Mexican gray wolves were once found all across the southern edge of the American Southwest and down into central Mexico. Their wild habitat has since been confined to a small portion of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, and wildlife officials have been building up a small population in Mexico. Recently, they expanded this effort by adding two more pairs.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has shared that Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) has released four of the endangered wolves into the state of Chihuahua. The pairs – named “Manada del Arroyo” and “Manada del Gavilan” – came from the Ladder Ranch in New Mexico and are expected to successfully adapt to their new environment. They will join a Mexican population that is estimated at 45 animals and has been built up by 19 releases over the past 11 years. AZGFD says there have been 14 litters born in that time.
On the Mexican side of the effort is the Mexican Wolf Action Program for the Conservation of Species, which works with the Autonomous University of Querétaro to monitor the Mexican gray wolves of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
Wildlife officials on both sides of the border hope this work can help the endangered species recover.
Jim deVos, AZGFD’s Mexican wolf coordinator, says, “AZGFD’s contention has always been that Mexico is an important component of Mexican wolf recovery. These efforts show that through international cooperation, recovery efforts are moving forward in Mexico and contradict the contention of some critics that recovery can’t occur in that country.”
Meanwhile, Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, says, “With these releases, CONANP reiterates its commitment to continue efforts to establish this subspecies that bears the name of our country. Therefore, these releases represent an important advance in the recovery efforts of the Mexican gray wolf.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mexican gray wolf as an endangered species in 1976 after the animals had nearly disappeared from Arizona and New Mexico. Arizona wildlife officials say social tolerance is the main threat to the species, not habitat management or restoration. As a result, they’ve been working to find a balance between a sustainable population and the work and recreation concerns of people in the species’ habitat.
As of 2020, it was estimated that the U.S. population was up to at least 186, up 14% from the prior year and double what it had been in 2015. Meanwhile, in 2019, Mexico moved the species was from the “probably extinct in the wild” category to “in danger of extinction” category.