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Feds Refuse to Relist Mexican Wolves under the Endangered Species Act

October 5, 2012
Mark Salvo 503-757-4221
In This Release
Wildlife   Mexican gray wolf
Santa Fe, NM. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declined to list the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) as a separate subspecies of gray wolf (Canis lupus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), apart from other gray wolf species and subspecies. The genetically, morphologically, and geographically distinct Mexican wolf will continue to be listed with more numerous gray wolves in the West.

“The Service’s decision is unacceptable,” said Mark Salvo, Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Endangered Species Act specifically allows for protection for separate subspecies of animals, and separate listing would benefit the failing, flailing Mexican wolf recovery program.”

WildEarth Guardians petitioned to list the Mexican wolf as a separate subspecies under the ESA in 2009.

The Mexican gray wolf is the smallest and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf. Thousands once roamed across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico. Today, the lobo is one of the rarest terrestrial mammals in the world. The Service estimates that fewer than 60 animals survive in the wild.

The Service had previously listed the Mexican wolf as “endangered” in 1976, but by 1978 the agency had consolidated several separate wolf listings in North America into a single species-level gray wolf listing as “endangered” (except in Minnesota where wolves were listed as “threatened”). The 1978 consolidated wolf-listing decision improperly treated the Mexican wolf subspecies as merely another population of gray wolves.

The failure to retain separate listing for Mexican wolves more than 30 years ago may have hindered the subspecies’ recovery. Reintroduced as an “experimental population” to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in New Mexico and Arizona in 1998, the Mexican wolf still has not attained the Service’s recovery goal of 100 wolves in the wild.

The Mexican wolf recovery program has stalled and even regressed in recent years. Dozens of wolves have been killed, captured, or simply disappeared in the wild. The Fish and Wildlife Service has declined to update its regulations to release more captive wolves in New Mexico, and has failed to expand the recovery area to provide existing wolf packs more room to roam. The Forest Service has refused to support conservation organizations and ranchers to retire federal grazing allotments in the wolf habitat. WildEarth Guardians has had to sue the State of New Mexico for allowing trapping in the recovery area. Most recently, federal officials issued a capture order to remove a Mexican wolf implicated in killing livestock.