New in the Press: Wolf Numbers Growing on Arizona-New Mexico Border
PHOENIX, Ariz. - Endangered Mexican gray wolves are making somewhat of a comeback along the Arizona-New Mexico border. Federal wildlife officials tallied 50 wolves in January's annual count, up from 42 a year earlier.
Eva Sargent, Southwest program director with Defenders of Wildlife, says it's promising that the wolves are reproducing.
"There were 14 surviving pups this year. In order to be counted in the population, the pups have to survive until Dec. 31 of the year that they were born, so 14 pups is good news and I think that's what bolstered these numbers."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists counted 29 Mexican wolves in Arizona and 21 in New Mexico.
Sargent says a number of obstacles remain for the wolf recovery program, the biggest one being illegal killings. There is also a move in Congress to de-list all species of gray wolves in the western U.S. from the Endangered Species Act.
The uptick in the Mexican wolf population is encouraging, Sargent says, but much more needs to be done to further boost the numbers.
"You wouldn't call a population of 50 animals, which are the only wild Mexican wolves anywhere in the world, 'recovered' or safe."
Sargent is urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to take several actions that she says will enhance the chances for a successful wolf recovery program.
"They need to release more wolves to bolster the genetics and to strengthen the packs. They're just getting started on a revised recovery plan, and they need to complete that as soon as possible. And they need to do more work with ranchers to show them - help them - how to live with wolves."
The Mexican Wolf Recovery Program began in 1998.
Bills in Congress will strip this struggling population of wolves of Endangered Species Act protections.
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Photo credit: Mexican wolf pups playing courtesy of AZGFD.