For Immediate Release, June 30, 2022
Media Contact: Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity
Mexican Gray Wolf Rule Finalized to Allow Population Growth
Measure Eliminates Numeric Cap, Unlikely to Improve Genetic Diversity
SILVER CITY, N.M.— Meeting a July 1 court-ordered deadline in litigation brought by conservationists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized a rule that ends its 2015 regulatory commitment to remove from the wild all endangered Mexican gray wolves above a population cap of 325.
Yet today’s Mexican wolf-management rule rejected science-based reforms necessary to increase genetic diversity by releasing captive-born wolves in optimal conditions.
“This rule won’t alleviate the Mexican wolf’s dire genetic plight,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a missed opportunity to return to releasing genetically diverse wolf families and prioritizing their survival.”
From 1998, when reintroduction began, through 2006, the Service released wolf families to the wild, with high survival rates. But the agency stopped almost all releases from 2007 to 2015. In 2016 it began releasing captive-born pups without their parents into the dens of wild wolves.
Of the 72 pups released from 2016 through 2021, 29 died, 27 disappeared and just 16 survived to their first birthday. Thirteen released pups have survived to age two.
To enhance the population’s gene pool, today’s rule sets a goal of nine additional captive-born pups surviving in the wild to age two by 2030.
If that goal is met, beginning in 2030 the rule will allow the state game agencies to kill wolves for preying on game species such as deer or elk. As long as progress continues toward a total of 22 surviving released pups by 2030, the Service and livestock owners will also be able to kill wolves for preying on livestock. That can include genetically important wolves released from captivity.
“It’s astonishing that having lost multiple lawsuits over its recklessly unscientific treatment of wolves and their unique genetics, the government just wants to keep killing wolves and limiting wolf releases,” said Robinson. “The agency is betting the Mexican wolf’s entire future on a failed predator-control model and an obstinate refusal to release these profoundly social animals as families, which is how reintroduction successfully began a quarter century ago.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agency exterminated gray wolves from the western United States between 1915 and 1945 on behalf of the livestock industry.
The Service also exported poison to Mexico to enable wolf poisoning there beginning in 1950. The 1973 Endangered Species Act led to the remaining Mexican wolves being captured alive. Seven bred successfully in captivity, and the subspecies was reintroduced in the U.S. in 1998 and Mexico in 2011.
Today’s rule resulted from a 2018 court victory by several conservation organizations over the 2015 Mexican wolf-management rule. That 2015 rule stemmed from a 2013 agreement with the Center over failures in the Service’s 1998 reintroduction and management rule. The 1998 reintroduction also stemmed from an agreement with the Center and its partners after the Service decided against reintroduction.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.