LAS CRUCES – The number of endangered Mexican gray wolves roaming in the wild got a boost last week with the Mexican government’s release of five lobos in a mountain range in northeast Sonora state a few miles below the Bootheel.
The Oct. 11 release in the San Luis Mountains was announced Tuesday by a Mexican environmental organization, Naturalia. The group called the release, Mexico’s first lobo reintroduction effort, the product of more than 20 years of work by a variety of organizations.
Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said the release was significant because it not only establishes a second population of the endangered lobos in the wild, but does so in the predator’s “evolutionary home” where the wolves historically preyed on white-tailed deer and javelina.
At the end of 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counted 50 wolves in a recovery area spanning national forests in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico. The agency released wolves in southeast Arizona in 1998 in an effort to re-establish the species in its historic range.
Fish and Wildlife traps Mexican gray wolves, designated an experimental, “nonessential” population, that wander outside the recovery area, and those inside the recovery area can be trapped and removed under certain circumstances, such as for repeatedly preying on livestock.
Sherry Barrett, director of the Mexican gray wolf recovery program, said Fish and Wildlife is developing a management plan that will spell out how federal officials can respond to depredating wolves that migrate across the border from Mexico but do not enter the designated recovery area. The management plan is scheduled to be released to the public in February, Barrett said.
The wolves in Mexico are fitted with radio collars supplied by the U.S., so they can be tracked if they cross the border.
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- With only around 50 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, new releases are critically important to increase the size and genetic health of the wild population.
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