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Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) saw a boost in 2019, with numbers increasing 24 percent. This brings the total up to 163 wild animals or more, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reported.
Wildlife officials identified 76 wolves in Arizona and 87 in New Mexico, up from the 131 wolves counted at the end of 2018. According to the FWS, there are at least 42 packs of two or more individuals, and a further 10 lone wolves. Of the 28 packs that have been monitored since last spring, a minimum of 21 contained pups.
Meanwhile, mortality rates appear to be down. Fourteen deaths were recorded last year, a 33 percent drop from the 21 recorded in 2018.
“The count shows we have more wolves, more breeding pairs and more pups born in the wild than ever before,” Amy Lueders, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said in a statement.
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“This is the second year we have seen a significant increase in the wild population of Mexican wolves, a success that is directly tied to the science-based, on-the-ground management efforts of the Interagency Field Team.”
Mexican gray wolf at Living Desert State Park
“Wolves are naturally prolific animals,” Michael Robinson, Senior Conservation Advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Newsweek. “Annual population increases at this rate and even higher have been recorded in other wolf populations where initial wolf numbers are low and available habitat and prey are high.”
But, he adds, the recovery of the Mexican wolf has been helped by government efforts to “artificially feed” some wild wolves to prevent attacks on livestock. He also notes that the government used to actively trap and shoot wolves in the name of protecting livestock—a practice that has declined over the last ten years or so.