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Return of the Lobo: Wolves Slated to Released into Mexico this September

Photo: Tom and Lisa Cuchara The last wild-roaming endangered Mexican gray wolves call a vast stretch of forest in southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico home, but soon they could have some company south of the border!

The Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY is hosting the 2010 Mexican Gray Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP) Annual Meeting. This meeting brings together representatives from dozens of facilities participating in the Mexican Wolf SSP, including Fish and Wildlife Agencies from the US and Mexico, for an update on all aspects of the effort to save the critically endangered Mexican wolf from extinction, and the recovery of a sustainable population in the wild. This morning, Mexican federal biologists along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials announced that they plan to release a five-member pack of wolves south of the New Mexico-Arizona border in the Mexican state of Sonora as early as September. A second release of a pregnant pair of wolves is targeted for the winter of 2011 and additional pairs could be released in the same area that following summer.

This move represents a significant step in the effort to grow the wild Mexican wolf population, which numbered just 42 at the end of 2009. Mexico hasn’t been home to the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf in decades.

The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), or “lobo,” is the smallest, southernmost occurring, and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America. Aggressive predator control programs at the turn of the century all but exterminated the Mexican wolf from the wild. With the capture of the last 7 remaining wild Mexican wolves approximately 30 years ago, a captive breeding program was initiated helping to save the Mexican wolf from extinction. Today, the captive population consists of over 300 animals, and encompasses close to 50 zoos and wildlife facilities throughout the United States and Mexico.