyon Wildlands Council is a nonprofit science-based conservation organization working to save and heal wild nature in the Grand Canyon region.

The Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project is dedicated to bringing back wolves to help restore ecological health in the Grand Canyon region.

Founded in 1892, the Sierra Club is a national nonprofit environmental organization with approximately 2.7 million members and supporters, including more than 60,000 in Arizona. Sierra Club’s mission is “to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.

Founded in 1999, the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit environmental education organization working to protect and preserve wolves in North America through science-based education, advocacy, and participation in the federal recovery and release programs for two critically endangered wolf species - the Mexican gray wolf and red wolf.