The latest census of Mexican gray wolves in the United States shows a 5% increase, to 196 individuals, according to data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s a welcome increase, but the species still needs to be protected so it can go beyond its current listing as an endangered species, according to Defenders of Wildlife.
“The increase in the number of Mexican gray wolves is encouraging, but much more needs to be done to save this critically endangered subspecies,” said Patricia Estrella, New Mexico representative for Defenders. “Continuing to improve conservation efforts to reduce mortalities, expanding the areas wolves are allowed to roam, and addressing the genetic issues facing this species will help the population continue to rebound.
In 2019, the subspecies experienced a population growth of almost 25%.
Smaller cousins to North American gray wolves, Mexican wolves have long been endangered. The predators historically ranged “in the mountainous regions of central Mexico, through southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico and southwestern Texas”, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. .
According to Defenders, the subspecies in the United States occupies the Blue Range of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. This population is beset by many threats, including widespread illegal killing and inbreeding caused by improper releases of genetically more diverse wolves from a captive population, the conservation organization said in a statement.
It is possible that the wolf’s historic range spanned Saguaro National Park, Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Gila Cliff Dwellings, while Organ Pipe National Monument Cactus would be at the edge of the range. The Mexican wolf is said to prefer montane forests, such as those found in the Rincon de Saguaro district and the high country national parks of the Big Bend and Guadalupe mountains.
The best available science indicates that the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf requires at least three connected populations totaling approximately 750 individuals, a carefully managed reintroduction effort that prioritizes improving the animals’ genetic health and establishing at least two additional populations in the Southern Rockies. and the Grand Canyon regions.
FWS is currently revising the recovery plan and management rule for the Mexican Gray Wolf. Under a court order, FWS has until April 14, 2022 to complete draft stimulus package reviews and until July 1, 2022 to complete final business rule reviews, according to Defenders. The revised recovery plan should include site-specific management measures that address illegal logging, and the management rule should provide for long-term conservation independent of the recovery plan.