June 13, 2023
Jacqueline Covey

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that 16 captive-bred pups were successfully fostered into wild packs in New Mexico and Arizona this spring. Between February and April, wildlife technicians monitored breeding pairs and assisted with the successful implanting of captive-born pups into wild litters as part of a recovery tactic to improve genetic diversity of the Mexican gray wolf. 

Success in recovering the Mexican gray wolf is largely due to the close partnership between the states, the federal government, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, nonprofit groups, captive-breeding facilities and community members. As we celebrate 25 years of the Mexican gray wolf in the wild, Defenders of Wildlife sponsors wildlife techs that support that work.  

Evelyn Lichwa

The Southwest was once home to the magnificent Mexican gray wolf, roaming from southern Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Texas to the mountains of south-central Mexico. Between 1977 and 1980, an FWS-contracted trapper captured four Mexican gray wolf males and a female – the last of their kind in the wild as the result of a decades-long campaign to exterminate wolves in the West. Three of these wolves were unrelated and joined four other unrelated Mexican gray wolves already in captivity. These seven wolves became the “founders” of the captive-breeding and reintroduction program FWS laid out for Mexican gray wolves in 1982. A key part of that program is the delicate process of cross-fostering captive pups to introduce genetically valuable members to wild packs.    

Today, there is much to celebrate, yet serious concerns remain regarding excessive levels of human-caused mortality and politically-driven mismanagement that have worsened the genetic health of the wild population. A quarter century after the initial reintroduction of these wolves, the genetic diversity of the wild Mexican gray wolf is concerningly low and the survival rate for the first year of life for captive-born and wild pups is only about 50 percent.  

Scientists have identified habitats capable of supporting additional populations of the Mexican gray wolf, in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico/southern Colorado, and FWS must seriously consider including these habitats in the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan. Releases in these areas will help the genetic pool of the lobos — the descendants of the founders and give the wolves the greatest chance of success.


Jacqueline Covey

Jacqueline Covey

Communications Specialist
Jacqueline Covey joined Defenders as a Communications Specialist in October 2022. She has over a decade of experience as a journalist where she covered state and local government and agricultural and environmental news.

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