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Breathing New Life Into Mexican Wolves

Feds Will Conduct Full Review of Mexican Wolf's Legal Status

Santa Fe-August 3. In response to a formal petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is publishing a notice tomorrow that the Mexican wolf (or “lobo”) may warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act. WildEarth Guardians and The Rewilding Institute filed a petition in August 2009 requesting the lobo be listed under the Endangered Species Act, separately from other types of wolves. A separate listing would likely mean that Mexican wolves would be afforded stronger protections under the Act.

“The Mexican wolf does not have the luxury of time and is facing extinction in the wild for the second time in history. This animal desperately needs all the help it can get from the Fish and Wildlife Service,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.

In the finding, the Service recognized threats from illegal killings, vehicular collisions, and habitat loss. The Service will now conduct a full status review of the Mexican wolf to determine whether to add the subspecies to the endangered species list separately from other wolves.

Since the groups filed their petition, the Mexican wolf’s status has deteriorated further. Over the past month, three wolves have been shot. Two of them were alpha males, the loss of which can jeopardize the packs’ survival (the Hawk’s Nest Pack in Arizona and the San Mateo Pack in New Mexico), given the crucial role that alpha males play in providing food for dependent pups and other pack members. The Service also reported in July that an additional Hawk’s Nest member, a two-year old male, was shot and killed. In total, at least 34 illegal shootings have occurred since lobo reintroduction began. The federal government has itself removed 151 Mexican wolves from the wild.

Trapping is a further danger. Private trappers have captured at least 14 Mexican wolves since the reintroduction program began. Several wolves have sustained injuries to their limbs and paws (resulting in two leg amputations), compromising their ability to hunt and thrive. WildEarth Guardians and partner groups filed formal requests with the Service and the U.S. Forest Service in June requesting that traps and snares be banned from the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area to make the zone safe for wolves. The agencies have not responded to those requests. However, Governor Bill Richardson announced last week a six-month ban on trapping in the New Mexico portion of the wolf recovery area beginning November 1.

Lobo reintroduction efforts in the U.S. began in 1998, but the wild population is less than half of what federal officials had planned, largely due to government removals and illegal killings. The Service’s official end-of-the-year count for 2009 was just 42 Mexican wolves in the wild in an area spanning western New Mexico and eastern Arizona. That count may very well be lower at the close of 2010. Mexican wolf recovery requires reintroduction and species protection efforts in both the U.S. and Mexico. Mexican officials announced plans to release lobos in Sonora last year, but those plans were delayed due to opposition from ranchers.

The central political obstacle to lobo recovery efforts in the U.S. also comes from ranchers, and many of the removals by the federal government of wolves from the wild are motivated by real or perceived conflicts with cattle. WildEarth Guardians has therefore challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s rubberstamping of grazing permits in lobo country. The case is pending in the 10th Circuit. WildEarth Guardians and The Rewilding Institute are also in court in Arizona, challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s overall failure to fulfill its duties as a federal agency to recover the lobo.

Top carnivores play important roles in their ecosystems. Gray wolves restored to Yellowstone National Park are instrumental in moving elk and deer away from sensitive streamside areas. As a result, beaver have bounced back due to flourishing stands of native plants such as willow and cottonwood. In turn, beaver create vital habitat for a variety of aquatic wildlife, including waterfowl and songbirds. Wolves also keep populations of smaller carnivores in check, resulting in burgeoning biodiversity in areas where wolves occur in sufficient numbers. These types of ripple effects could occur in Mexican wolf territory if lobo numbers increase to ecologically effective levels.

For more information, contact Nicole Rosmarino at 505-699-7404 or

View the Mexican Wolf Petition Finding


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