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Endangered Mexican wolf species is making a comeback in the United States, officials say



The population of Mexican wolves in the United States topped 200 individuals in 2022, federal officials have announced — a stunning recovery for a species that nearly became extinct, with just seven known wolves in the late 1970s.

A total of 241 Mexican wolves have been documented in Arizona and New Mexico in 2022, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This stage took 25 years,” Brady McGee, Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in the release. “To go from zero wild Mexican wolves to begin with to 241 today is truly remarkable. In 2022, we have recorded more packs, more breeding pairs and increasing occupied range, proving that we are on the road to recovery. These accomplishments are a testament to partner-focused conservation in the West.

The Mexican wolf population has doubled since 2017 and increased 23% from 2021, the statement said. A total of 136 wolves have been documented in New Mexico and 105 in Arizona.

The Mexican wolf is the rarest gray wolf subspecies found in North America, according to the release. The species had become extinct in the wild by the late 1970s, largely due to human killing and habitat loss.

In 1977, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a conservation plan for the species, beginning a captive breeding program with the remaining seven known Mexican wolves in conjunction with the Mexican government. The service released the first captive-born Mexican wolves back into the wild in 1998.

There are a total of 31 breeding pairs of Mexican wolves currently documented by the service. In 2022, these pairs produced 121 pups, 81 of which survived until the time of the count, for a survival rate of 67%, according to the press release.

A total of 109 wolves are fitted with radio tracking collars that will help researchers understand their movements and behavior.

“The road to recovery for any endangered species is neither straight nor easy, and it has proven to be the case for the Mexican wolf,” said Jim deVos of the Arizona Department of Game and Fish in the communicated. “With the breathtaking growth that has occurred in 2022, the recovery has accelerated at an incredible pace…While the road to recovery still has a long way to go, in 2022 the recovery program has come a long way way.”

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