Mexican Wolf Population Goes Up in U.S. With at Least 163 Now in Arizona and New Mexico

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.

via Mexican Wolf Population Goes Up in U.S. With at Least 163 Now in Arizona and New Mexico

Health of packs studied, new wolves identified in annual Mexican gray wolf count – azcentral

A 1-year-old wolf pup is examined for general health during the annual Mexican gray wolf count on Feb. 1, 2020, in the Apache National Forest near Alpine. A consortium of federal and state agencies responsible for managing wild populations of the endangered canine visually counts packs and pack members and evaluates wolves for general health.

ALPINE — On a clear, frosty February day in eastern Arizona, ice hugs sidewalks and piles up in the shade of pine trees, steep slopes and buildings. Snowdrifts from a recent storm paint the nearby slopes glittering white in the bright sunlight, the promise of a warmer day ahead.

But while the temperature is just 36 degrees, the timing is right for the annual count of the endangered Mexican gray wolf across east-central Arizona and western New Mexico. The process usually stretches from November to the beginning of February.

For the past three months, biologists and technicians have roamed the region enumerating wolves and their packs in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila national forests. They’re members of the Interagency Field Team, a consortium of federal, tribal and state agencies charged with ensuring the recovery of one of the country’s most imperiled wolf species.

On this day, a group of nearly 20 biologists, technicians, managers and volunteers were gathering for the next step in the count, to survey at least one member of each Mexican gray wolf pack in Arizona and New Mexico and collar wolves that were previously not collared.

The annual count is critical in the ongoing effort to rebuild the population of wolves on a landscape where the predator was once all but eradicated.

The government tracks the progress of the wolves’ recovery using the wild population, which has increased an average of 12% since 2009. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 recovery plan says that one goal for taking the wolf off the endangered species list is demonstrating an average of 320 wolves over an 8-year period. The 2018 count showed that the wild wolf population grew to 131 from 117, with 64 of them roaming Arizona.

Locating and collaring previously uncontacted wolves supports another key goal of the recovery plan: widening the packs’ genetic pool. Each “new” wolf has a DNA sample taken. The results become part of the “studbook,” a listing of every known wolf, living and dead, in the recovery program.

Because the entire population of wolves, both in the wild and in captivity, is descended from just seven canids, increasing genetic diversity is vital to their long-term viability.

Read more: Health of packs studied, new wolves identified in annual Mexican gray wolf count

Wolf Watch » Albuquerque Journal

Maggie Dwier, assistant Mexican wolf recovery coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, carries a wolf from a helicopter to a processing site near Reserve. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)
RESERVE – U.S. Fish and Wildlife crews fly above the forests of Catron County in a helicopter. A nearby airplane relays the location of a Mexican gray wolf. Fresh snow has made the animals easier to spot from the air.

“Starting pursuit,” the helicopter crew broadcasts over the radio.

via Wolf Watch » Albuquerque Journal

Border wall poses new problems for the endangered Mexican Gray Wolf | The NM Political Report

A lone male wolf loped across the sandy landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert under a waning January moon in 2017, heading north. The male, known as M1425, was a member of a small population of endangered Mexican gray wolves reintroduced into Mexico in 2012.

The wolf was doing exactly what male wolves should be doing: exploring the landscape in search of new habitat, food sources and possibly even a mate. M1425 spent two nights exploring the new range before turning south and heading back to familiar territory.

The journey north, which took the wolf across the U.S.-Mexico border, was encouraging to researchers who tracked the animal’s peregrinations by GPS collar. Finding suitable mates has become a chief concern in the conservation of Mexican gray wolves, whose recovery has been stymied in part by lack of genetic diversity.
via Border wall poses new problems for the endangered Mexican Gray Wolf | The NM Political Report

Pup fostering gives genetic boost to wild Mexican wolves

ALBUQUERQUE – It’s a carefully planned mission that involves coordination across state lines – from Mexican gray wolf dens hidden deep in the woods of New Mexico and Arizona to breeding facilities at zoos and special conservation centers around the U.S.

It’s also about timing, as wolves in the wild and those in captivity need to be having pups at the same time to ensure a smooth transition.

Pups born within a couple days of each other are the best candidates for a fostering program that aims to get more pups out of captivity and into the wild in hopes of boosting the genetic diversity of the endangered species.
via Pup fostering gives genetic boost to wild Mexican wolves

Sedgwick County Zoo releases endangered wolf pups to the wild | The Wichita Eagle

Sedgwick County Zoo and wildlife experts released two Mexican Wolf pups into the wild as part of an endangered species recovery plan on May 6.

Traveler, a male, and Jaunt, a female, were chosen from Sedgwick County Zoo’s family of six Mexican Wolves to be cross-fostered with a wild pack in Arizona by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Nancy Smith, senior zoo keeper.

Cross-fostering is a process where pups from one litter are placed with another litter to be raised by the mother wolf as her own to increase population size in the wild and increase genetic diversity. The process must take place within days of both sets of pups being born, according to a news release.

via Sedgwick County Zoo releases endangered wolf pups to the wild | The Wichita Eagle

Survey: More Mexican gray wolves roam Southwest | Livestock | postregister.com

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More Mexican gray wolves are roaming the American Southwest now than at any time since federal biologists began reintroducing the predators more than two decades ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.Agency officials declared progress for the endangered species in New Mexico and Arizona, saying there are at least 131 wolves in the wild in the two states. That represents a 12% jump in the population.Ranchers and others in rural communities within the mountain ranges that border wolf territory have pushed back against the reintroduction program, citing livestock kills and safety concerns.Federal wildlife managers have been working with partners in Arizona, the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Mexican government to mitigate concerns related to the reintroduction on both sides of the international border, but ranchers in New Mexico and Arizona continue to document conflicts that range from cattle deaths to nuisance reports.

Source: Survey: More Mexican gray wolves roam Southwest | Livestock | postregister.com