ALBUQUERQUE, NM – February 28
The wild population of Mexican gray wolves in the U.S. continues to grow. According to the 2022 annual count, the number has increased to a minimum of 241 animals, a 23 percent increase. This marks the seventh consecutive year of growth in the wild population.
Defenders of Wildlife issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) annual count of the wild Mexican gray wolf population:
"The growth in the number of the Mexican gray wolf population offers hope for the species, but more needs to be done to ensure its long-term viability," said Bryan Bird, Defenders of Wildlife Southwest Program director. "Last year's population growth is a testament to the hard work of those promoting coexistence, including tribal nations, federal and state wildlife agencies, Defenders staff and other NGOs. However, this is not simply a numbers game. The Mexican gray wolf population still struggles with inbreeding and being constrained to a small geographic portion of its potential range."
Last year FWS recorded the second-highest population increase in the recovery program, it follows only a 5% uptick from 2020 to 2021. In 2022, the FWS recorded 241 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, up from 196. While Defenders praises the work of on-the-ground leadership, the Mexican gray wolf is still far from recovered.
“The increase is good news, but much important work remains,” said Defenders of Wildlife’s Senior Southwest Representative Craig Miller. “There are so few founding animals, we must ensure actual improvements in the genetics of the wild population and that recovery continues in all areas that are suitable for the subspecies. When that happens, we will realize the myriad of ecological benefits that accompany the return of the Mexican gray wolf.”
The Mexican gray wolf is one of the most endangered mammals in North America, with a single population occupying the Blue Range of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico. This population is beset by numerous threats, including widespread illegal killing and inbreeding caused by inadequate releases of more genetically diverse wolves from a captive population.
The best available science indicates that recovery of the Mexican gray wolf requires at least three connected populations totaling approximately 750 individuals, a carefully managed reintroduction effort that prioritizes improving the genetic health of the animals and the establishment of at least two additional populations in the Southern Rockies and Grand Canyon regions.