Press Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360
SILVER CITY, N.M.— Pup births boosted the number of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the wild in the Southwest for the third year in a row, according to a new census conducted by federal, state and tribal agencies. The count of 75 wolves, including 38 in New Mexico and 37 in Arizona, compares to 58 a year ago and 50 at the beginning of 2011. However, the number of breeding pairs decreased from six in the last count to just three today.
“I’m pleased that the number of Mexican gray wolves has increased for the third year in a row,” said Michael Robinson, wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The decrease in the number of breeding pairs, however, is cause for concern. If wolves are truly going to return and recover in the Southwest, more wolves must be released into the wild.”
Over the past six years only 11 captured wolves have been released into the wild, while dozens of other once-wild wolves remain in captivity. Only a single wolf has been released from the captive-breeding pool over the past four years, and he was taken back into captivity just three weeks after his release last month.
“The increase in numbers is a sign that the Mexican gray wolf recovery program may finally be seeing some success,” said Robinson. “One likely factor in this improvement is a more hands-off approach by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which has not killed a wolf in response to livestock depredations in five years.”
Mexican wolves were reintroduced in Arizona and New Mexico in 1998 and were projected to increase to 102 wolves in the wild, including 18 breeding pairs, by the end of 2006. But they have continued to fall well short of these goals likely because of a combination of capture and killing by Fish and Wildlife Service and illegal poaching. In recent months the Center initiated three lawsuits focused on improving the Mexican wolf recovery program by providing the adaptable canines more room to roam.
“Fifteen years after the beginning of the reintroduction program, mismanagement, unnecessary persecution of wolves and political interference in releasing wolves has resulted in just three breeding pairs in the wild and ongoing loss of genetic diversity,” said Robinson. “It’s noteworthy that reintroduction of wolves to the northern Rocky Mountains started just three years before the southwestern reintroduction, and at last count there were 106 breeding pairs in the north. We hope this year’s increase is the start of the Mexican wolf recovery program finally taking off.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.