Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 17, 2017

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Mexican Wolf Numbers Up More Than 10 Percent From Last Year

More Wolves to Be Released in New Mexico

SILVER CITY, N.M.— In encouraging news for the highly endangered Mexican gray wolf, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported today that the number of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico increased by 16 animals, from 97 counted a year ago to 113 reported today. Two years ago, 110 wolves were counted, indicating wolves have recovered from losses incurred in 2015.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service preceded its announcement of the wolf numbers with a proposal to release two captive packs of wolves into the Gila National Forest in New Mexico in 2017, and to take up to 10 newborn pups from captive families and insert them into the dens of wild wolves in New Mexico and Arizona to improve the genetic diversity of wolves in the wild.

“I'm encouraged that Mexican wolf numbers have rebounded and that the Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing forward with releasing more wolves,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Mexican wolves have shown their population can increase if given half a chance. Releasing more wolves in the Gila National Forest is the right approach to further recover these beautiful and unique animals.”

Wolf releases are currently prohibited in New Mexico by an injunction obtained in a lawsuit brought by Gov. Martinez's Game and Fish Department. That injunction is under appeal but, if not lifted, the Service's plans in New Mexico would be stymied. The Fish and Wildlife Service retains the authority to release family packs of wolves into Arizona but based on opposition from Arizona Game and Fish, has restricted releases to cross-fostered pups.

“The state game agencies in both Arizona and New Mexico are way out of step with strong public majorities in both the Southwest and across the country that support recovery of the Mexican gray wolf,” said Robinson. “Today's news suggests that their efforts to hamstring the program won't work.”

A U.S. government program on behalf of the livestock industry exterminated Mexican gray wolves from the wild in the U.S. and Mexico by the early 1970s. Passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 led to the live capture of the last few wolves and successful breeding of seven of them.

A lawsuit by conservationists led to reintroduction in 1998. The population was projected to reach 102 animals, including 18 breeding pairs, by 2006, but fluctuated worrisomely and had previously surpassed 100 animals only once, in 2014.

Mexico began reintroducing wolves in 2011, leading to a population of around 35 wolves in the wild in northern Mexico today. Despite still-low numbers, those wolves have incorporated a more diverse genetic base than is found in the wolf population on the U.S. side of the border.

In response to conservationists' litigation, the Fish and Wildlife Service will finalize an updated Mexican wolf recovery plan to replace an outdated 1982 plan, by November.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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