Baby Boom Boosts Wild Mexican Wolf Population to 186
Record Number of Pups, Wild Packs Results in All-Time High Population in 2020
In its annual survey released today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reports that 186 wild Mexican gray wolves were counted in the U.S. in 2020 – a 14% increase since last year and a new high since the endangered wolf was returned to the wild 23 years ago.
Illegal mortality remains one of the biggest threats to Mexican wolf recovery. Although the wild population grew by an estimated 14%, USFWS confirms a record number of documented mortalities – 29 Mexican gray wolves were found dead in 2020. In addition, five endangered wolves were lethally removed by USFWS at the behest of the livestock industry. Recent research suggests that these killings have impacts far beyond the individual wolves; Mexican wolves are more likely to be cryptically poached when the federal government is more liberal with their kill policies for Mexican wolves.
The USFWS report confirms the following details about the current wild population in the U.S.:
According to the report:
- There were a minimum of 46 packs documented at the end of 2020: 29 in New Mexico and 17 in Arizona, plus five single wolves in Arizona. A wolf pack is defined as two or more wolves that maintain an established territory.
- A minimum of 124 pups were born in 2020, with at least 64 surviving until the end of the year.
- The Interagency Field Team recorded a minimum of 20 breeding pairs (12 in New Mexico, eight in Arizona) with pups in 2020.
Mexican gray wolves are the most genetically distinct lineage of gray wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act.