The Mexican gray wolf or “lobo” (Canis lupus baileyi) is the southernmost and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in the North America. In the late 1800s, there was a national movement to eradicate wolves and other large predators from the wild landscape in the United States. Wolves were trapped, shot, and poisoned. Bounties were paid. By the mid-1900s, Mexican wolves had been effectively exterminated in the wild here in our country.
With the only lobos remaining in captivity, the Mexican wolf was listed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as an endangered species in 1976. USFWS founded the Mexican Wolf Recovery Team shortly thereafter and prepared the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, which contains the following objective:
“To conserve and ensure the survival of C. l. baileyi by maintaining a captive breeding program and re-establishing a viable, self-sustaining population of at least 100 Mexican wolves in the middle to high elevations of a 5,000-square mile area within the Mexican wolf’s historic range.”
Fifteen years ago 11 captive-reared Mexican gray were released to the wild for the first time in the Blue Range Recovery Area – a small portion of their ancestral home in the wild southwest. It’s is within this small area that Mexican wolves have struggled for a decade and a half, failing to ever reach the population goal of 100. Artificial boundaries, state politics, and USFWS’s designation of all wild lobos as a “experimental, nonessential” population, have put recovery in a choke-hold. Now is the time to demand progress – management actions are urgently required for the long term survival of Mexican gray wolves.
Although Mexican gray wolves are exempt from USFWS’s nationwide delsiting proposal, lobos will be subject to other provisions that are very problematic – like their re-designation as an “experimental, nonessential” population.
This designation means that if all 75 wild lobos are killed, this will not negatively impact lobo recovery because lobo genes are well represented in captivity. This is absurd.
In 1998, there were only 11 wild lobos (all released from captivity) when USFWS’s declared the wild population “nonessential,” and they made up only 7% of all Mexican wolves in the world. Now the 75 wolves in the wild have up to four generations of experience in establishing packs and raising pups and represent 22% of all Mexican wolves in the world.
As a participant in the Mexican gray wolf Species Survival and Recovery Plan and home to 14 critically endangered lobos, our efforts to conserve this wolf is priority. Please join the #iamessential movement and tell USFWS that recovery cannot exist in captivity alone. It is imperative that USFWS designates the wild population as essential and that additional captive-to-wild releases occur ASAP. Lobo recovery and genetic health depends up these management steps.
It’s not only crucial to the recovery of the species that wild Mexican wolves be designated as essential, it’s also the appropriate designation ecologically and morally.
Speak up for lobos online or in person:
- Submit your comment to USFWS online by October 28, 2013. Our friends from Mexicanwolves.org offer useful talking points via the submission link.
- #ineedyouinABQ! Submit your comment in person in Albuquerque on October 4, 2013: More info about the hearing here.