For Immediate Release, February 28, 2023
Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mexican Gray Wolf Population Grew 23% in 2022
Number of Wolves Increases to 241 But Genetic Diversity Remains Low
SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the number of Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest grew by 45 animals last year — from 196 in 2021, to 241 in 2022. Of those wolves, 136 were in western New Mexico and 105 in eastern Arizona.
The number of Mexican gray wolves has increased over the past seven years primarily from reproduction in the wild, rather than releases from captivity. Known deaths also declined last year, to just 12 — less than half of the 25 mortalities recorded in 2021.
“More Mexican gray wolves surviving in 2022 is howling good news,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But with nearly all southwestern wolves as closely genetically related to each other as siblings, the Fish and Wildlife Service can’t pretend these animals are approaching recovery.”
Genetic diversity in the southwestern wolves remains as low as found in almost any animal population in the world. This low genetic diversity is due to previous government and private killings and the unexplained disappearances of more genetically diverse wolves released from captivity.
Just two of 11 captive-born wolf pups released during 2022 into the dens of unrelated wolves are known to be alive, which is typical of pups released without their parents. Of the 83 total captive-born pups released since 2016, just 14 were known to be alive in 2022.
The Service’s efforts since 2009 to feed many of the wild wolf pairs is likely increasing fertility and pup survival rates. Although the number of Mexican gray wolves is increasing, the genetic diversity of the wolf population is lower today than in 2007. The Service, along with other agencies, conducts an annual census of the endangered wolves.
“Celebrating population growth while ignoring genetic stagnation is short-sighted,” said Robinson. “It’s time the agency resumed releasing well-bonded wolf families in which parents are usually successful in keeping pups alive to pass on their precious DNA.”
Several dozen reintroduced wolves also survive in Mexico, and approximately 380 live in 60 captive breeding facilities in the U.S. and Mexico.
Mexican gray wolves are a genetically and morphologically unique gray wolf subspecies native to Mexico and the southwestern United States.
The U.S. government exterminated wolves in both nations on behalf of the livestock industry in the 20th century. The subspecies was saved following the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 through the captive breeding of six wolves trapped in Mexico and one trapped in Arizona.
Some of their descendants were reintroduced into the United States beginning in 1998 and to Mexico in 2011.
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.