The Endangered Mexican Wolf
The Mexican wolf is a tremendous success story...almost. By 1976, the Mexican wolf, or lobo, was completed wiped out in the United States. The handful of wild wolves that remained in Mexico were captured to start a captive population, which has been the source for wolves that have been reintroduced into Arizona and New Mexico since 1998.
The released wolves have done their part. They have learned how to hunt wild elk and deer, and are restoring balance to our wildlands. Unfortunately, politics have gotten in the way of their full recovery. The Southwest Environmental Center is working to bring about the management changes and public support needed to make sure that Mexican wolf recovery succeeds.
Watch this short clip, narrated by George Monbiot, to learn the incredible story of how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the 1990's transformed the entire ecosystem, and the earth itself, for the better:
Click here to enlarge Map.
The Mexican Wolf recovery area now consists of three distinct zones (Zone 1 allows for Mexican wolves to be initially released or translocated; Zone 2 is an area where wolves are allowed to naturally disperse, or be translocated. The area also allows for the initial release of cross-fostered wolf pups, and the direct release of adult wolves onto private or tribal lands; Zone 3 allows for dispersal only), all zones are located south of Interstate 40 which impedes Mexican Wolves from dispersing into Utah, Colorado and the northernmost regions of Arizona and New Mexico. Under the current rule if Mexican Wolves disperse north beyond I-40 they will be captured and relocated back to the current recovery areas.
While reintroduced wolves have thrived in the Northern Rockies, the Mexican wolf population remains dangerously low, with only about 110 wolves in the wild. The difference is in the rules governing the reintroduction program. Because of these rules, wolves have been shot by the government, more have died inadvertently because of capture, and at least 24 have been trapped and permanently removed from the wild since the reintroduction began.
Hopefully that will soon change. The Southwest Environmental Center and other groups are urging the Obama administration and Congress to take these actions:
- Release more wolves into the wild to strengthen and enhance the genetic fitness of the wild population.
- Support legislation for a federally-funded, voluntary livestock grazing permit retirement program that generously compensates willing leaseholders on public lands in and around the Recovery Area for ceding their grazing privileges. This would require the Forest Service and BLM to permanently retire allotments from livestock use.
- Require livestock operators who lease public lands in the wolf recovery area to practice responsible husbandry practices, such as disposal of carcasses, seasonal (versus year-round) grazing, using penned calving areas, etc.
For more on the history of the legal fight to protect Mexican gray wolves, read this brief article by friend of SWEC Peter Ossorio from the May 2016 issue of New Mexico Lawyer:
Feel free to download and share this Mexican wolf fact sheet: