Through science, advocacy, and on-the-ground partnerships, Wildlands Network is actively working to restore and protect imperiled Mexican gray wolves in the U.S. and Mexico, where they have faced a long history of persecution.
As a keystone species, wolves are essential to the overall health of the ecosystems they inhabit, helping maintain complete ecosystem function. Wolves also possess intrinsic value, independent of their usefulness to man, as beautiful, wild, and complex animals. Therefore, it’s imperative we work to restore all wolves, including lobos, across the country.
A subspecies of gray wolves, Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi, also called lobos) once roamed freely across northern Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, West Texas, and possibly as far north as southern Utah and Colorado. However, they were killed in predator eradication efforts to near extinction in the 1970s in the U.S. and the 1980s in Mexico. Lobos were officially listed as endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1976.
In 1998, FWS began releasing captive-bred wolves in the U.S. The wolves were released in the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in Arizona and New Mexico, where they currently exist today and are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
While the wild population of Mexican wolves has certainly grown, the subspecies remains incredibly endangered, with only about 130 wolves in the MWEPA, and only 30-35 in Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico (where captive-bred wolves were released starting in 2011). The wolves remain at high risk due to several threats, including low genetic diversity, which stunts the wolves’ chances at a healthy, sustainable population; illegal killings; and fragmented habitat.
Recovering the Mexican Gray Wolf
At Wildlands Network, we have a long history of advocating for Mexican wolves, continually pushing federal officials to base recovery plans on the best available science for this species.
In 2018, we conducted a mapping analysis with sophisticated connectivity modeling software that demonstrates public lands in and around the MWEPA offer habitat most conducive to Mexican wolf recovery, especially the area between northern Arizona and the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico. The map is available to public land managers in the Southwest to aid in their decisions regarding Mexican wolf recovery on public lands, including the seven national forests that lie within the MWEPA.
Despite our efforts to inform and engage the public and FWS about best practices to recover Mexican wolves in the wild, Wildlands Network does not believe FWS’s most recent recovery plan is sufficient or contains the necessary direction to ensure actual recovery of Mexican wolves in the wild. Specifically, the plan excludes potential suitable habitat for Mexican wolves and limits population numbers to levels well below those recommended by experts.
Together with allies, we took the significant step of filing a lawsuit against FWS in 2018, alleging that the recovery plan failed to meet the requirements of a number of federal laws. The lawsuit is ongoing.
In addition to taking legal action, we also advocate for public engagement with the Mexican wolf recovery planning process, encouraging our supporters and friends to write comments in support of a Recovery Plan based on scientific fact rather than political interests. We believe a Recovery Plan grounded in scientific truth is the only hope Mexican wolves have of recovering to sustainable population numbers in the wild. Read Wildlands Network’s official comments on the draft Recovery Plan, submitted to FWS in August 2017, here.
With staff based in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora, Wildlands Network is poised to work with other on-the-ground groups to safeguard the remaining Mexican wolves and recover the species.
It is critical that we continue to work with Mexican groups in a binational recovery effort to restore Mexican wolves to their historic range. As Mexican wolves call both the U.S. and Mexico home, finding food, mates, and shelter on both sides of the border, the two countries have a duty to work together to protect and restore lobos to sustainable population levels.
Through our coordinated efforts with partners in both the U.S. and Mexico, Wildlands Network is working toward several victories for Mexican wolves. Ideally, we would see:
- A Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan amended to incorporate our recommendations, based on the best available science.
- A shift toward acceptance of carnivores, particularly of wolves, in state governments and game and fish commissions.
- Inclusion of wolf recovery and consideration for wildlife connectivity in public lands management plans, including forest plans.
- Prevention of additional border wall funding. A physical barrier would bisect the Mexican wolf populations of the U.S. and Mexico, increasing inbreeding and reducing sustainable genetic diversity and healthy, growing populations. Given the binational importance of the Mexican wolf recovery effort, it is imperative we maintain permeable borders for wildlife.
- Expansion of the Mexico population of Mexican wolves, with sustained population movement between the U.S. and Mexico.
You can help us protect majestic Mexican wolves in the U.S. and Mexico. Sign our petition that urges Congress to build bridges, not walls, across our southern border so that Mexican wolves and other wide-ranging species can wander freely to find food, mates, and shelter. Sign today; every voice counts.
You can also donate to Wildlands Network to support our critical recovery efforts.