Many of us look at the dawn of a new year as a time to start counting calories. In the southwest, it’s a time to count wolves! According to the annual survey results, there is a minimum of 58 wild Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. Although this number is still significantly lower than the recovery program’s initial population goal, this number demonstrates an impressive increase in the known wild population. This time last year, only 50 wolves were counted. This growth could come as a surprise to many who follow the recovery of this critically endangered species as the recovery effort has suffered significant natural and unnatural setbacks over the past decade. During the recovery program’s 14 years, numerous wolves have been illegally killed and in 2011 the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history burned through much of the recovery area. Leaning that the population was able to prevail and increase is really outstanding news.
“These numbers are an indication of the full-on effort we and our partners – Arizona Game and Fish Department, White Mountain Apache Tribe, USDA Forest Service, USDA Wildlife Services and several participating counties – have been putting into this program. We were successful in establishing the initial population of Mexican wolves in the wild, and we are building on that success.” said Benjamin Tuggle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest (Service) Regional Director. “Our team is addressing the two biggest threats to Mexican wolf recovery, limited genetic diversity and illegal mortality, and I am certain that we will overcome them.”
Big thanks to the recovery team for working so hard on behalf of Mexican wolves! Let’s hope this marks a new era for the species.