Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 27, 2021


Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Federal Proposal Would Eliminate Cap on Mexican Gray Wolf Numbers, Restrict Killing

Wolf Population in Arizona, New Mexico Would Not Be Limited

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Following a 2018 legal victory by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to eliminate its population cap on the number of Mexican gray wolves allowed to live in the wild in the Southwest.

Under today’s proposed rule, the Service would no longer plan to trap or shoot wolves automatically once their numbers exceed 320 in the two states. At last count earlier this year, 186 wolves roamed Arizona and New Mexico.

The proposed rule could also temporarily curtail some of the circumstances under which federal, state and private killing of wolves is allowed, even before the population reaches 320 animals.

“It’s a huge relief to know that when the wolf population grows beyond its current precarious status, widespread shooting of these animals is no longer planned,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s also some reassurance that if genetic diversity collapses even more, the government won’t shoot genetically valuable wolves who were released from captivity as pups.”

Since 2016, federal and state agencies have taken 72 captive-born wolf pups from their parents and released them to live with unrelated wolves already in the wild. Only 11 of the 72 are known to be alive in the wild.

The proposed rule would also bar state game agencies from killing wolves under the rationale of protecting elk, deer or pronghorn, if the numbers of surviving cross-fostered animals were to fall below projections.

Today’s proposal stems from a 2018 summary judgment over the 2015 Mexican wolf management rule in a federal lawsuit filed by the Center and its allies and represented by Earthjustice. That 2015 rule stemmed from a 2013 settlement agreement with the Center over failures in the Service’s 1998 reintroduction and management rule.

The new proposal would not enact the sweeping reforms that scientists recommend to recover the Mexican wolf, which is the southernmost and rarest subspecies of the gray wolf. Among such measures are mandates to remove carrion that can draw wolves close to livestock, and releases of family packs from captivity to the wild.

“We’re grateful that wolf numbers won’t be capped as the anti-wolf Arizona Game and Fish Department demanded,” said Robinson. “But unscientific management on behalf of the livestock industry is still commonplace. We need deeper reforms, such as requiring livestock owners to prevent conflicts and releasing captive wolf mothers and fathers with their pups to help them survive.”

In addition to the 186 wolves counted in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico early this year, approximately 35 wolves also live in Sonora, Mexico, where a second population was reintroduced in 2011. Today’s proposal would maintain a rule compelling the removal of wolves who travel outside of the arbitrary boundaries set for the population.

Scientists, including members of the Mexican wolf recovery team, have found that recovery requires additional wolf populations in areas north of that boundary, including the southern Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.

The Service will shortly open a 90-day public comment period for its proposed rule.

Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). Photo by Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity. Image is available for media use.

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.

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