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Five Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves Found Dead, Two More Presumed Dead

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The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) announced in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Quarterly Update that five endangered Mexican gray wolves were found dead in Arizona and New Mexico in the third quarter of 2021. The incidents are under investigation.

The dead wolves include the remaining two members of the Cerro Trigo wolf pack, now considered defunct, a single female traveling alone, a male pup, and a female pup who was confirmed to have canine distemper.

An additional two wolves are considered “fate unknown”, meaning they have not be located in three months; history indicates they are presumably dead, possibly due to poaching.

The third quarter updates, sorted by region and wolf pack:

Mexican Gray Wolf Packs in Arizona. Credit: AZGFD
Mexican Gray Wolf Packs in the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR). Credit: AZGFD
Mexican Gray Wolf Packs in New Mexico. Credit: AZGFD

The Threat of Poaching to Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery

Poaching causes the deaths of more Mexican gray wolves than any other cause, with 105 wolves known to have been killed unlawfully between 1998, when reintroduction to Arizona and New Mexico began, and 2019. A similar number of radio-collared wolves disappeared, many under suspicious circumstances, during this same span.

Recent research lead by Dr. Adrian Treves indicates that poaching of wolves tends to increase when government protections are relaxed, such as when Mexican wolves are killed or removed from the wild in order to protect livestock. Many of these deaths are concealed (“cryptic poaching”) so federal agencies are unable to confirm a cause of death – thus forcing them to declare these wolves “lost-to-follow-up” or fate unknown.


The Mexican gray wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. With just a single population in the United States numbering 186 wolves, numerous threats, including widespread illegal killing and genetic decline, menace the fragile population.