The Mexican gray wolf once ruled the American Southwest, but as the arrival of humans and livestock increased, they began to be viewed as a pest. By 1973, trapping, poison and rifles had completely eliminated the wild Mexican gray wolf populations in the U.S., leaving only a handful alive in captivity.
To save this keystone species, an unprecedented breeding program was put in place and, in 1998, eleven Mexican gray wolves were eventually released back into the wilds of Arizona. Today about 100 survive on their own, a better number for sure, but the wolf still remains one of the rarest land animals on Earth.
So what to do? Allowing the wolves to establish territories in many suitable habitats in remote locations will help prevent inbreeding. Biologists hope to target areas with abundant wild prey and few roads such as the vast forested areas around the Grand Canyon, up into Utah, over to New Mexico and into parts of Colorado. A minimum population of 750 wolves in the wild would help ensure that the species will stay genetically distinct enough to survive well into the future