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Mexican gray wolf Canis lupus baileyi
ESA status: endangered and experimental, non-essential
A captive Mexican wolf paces near the fence at the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico, one of the three facilities where Mexican wolves are acclimated to life in the wild before being released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area or, if they are not chosen for release, indefinitely imprisoned. Unable to roam freely, she feels uneasy – she’s sensing some bad news on the wind from her relatives attempting to live in freedom beyond the fence.
The Mexican wolf is the smallest subspecies of grey wolf, uniquely adapted to the arid environments of the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, its historic range. Predator control programs nearly succeeded in eliminating the Mexican wolf from the landscape by 1970. The entire captive population descended from only seven wolves, the last members of a population barely shuttled into a captive breeding program before it went extinct in the wild. Without the wolf, elk and deer are free to dawdle in valleys and by streams, eating their fill and degrading the ecosystem; wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone has resulted in flourishing streamside vegetation and increased biodiversity.
Reintroduction of the Mexican wolf began in 1998 as an attempt to restore balance to its arid ecosystem, but trouble was not far behind. Many of the wolves released into the wild have died, and the majority of deaths have been human-caused. Some have been shot illegally by poachers or during authorized, federal predator control actions. Some were hit by cars. Others died accidentally when they were recaptured for translocation or to be brought back to captivity, and some of those back in captivity have never been re-released. The wild population is barely hanging on; the last count of Mexican wolves in the wild, completed in January 2009, found 42 wolves and only 2 breeding pairs. Since 1998, the federal government has removed (either by lethal control or recapture) more than three times as many Mexican wolves as currently exist in the wild.
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designates the wild Mexican wolf population as “experimental, non-essential.” This is not enough to ensure their recovery, and WildEarth Guardians has petitioned for full protection for the Mexican wolf as a subspecies under the Endangered Species Act. We are fighting to reform cattle grazing in the Blue Range, as livestock interests have been the most vocal and powerful opponents of wolf reintroduction, and we are working hard to establish sufficient habitat protections for the wolf across its historic range.
Here behind the fence, this wolf is painstakingly monitored, her genetic make-up recorded in a studbook, her reproductive performance, behavior, and health all tabulated. The only thing she lacks is freedom. WildEarth Guardians will not rest until she can go safely into the wild where she belongs.
Listen to the Bluestem Pack recording provided by the Arizona Game and Fish Department website.
- Significant Actions
- March 2009 - “The Greater Gila: America’s First Wilderness” (report)
- August 2009 - WildEarth Guardians and The Rewilding Institute submit petition to list the Mexican wolf separately from other subspecies of gray wolves
- June 2010 - WildEarth Guardians Guardians and partners submit petition to ban traps in Mexican wolf recovery area in New Mexico
- July 2010 - New Mexico Governor Richardson restricts trapping in New Mexico
- August 2010 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues positive preliminary finding on listing petition
- October 2010 - WildEarth Guardians files lawsuit to compel overdue listing determination for Mexican wolf
- April 2011 - A legal settlement with WildEarth Guardians will require the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act to allow comment on renewal of livestock grazing permits in wolf country
- May 2011 - Deadline for listing determination for the Mexican wolf included in landmark settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- May 2011 - WildEarth Guardians and partners submit request to the New Mexico Game Commission to ban trapping on public lands in New Mexico
- July 2011 - The New Mexico Game Commission lifts Richardson’s trap ban in the range of the Mexican wolf
- July 2011 - WildEarth Guardians and partners form “TrapFreeNM.org”
- July 2011 - WildEarth Guardians submits a renewed request to ban traps on Mexican wolf habitat to Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Corbin Newman, the Regional Forester
- September 2011 - WildEarth Guardians and partners meet with U.S. Forest Service officials in Albuquerque to discuss trap ban request
- September 2011 - TrapFreeNM.org holds “People’s Forum on Public Lands Trapping” in Albuquerque, NM
- September 2011 - WildEarth Guardians files notice of intent to sue the New Mexico Game Commission and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish for their July 2011 decision to lift the trapping ban in Mexican wolf habitat
- October 2012 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines that the Mexican wolf is not warranted for listing as a DPS or subspecies
- June 2013 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies while delisting the grey wolf
- February 2014 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
announces availability of the peer review of the gray wolf delisting rule; extends the
- July 2014 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its proposed revised rule for management of the Mexican gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act—the rule will expand the size of the wolves’ available range, but liberalize the exceptions to the prohibitions on harming or killing wolves.
- Press Releases
- June 11, 2010 - "Group Request End to Trapping And Snaring in Mexican Wolf Habitat in NM"
- July 28, 2010 - "Governor Stands Up For Mexican Wolves"
- August 3, 2010 - "Breathing New Life Into Mexican Wolves"
- October 25, 2010 - "WildEarth Guardians' Halloween Blitz for Endangered Animals"
- April 19, 2011 - "A Step Up for Wolves in the Southwest, on the Heels of Setbacks Up North."
- May 5, 2011 - "Conservation Groups Challenge Wolf Delisting Rider"
- May 18, 2011 - “Groups Formally Call Upon New Mexican Officials to Ban Traps”
- July 18, 2011 - “Game and Fish Department Enlarges Trapping Across New Mexico”
- July 20, 2011 - “Game and Fish Department Colludes with Industry Groups”
- August 8, 2011 - “Federal Wolf-Trapping Study Released”
- September 9, 2011 - “Federal Court Approves Historic Species Agreement”
- October 5, 2012 - “Feds Refuse to Relist Mexican Wolves under the Endangered Species Act”
- October 24, 2012 - “Federal Agencies Refuse to Show Public Records Concerning Captured Mexican Wolf”
- November 21, 2012 - “WildEarth Guardians Sues for Information on Captured Mexican Wolf”
- December 17, 2012 - “Forest Service Approves Livestock Grazing in Mexican Wolf Recovery Area Against a Groundswell of Public Comment”
- January 2, 2013 - “WildEarth Guardians Appeals Court Order to Protect Mexican Wolves”
- March 26, 2013 - “WildEarth Guardians Joins the National #LoboWeek Movement”
- May 10, 2013 - “Attorneys General From 12 States Support Trapping in Mexican Wolf Habitat”
- January 31, 2014 - “Mexican Wolf Numbers Slightly Up in 2014”
- February 7, 2014 - “Breaking: Independent Peer Review Concludes Wolf Delisting Proposal Does Not Represent the Best Available Science”
- July 25, 2014 - "Feds Take Two Steps Forward, One Step Back on Mexican Wolf Recovery"
- Species Factsheet
- Related Campaigns
photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service