Wolf News


Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan still doesn’t do enough to address human-caused wolf deaths

Media Contacts:

Peter Clerkin, Director, Communications, Defenders of Wildlife

Bryan Bird, Southwest Director, Defenders of Wildlife


OCTOBER 5, 2022

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a final revised recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf. The Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, Second Revision (final revised recovery plan), provides new site-specific recovery actions to improve protections for Mexican wolves in the wild. Defenders of Wildlife is disappointed that the revised plan likely won’t be enough to curb the number of human-caused deaths.

“The Mexican gray wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America, and we continue to lose too many wolves to poaching and vehicle strikes, or removals due to livestock conflicts. The revised recovery plan fails to include the best available science and will do little to facilitate the species’ recovery,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest Program director Defenders of Wildlife.  

The final revised plan is the result of a 2021 legal victory by Defenders of Wildlife and partners and outlines the ways the agency will address poaching and other human-caused deaths. The court required that the revised plan include actions that address illegal killing and other sources of unnatural mortality. Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Wolf Center, Wolf Conservation Center and retired Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican wolf recovery coordinator David R. Parsons are currently appealing two key aspects of this plan before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. EarthJustice is representing the plaintiffs.  

Wolves are vitally important ecological actors. Defenders’ litigation seeks to ensure that these rarest of wolves are here to stay and that the full suite of ecological benefits associated with their return are restored to suitable habitats across the Southwest. 

With a single population centered in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, Mexican gray wolves are beset by numerous threats, including widespread illegal killing and inbreeding caused by inadequate releases of more genetically diverse wolves from a captive population. The wild population continues to experience small growth with the total number at a minimum of 196 animals in 2021.

Human-caused deaths include vehicle collisions and illegal killings, which includes illegal shooting with a firearm or arrow and illegal trap-related mortalities by the public. In 2020 (the last year of published data), 14 wolves were identified as having been illegally killed and 6 were identified as having died from vehicle collisions. The wild population of Mexican wolves has continued to grow in recent years despite these mortalities. At the end of 2021, there were a minimum of 196 Mexican wolves in the United States (Arizona and New Mexico) and around 35 in Mexico.

Next year, FWS will produce its first five-year status review of the 2017 recovery plan, which will determine if the recovery strategy is proving effective or needs revision, in coordination with states and the Mexican government.

Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.

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